8 Common Aquaculture Myths

Myth: Wild salmon has more omega-3 fatty acids than farmed salmon

Reality: Both have been shown to produce similar amounts of omega-3’s and nutritional benefits.  Many types of farmed seafood are fed optimal diets to enhance flavor quality and to ensure nutrition levels are high for the end consumer.  The Washington Post published an article in 2013 where consumers preferred the taste of farmed salmon over wild caught salmon in nearly every case that was recorded.

Myth: Fish farming is bad for the environment

Reality:  Proportionally, aquaculture produces the lowest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions of any other animal protein farming by a significant margin.  Aquaculture also contributes less nitrogen and phosphorus pollution than other farmed animal proteins and in proportion significantly less than plant agriculture. A study in Europe showed that 70-90% of ALL nitrogen waste and 60-80% of ALL phosphorus pollution in the Baltic Sea diffused directly from plant agriculture.  Non-fed/bivalve aquaculture of species such as clams, oysters, and scallops filter the water and fight eutrophication from other sources. While finfish and shrimp aquaculture have a more varied environmental history, current regulations have remedied many of these problems by setting strict guidelines for wastewater treatment, limiting the use of non-native species, and preventing the use of harmful chemicals and antibiotics.

Eutrophication and agriculture

Myth: You should avoid farmed seafood from other countries

Reality:  Although there are bad practices in some countries, the foreign-grown seafood farmed that is imported into the United States has to follow strict FDA requirements and standards for health and sustainability.  Additionally, many importers require third party certifications to ensure sustainability, humane treatment, and health. Learning more about third party certifications is a good way to select seafood that is raised in sustainable and healthy ways.

Myth: only a few fish species can be farmed through aquaculture

Reality: Aquaculture actually has the ability to supply over 225 species, with freshwater fish and mollusks topping the list.  Salmon are one of the more recognized farmed species making up 70% of the salmon on the market, but only less than 5% of the total aquaculture production (All species).   Additionally, there is only a certain amount of wild caught fish that can be sustainable, meaning that aquaculture is necessary to supplement the demand.

Salmon Farming Gets Leaner and Greener

The Ocean Health Index

Myth: Farmed seafood is bad because it uses other fish as feed, which is wasteful

Reality:  Aquaculture does utilize fishmeal and fish oil in feed for finfish operations. Identical amounts of these fish used for aquaculture purposes is often more efficient than if left in the wild fisheries. This would indicate the importance of aquaculture in maximizing the ability to sustainably raise seafood.  However, natural alternatives to fish oils such as insect meal are also being developed to lessen the demand on wild caught fish meal/fish oil.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020

Myth: Farmed seafood is full of antibiotics

Reality: There are FDA guidelines to ensure that proper withdrawal periods are used in order to allow the effective use of antibiotics while ensuring that the harvested fish do not have any remaining antibiotics in their system. In addition technologies such as Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) are also being developed to reduce the need for antibiotics all together.

Myth: Freshwater use for aquaculture is high

Reality:  Proportionally the global freshwater usage consists of 47% to plant agriculture, 26% to animal production.  The proportional demand of freshwater for aquaculture is significantly lower than any other group.  In 2015 is was estimated that less than 2% of the total freshwater demand in the United States went to aquaculture. Roughly 50% of aquaculture uses saltwater from the marine environment, removing the freshwater demand altogether.

A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products


Myth: Farmed seafood is only grown on land or close to shore

Reality:  Historically, aquaculture has often relied on nearshore and land environments. Recent technological trends have shown that open ocean aquaculture has the most potential for growth and highest level of sustainability.  It is estimated that development to only 1% of the marine environment suitable (suitable area refers to locations that could house aquaculture, which is only a small portion of the total marine environment) can produce the amount of seafood harvested from wild-caught fisheries yearly.  Additionally, the land use of aquaculture often results in the highest level of production per unit land of land used of any animal protein.  

Big Island Finfish Farm Hopes To Lead The Way In Sustainable Aquaculture