Understanding the Environmental and Economic Benefits of Aquaculture
Over the last few decades, rising incomes and improved living standards have fuelled demand for animal protein, including seafood. Historically, human beings have opted for immediacy in consumption rather than focusing on sustainability. As a result, several aquatic species and even habitats are at risk from rampant and unchecked commercial fishing. Often checks come into play after whole species are on the verge of extinction and sometimes not even then.
Greater awareness of seafood’s health benefits and changing consumer lifestyles will increase consumption levels by 80% by the mid-century. However, growing demand has also brought supply issues to the forefront. The oceans may have once provided bountiful quantities, but with exponentially growing populations, pollution and aggressive wild capture fishing practices, this is no longer the case. The practice of aquaculture is the farm raising of aquatic animals and plans for commercial consumption. Aquaculture increases the availability of aquatic protein and supports the rebuilding of species moving towards extinction.
Trout, shellfish, eel, shrimp, and catfish are a few aquatic species that can be farm bred. While enabling specific species to thrive in water seems simple enough, it also involves managing water conditions like controlling oxygen and ammonia levels, pH levels, feeding, and other maintenance activities. Unfortunately, aquaculture also leads to an imbalance in aquatic life due to extremely high usage of fertilisers in the water, faecal deposits, variations in the pH level in the water, and a few other causes.
Microorganisms play a vital role in balancing water’s health since they help manage organic waste. Microorganisms feed on plankton, faeces and uneaten feed, thereby reducing the amount of organic waste generation. Aquaculture is suitable for both fresh and saltwater. From feeding organisms to maintaining water quality, human intervention at every step allows for successful aquaculture practices.
Advantages of Aquaculture
- Economic benefits
With the growing demand for seafood, aquaculture also helps create jobs and increase economic revenue in various industries. From Breeding to the sale of seafood, a massive set of management requires manual labour with both specialised and non-specific skills. Fish farming has helped create jobs since it leads to the processing, transportation, and storage of seafood, with local restaurants flourishing, creating a tremendous economic opportunity for many.
- Environmental benefits
Aquaculture is cost-efficient when it takes place along the shoreline due to easy access. In addition, it helps avoid the spread of Seaweed and molluscs. While there are compliances that the aquaculture farmers need to comply with to ensure environmentally safe practices, aquaculture helps to ease the pressure on wild stock. The constant inspection also helps curtail unsustainable fishing methods like bottom trawling.
- Save Species from Extinction:
Various species in the marine environment are facing extinction. Overfishing, imbalance in species population, and environmental pollution play a vital role in the extinction of marine life. Aquaculture helps regulate the imbalance and helps keep the marine environment clean and free of contamination.
- Study of marine life:
While humans have spent excessive money studying outer space, much less has been spent understanding the underwater species. Aquaculture enables experts better to understand the behavioural patterns and habits of aquatic animals so that we can support their survival better.
Disadvantages of Aquaculture
- Imbalance in the ecosystem
Aquaculture, like farming, requires specific resources which are otherwise abundantly used by the natural environment. When fish farmers continuously use the resources, it depletes the stock, leads to a conflict and causes an imbalance in the ecosystem.
- Lack of diversity
When not bred for food, farmed fish are released into the wild, which in turn causes an imbalance in the diversity. While aquaculture has many benefits, frequent human intervention and controlled activities do need an imbalance in the ecosystem.
- The health of aquatic animals
Diseases in marine life are known to have wiped out a tremendous amount of aquatic life rapidly in the past. Similarly, diseases among cultivated marine creatures can wipe out an entirely aquatic species.
- Water contamination
Fish feed, their discharge, acidity level variations in water and other contamination from the habitats can lead to diseases in the aquatic creatures and cause contamination of water sources.
Aquaculture helps meet the growing demands of seafood, restore water sources, offer health benefits to humans due to sustainable methods of producing protein, helps create economic opportunities through the creation of jobs, and is an excellent way of preserving local culture. While aquafarming has many pros and cons, it is vital to ensure its sustainable practices and curb any harmful activities to marine life or the ecosystem. However, when managed appropriately and adhered to the standards, it can be a very sustainable method of sourcing seafood and a lucrative business opportunity.
What is Aquaculture, and Why Do We Need It? (globalseafood.org)