Sustainable Aquaculture: Is It the Key to World Food Supply?

Sustainable Aquaculture: Is It the Key to World Food Supply?
External Guest Writer
April 13, 2021

Our current method of consuming meat is slowly suffocating our planet. It is no longer a secret that meat production is polluting our planet with harmful greenhouse gases such as methane. It has been estimated that these gases are responsible for at least half the greenhouse gases produced in our planet in total.

In order to curb the continuous supply of these dangerous gases in our environment and continue feeding the population with healthy meats, alternative methods of rearing meats need to be examined. One such alternative that is gaining traction is sustainable aquaculture.

We look at the precise definition of sustainable aquaculture in this article, along with the manner in which this method of farming works and its overall benefits for our planet.

What is Sustainable Fish Farming?

Fish farming or aquaculture is the practice of manually rearing fishes in a specified and enclosed location. Although fish farming has been in practice for several years now, only recently have we begun to look closely at the sustainable element of this method.

The supply of fish stocks in the wild has been depleting rapidly in recent years, and this is why it becomes crucial to turn to sustainable fish farming in order to meet the demands of the population. Currently, the practice of aquaculture farming has managed to even out-pace the wild capture of fishes around the world.

Overfishing is known to have an enormous impact on the overall health of our planet. The depletion of stocks in certain crucial species leads to the collapse of various food chains in our water bodies. The only alternative to hunting for fishes in seas and oceans now comes to practicing sustainable aquaculture on a larger scale than ever before.

How Does It Work?

Despite fish farming becoming a popular practice around the world, a lot of aquaculture farms are not practicing sustainability in this industry. In fact, a considerable portion of current fish farming practices are harming the environment. 

One of the most common malpractices in this sector involves the removal of fresh and clean water from natural sources for aquaculture, and pumping back contaminated water into the same water bodies. This ends up diluting the quality of the water over time.

Another malpractice involves the use of unhealthy chemicals in order to rear fishes in aquaculture. This includes antibiotics, hormones, and aquatic biocides that end up damaging the ecosystem of the region as well as the health of the final consumer.

In order for a practice to be considered sustainable aquaculture, fish need to be raised in a closed environment without causing any damage to the local and natural ecosystems of a region.

Sustainable Farmed Fish Options

Sustainable aquaculture farms avoid using a vast majority of harmful chemicals. This includes all types of additives, antibiotics, and hormones that tend to hurt the fish and the water. 

Such farms also don’t use aquafeeds that are made using the byproduct of any form of animal waste. These feeds are dangerous for the fish and the final consumer. Instead, sustainable aquaculture farms utilize fish feed that’s eco-friendly and largely vegetarian in composition. These feeds are specifically created for the purpose of aquaculture and play an important role in maintaining and boosting the health of the fish.

Another important feature of a sustainable aquaculture practice is the manner in which the water resource is managed across the year. Here, the use of water is minimized and extra care is taken to continually monitor the quality of the water. This ensures that there is no spillage of ill-effects into the local ecosystems and the native species of fish are always well preserved.

Sustainable practices in this industry also dictates that the fish being reared are thoroughly utilized and the wastage of the meat is minimized. For example, large quantities of fish oils and fish solids that are usually thrown away can be intelligently utilized in order to create utilitarian byproducts such as biodiesel fuels. They can also be utilized in small values to help create animal feed as these portions of a fish can be highly nutritious. 

Fish skin is also an invaluable portion of the animal and can be utilized in the production of gelatin. This is a sought after product in the pharmaceutical sector and can thus help the farmers improve their income in the long run. Fish skin also works as a great substitute for leather in the fashion sector. The collagen used in the cosmetic industry also tends to rely heavily on this byproduct of aquaculture. 

The rest of the leftover portions of the fish can also be utilized to create high quality compost in order to supplement local vegetation.

It is also possible now to create sustainable aquaculture setups on land in order to minimize damages to local water bodies and increase the sustainability component of the whole operation. This is especially ideal for large, land-locked regions and urban environments that have a constant demand for high-quality fish.

Another option here would be to shift the location of operations to the open seas in order to utilize the consistent and strong currents. This ensures that the pests and wastes that tend to accumulate in aquaculture farms get washed into the open waters instead of accumulating and polluting one concentrated region.

The Benefits of Sustainable Fish Farming

There are numerous benefits associated with utilizing sustainable practices to the system of aquaculture. We look at some of these benefits in the section below.

Healthy Seafood

One of the biggest selling points of sustainable aquaculture has to do with the quality of the fish, shrimp, clams and others being produced in this system. Ultimately, the consumer needs to have access to fresh seafood that is free on any harmful chemicals. Sustainable aquaculture can ensure exactly that by ensuring that the fishes aren’t contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, harmful chemicals, or any other heavy metals. 

They also do not contain any of the controversial GMOs that are found in non-sustainable aquaculture farms. 

Lower Dependency on Freshwater

Aquaculture farms currently operate in a manner that relies heavily on the use of freshwater sources from their local regions. These setups tend to consume excessive amounts of water and even contaminate the local ecosystem with poor recycling techniques. The major advantage of sustainable aquaculture has to do with minimizing the dependency on the amount of freshwater used while producing every pound of seafood. 

Reusing Wastes

Additionally, this method tends to have a positive impact on the overall health of the ecosystem in a region because it can incorporate all the wastes being produced in an intelligent manner. The wastes are sizable enough to promote the growth of numerous auxiliary industries and products such as cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Continuous Production

The production capabilities of a well-managed sustainable aquaculture farm is impressive. These farms have the capability to produce seafood round the clock and through the year. This has an enormous benefit on the profit margins experienced by farmers in this industry.

A Culture of Sustainability

Sustainability has become a buzzword in our collective vocabulary, but very few actions are being taken at a ground level in order to enact change. The issue of overfishing and excessive dependency on meat has begun to take an irreversible toll on our planet. The only way out of this problem is to focus on sustainability with renewed vigor and ensure that similar practices are enacted in every sector.

Sustainable aquaculture is a novel method of approaching fish farming with a greater emphasis on the environment and cleanliness. If sustainable aquaculture practices are utilized around the world, it will be possible to feed the population with healthy seafood without damaging our planet. 

Thus the need of the hour now is to ensure that such practices hit the ground running with a sense of urgency.