The Pros and Cons of Aquaculture

The Pros and Cons of Aquaculture
External Guest Writer
April 20, 2021

According to a recent report by BBC, nearly 85% of the global fish stocks have already been depleted. This does not bode well for the future, especially when we take into account that the demand for seafood is only rising with each passing year.

In order to match the demand for seafood without further depleting our oceanic reserves, we need to consider alternate methods of producing seafood immediately. Fortunately, there are plenty of options at hand, and one of the most popular methods is known as Aquaculture.

In this article, we look at the history, pros and cons of aquaculture in order to offer updated information regarding this practice. 

The History of Aquaculture

Aquaculture has become the buzzword in the fisheries industry in recent times, but this form of farming has a long and storied history. It is believed to have begun in China as early as 2000 B.C. 

Since this point, the practice of aquaculture slowly began to spread to the rest of our planet, starting specifically in other parts of Asia and then Europe. 

The drastic increase in global demand for seafood has led to an explosion in aquaculture over the last decade. A little over half the current seafood supply comes from this method currently, although many aquaculture farms do not practice sustainable methods of farming yet.

Examining the advantages of disadvantages of aquaculture will allow us to optimize this practice in the future.

Aquaculture Pros and Cons

In this section, we take a detailed look at the fish farming pros and cons list in order to gain a deeper understanding of aquaculture.

The Pros

Meeting Global  Needs

One of the biggest advantages of employing aquaculture on a large scale around the planet is the invariable decrease in the dependency on our oceanic reserves. As previously mentioned, a vast majority of our natural fish supplies have already been depleted. 

Once aquaculture farms are established in numerous regions around the planet, consumers can be assured of a continuous supply of seafood without further damaging our collective ecosystems. 

Using aquaculture provides us with an opportunity to rehabilitate the global oceanic ecosystem by rearing certain small species of fish. These fishes can be released into the ocean based on the requirement of a region in order to act as a food source for larger fishes. Once the balance of our seas and oceans have been reestablished, the fish reserves will also start to replenish themselves over time.

Flexible Method

A lot of parties who’re propagating the use of aquaculture speak highly about the flexible and versatile nature of this method. The only real requirement is a small body of water and even that can be artificially created in a lot of regions. Once the body of water is in place, it is fairly easy to set up tanks or columns based on the species being grown in the farm. 

Thus the flexibility of this method comes as a big boon for regions that have a high demand for seafood without having a water body in close proximity. Artificial ponds can be established in this region for the specific purpose of creating aquaculture fish farms. Although the initial investment may be on the higher end of the scale, the eventual profits generated from the fish farms will make up for the initial costs in the long run.

Boost of Income

Much like farming, fishing has quickly devolved into an unreliable industry for all parties involved. When the oceans were thriving four decades ago, it was easy to make a living in this industry. In recent years, however, large fishing vessels have all but cleaned up the ocean floor, making life extremely difficult for small and mid-scale fishermen. 

Aquaculture, on the other hand, reduces the dependency on natural supplies and instead encourages fishermen to curate the growth of their own supply of fishes and other sea life. They can either opt to grow their aquaculture fish farms in the middle of the ocean if they live near a coastline, or they can seek out ponds and lakes in their region as well.

As aquaculture does require a fair amount of manual labor to execute, it ends up generating heaps of employment opportunities in the region as well. This not only improves the lives of individual fishermen but also has a trickle down effect on the local economy as well.

When growth is achieved in surplus, it helps to improve the economy of a nation as a whole too because fishes are a highly sought after commodity.

Decrease in Commercial Fishing and Fish Farming

The commercial fishing industry has played a substantial role in depleting the natural resources in our oceans and negatively affecting the condition of our planet. Fishing vessels tend to drop huge volumes of plastic and synthetic materials into the water and this leads to a direct contamination that spreads across our planet.

Additionally, this industry is also responsible for huge amounts of air pollution due to the sheer number of vessels that take to the sea every day. When coupled with the fact that important living beings such as phytoplankton are being negatively affected by fishing, it becomes one of the biggest contributors of global warming on our planet.

The rise in aquaculture fish farms will invariably lead to a reduction in the dependency on commercial fishing practices. Ideally, we can reach a stage where commercial fishing becomes a thing of the past and all seafood is generated using sustainable aquaculture practices.

Saving Endangered Species

The rise in global temperatures, the increase in water pollution, and the continued practice of commercial fishing end up taking a cumulative toll on various species of wildlife in our oceans. A large number of important species have already gone extinct while another massive section is sitting on the verge of extinction. 

Protecting these species has now become the need of the hour for the sake of our planet’s future. One of the ways we can do this is by reducing commercial fishing practices in order to allow the natural reserves in our waters to replenish themselves. Until then, we can rely on sustainable aquaculture in order to continue matching the needs of our population.

Once important species are removed from the endangered list, we can all breathe a little bit easier going forward. For this, the health of our oceans needs to be closely monitored and commercial fishing needs to be curbed as much as possible.

Bridging the Gap of Agriculture

While a considerable section of our planet has already been dedicated to traditional agricultural practices, it has not been enough to feed the entirety of our population. This is because there are several locations on our planet that are simply not suitable for agriculture. Additionally, if this is an under-developed or developing region, transporting fruits and vegetables also becomes a highly expensive affair and thus out of the reach of the masses.

In such areas, aquaculture may serve as a two-fold solution. First, rearing fishes in these regions will allow the population to sustain themselves with a healthy diet. Second, setting up aquaculture fish farms can generate wealth and employment opportunities. This can lead to an economic resurgence in the region as well.

Hence we see that aquaculture can be useful in bridging the gaps in nutrition left by traditional agriculture practices. Not only that, but this method of farming can also boost the economy as well.

Improving Nutrition

Modern aquaculture farms are truly a thing of beauty. When executed well, these farms are capable of producing large supplies of highly nutritious produce. If modern genetic engineering techniques are applied, it becomes possible to further boost the nutritional value of fishes and improve certain areas such as the value of omega-3 fatty acids.

Thus the potential for feeding a still-hungry and sizable section of the world’s population becomes a reality if aquaculture farms are systematically established across the planet. Not only can these farms feed the population, but they can feed them well and even nourish them immensely.

The Cons 

Threat of Invasive Species

Although aquaculture has more than its share of positives for the local ecosystem, there are a handful of threats that one needs to be weary of as well. One of the biggest cons of aquaculture farming has to do with the rise in invasive species within a given region.

Every ecosystem is a finely balanced mechanism with its local inhabitants working in harmony with one another to keep the peace and balance. This balance comes under threat when non-native species are introduced in a region and this can cause harm to a lot of species as well. 

The Janitor fish, for example, is a popular breed grown in aquaculture farms around the world. This breed, however, can be dangerous to numerous freshwater species as they tend to overpopulate and eventually take over an ecosystem in time.

Thus it is very important to carefully plan the introduction of fishes, especially when conducting aquaculture in open waters such as the seas or oceans. 

Water Pollution

The fact that aquaculture can be practiced in any body of water is a major advantage of this method. Unfortunately, this boon can quickly turn into a bane if the proper filtration techniques are not applied while rearing fishes.

As the fishes tend to stay in the same body of water for extended periods of time, they can contaminate the water with their wastes gradually. If the same body of water is being funnelled to drinking water channels, it can be disastrous for the communities who have to consume this water. Over time, this can lead to the spread of various infections and diseases. 

Even the water body itself will slowly get contaminated to a point beyond usage if the right filtration techniques aren’t employed during aquaculture farming.

Another massive source of contamination comes from the use of chemicals and pesticides in the fish feed as well. If sustainable feeds aren’t developed for the fish farms, it can further the degradation of local ecosystems with dangerous chemicals.

Waste Management of Fish Farms

One of the biggest negatives of aquaculture practices around the world currently has to do with the waste being generated by the farms. These wastes are not being properly disposed and are adding to the filth being dumped into the seas and oceans.

An example of this can be seen when examining the state of salmon farms in various countries. Salmon are a species of fish that are constantly in demand, and this is why there has been a drastic rise in salmon farms over the years.

Unfortunately, however, salmon farming has become one of the biggest causes of pollution, especially in the coastal regions. The wastes being discharged by salmon farms are not being disposed of properly and are instead being dumped near the coasts. These wastes slowly make their way to the bottom of the sea bed and end up having a negative effect on the lives of various animals living in that region.

Feeding Frenzy

Some of the larger fishes being reared in aquaculture farms rely on consuming wild fish that are available in local ecosystems. Although it is relatively healthier to feed these larger fish natural meats in comparison to chemical foods, there is downside to consider as well.

This has to do with the proportion of wild fish that are used to rear bigger fishes in aquaculture farms. Statistics in this department highlight the fact that fishes like salmon have a considerable appetite and it takes a fair amount of wild fishes to satiate them. This can take a dramatic toll on the numbers of wild fish in the region. Once it drops beyond a point, it can have a negative impact on the ecosystem as a whole as well.

Uncontrolled Growth

Aquaculture is a versatile form of aquatic agriculture and this is the reason more than half of the planet’s seafood needs come from this method. This can be a double-edged sword as well if there is poor planning when selecting the site for aquaculture farms. 

It has been seen that aquaculture farms have been established in sensitive ecological regions in the recent past, and this has a direct impact on the overall health of the planet. Farms established in mangrove forests, for example, can disturb an important ecosystem and can lead to an increase in natural disasters in the long run. 

Thus it is crucial that the growth of aquaculture farms is monitored in the future. Instead of diminishing problems by using aquaculture, it would be a shame if this method led to an increase in problems going forward.

A Culture of Sustainable Fishing

Sustainability is a word that’s thrown around a lot in various industries, but what does it really mean? It has to do with growth that can be sustained in the long run without damaging the resources of our planet. 

Aquaculture farming offers a huge promise when it comes to the sustainable growth of the fishing industry. In the past, the practices in this industry have been deplorable and it has led to overfishing and extinction of numerous important species.

By using technology and sustainable aquaculture practices, however, these problems can be curbed and the direction of the curve can be reversed in a positive manner. Aquaculture allows us to feed the population without damaging the environment. That is an opportunity for an absolute win-win situation, and we must seize it.

Learn more aquaculture articles: What are Recirculating Aquaculture Systems?