Aquaculture (less commonly spelled aquiculture), also known as
aquafarming) is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic
plants, algae, and other organisms.
Aquaculture involves cultivating
freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and
can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of
Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine
environments and in underwater habitats.
According to the
Food and Agriculture Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture
"is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including
fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some
form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production,
such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc.
Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock
being cultivated." The reported output from global aquaculture
operations in 2014 supplied over one half of the fish and shellfish
that is directly consumed by humans; however, there are issues
about the reliability of the reported figures. Further, in current
aquaculture practice, products from several pounds of wild fish are
used to produce one pound of a piscivorous fish like salmon.
Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming,
oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture (such as seaweed farming),
and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include
aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which
integrate fish farming and aquatic plant farming.
2 21st-century practice
3 Species groups
3.1 Aquatic plants
3.5 Other groups
4 Around the world
4.1 National laws, regulations, and management
6 Aquacultural methods
7 Netting materials
8.2 Impacts on wild fish
8.3 Coastal ecosystems
Pollution from sea cage aquaculture
8.4 Genetic modification
9 Ecological benefits
10 Animal welfare
10.1 Common welfare concerns
10.2 Improving welfare
12 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
Workers harvest catfish from the Delta Pride
Catfish farms in
Gunditjmara people in Victoria, Australia, may have
raised eels as early as 6000 BC. Evidence indicates they
developed about 100 km2 (39 sq mi) of volcanic
floodplains in the vicinity of
Lake Condah into a complex of channels
and dams, and used woven traps to capture eels, and preserve them to
eat all year round.
Aquaculture was operating in China circa 2000 BC. When the
waters subsided after river floods, some fish, mainly carp, were
trapped in lakes. Early aquaculturists fed their brood using nymphs
and silkworm feces, and ate them. A fortunate genetic mutation of carp
led to the emergence of goldfish during the Tang dynasty.
Japanese cultivated seaweed by providing bamboo poles and, later, nets
and oyster shells to serve as anchoring surfaces for spores.
Romans bred fish in ponds and farmed oysters in coastal lagoons before
In central Europe, early Christian monasteries adopted Roman
Aquaculture spread in Europe during the
Middle Ages since away from the seacoasts and the big rivers, fish had
to be salted so they did not rot. Improvements in transportation
during the 19th century made fresh fish easily available and
inexpensive, even in inland areas, making aquaculture less popular.
The 15th-century fishponds of the Trebon Basin in the Czech Republic
are maintained as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hawaiians constructed oceanic fish ponds. A remarkable example is the
"Menehune" fishpond dating from at least 1,000 years ago, at
Alekoko. Legend says that it was constructed by the mythical Menehune
In the first half of the 18th century, German Stephan Ludwig Jacobi
experimented with external fertilization of brown trouts and salmon.
He wrote an article "Von der künstlichen Erzeugung der Forellen und
Lachse". By the latter decades of the 18th century, oyster farming had
begun in estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of North America.
The word aquaculture appeared in an 1855 newspaper article in
reference to the harvesting of ice. It also appeared in
descriptions of the terrestrial agricultural practise of subirrigation
in the late 19th century before becoming associated primarily with
the cultivation of aquatic plant and animal species.
In 1859, Stephen Ainsworth of West Bloomfield, New York, began
experiments with brook trout. By 1864, Seth Green had established a
commercial fish-hatching operation at Caledonia Springs, near
Rochester, New York. By 1866, with the involvement of Dr. W. W.
Fletcher of Concord, Massachusetts, artificial fish hatcheries were
under way in both Canada and the United States. When the Dildo
Island fish hatchery opened in Newfoundland in 1889, it was the
largest and most advanced in the world. The word aquaculture was used
in descriptions of the hatcheries experiments with cod and lobster in
By the 1920s, the American
Fish Culture Company of Carolina, Rhode
Island, founded in the 1870s was one of the leading producers of
trout. During the 1940s, they had perfected the method of manipulating
the day and night cycle of fish so that they could be artificially
spawned year around.
Californians harvested wild kelp and attempted to manage supply around
1900, later labeling it a wartime resource.
Harvest stagnation in wild fisheries and overexploitation of popular
marine species, combined with a growing demand for high-quality
protein, encouraged aquaculturists to domesticate other marine
species. At the outset of modern aquaculture, many were
optimistic that a "Blue Revolution" could take place in aquaculture,
just as the
Green Revolution of the 20th century had revolutionized
agriculture. Although land animals had long been domesticated,
most seafood species were still caught from the wild. Concerned about
the impact of growing demand for seafood on the world's oceans,
prominent ocean explorer
Jacques Cousteau wrote in 1973: "With
earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed, we must turn to the
sea with new understanding and new technology.”
About 430 (97%) of the species cultured as of 2007 were domesticated
during the 20th and 21st centuries, of which an estimated 106 came in
the decade to 2007. Given the long-term importance of agriculture, to
date, only 0.08% of known land plant species and 0.0002% of known land
animal species have been domesticated, compared with 0.17% of known
marine plant species and 0.13% of known marine animal species.
Domestication typically involves about a decade of scientific
research. Domesticating aquatic species involves fewer risks to
humans than do land animals, which took a large toll in human lives.
Most major human diseases originated in domesticated animals,
including diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria, that like most
infectious diseases, move to humans from animals. No human pathogens
of comparable virulence have yet emerged from marine species.[citation
Biological control methods to manage parasites are already being used,
such as cleaner fish (e.g. lumpsuckers and wrasse) to control sea lice
populations in salmon farming. Models are being used to help with
spatial planning and siting of fish farms in order to minimize
The decline in wild fish stocks has increased the demand for farmed
fish. However, finding alternative sources of protein and oil for
fish feed is necessary so the aquaculture industry can grow
sustainably; otherwise, it represents a great risk for the
over-exploitation of forage fish.
Another recent issue following the banning in 2008 of organotins by
the International Maritime Organization is the need to find
environmentally friendly, but still effective, compounds with
Many new natural compounds are discovered every year, but producing
them on a large enough scale for commercial purposes is almost
It is highly probable that future developments in this field will rely
on microorganisms, but greater funding and further research is needed
to overcome the lack of knowledge in this field.
Global aquaculture production in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as
reported by the FAO
Main species groups
Minor species groups
Cultivating emergent aquatic plants in floating containers
Microalgae, also referred to as phytoplankton, microphytes, or
planktonic algae, constitute the majority of cultivated algae.
Macroalgae commonly known as seaweed also have many commercial and
industrial uses, but due to their size and specific requirements, they
are not easily cultivated on a large scale and are most often taken in
The farming of fish is the most common form of aquaculture. It
involves raising fish commercially in tanks, fish ponds, or ocean
enclosures, usually for food. A facility that releases juvenile fish
into the wild for recreational fishing or to supplement a species'
natural numbers is generally referred to as a fish hatchery.
Worldwide, the most important fish species used in fish farming are,
in order, carp, salmon, tilapia, and catfish.
In the Mediterranean, young bluefin tuna are netted at sea and towed
slowly towards the shore. They are then interned in offshore pens
where they are further grown for the market. In 2009, researchers
Australia managed for the first time to coax southern bluefin tuna
to breed in landlocked tanks.
Southern bluefin tuna
Southern bluefin tuna are also caught in
the wild and fattened in grow-out sea cages in southern Spencer Gulf,
A similar process is used in the salmon-farming section of this
industry; juveniles are taken from hatcheries and a variety of methods
are used to aid them in their maturation. For example, as stated
above, some of the most important fish species in the industry,
salmon, can be grown using a cage system. This is done by having
netted cages, preferably in open water that has a strong flow, and
feeding the salmon a special food mixture that aids their growth. This
process allows for year-round growth of the fish, thus a higher
harvest during the correct seasons. An additional method,
known sometimes as sea ranching, has also been used within the
industry. Sea ranching involves raising fish in a hatchery for a brief
time and then releasing them into marine waters for further
development, whereupon the fish are recaptured when they have
Shrimp farming and Freshwater prawn farming
Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970s, and production grew
steeply thereafter. Global production reached more than 1.6 million
tonnes in 2003, worth about US$9 billion. About 75% of farmed shrimp
is produced in Asia, in particular in China and Thailand. The other
25% is produced mainly in Latin America, where Brazil is the largest
producer. Thailand is the largest exporter.
Shrimp farming has changed from its traditional, small-scale form in
Southeast Asia into a global industry. Technological advances have led
to ever higher densities per unit area, and broodstock is shipped
worldwide. Virtually all farmed shrimp are penaeids (i.e., shrimp of
the family Penaeidae), and just two species of shrimp, the Pacific
white shrimp and the giant tiger prawn, account for about 80% of all
farmed shrimp. These industrial monocultures are very susceptible to
disease, which has decimated shrimp populations across entire regions.
Increasing ecological problems, repeated disease outbreaks, and
pressure and criticism from both nongovernmental organizations and
consumer countries led to changes in the industry in the late 1990s
and generally stronger regulations. In 1999, governments, industry
representatives, and environmental organizations initiated a program
aimed at developing and promoting more sustainable farming practices
Seafood Watch program.
Freshwater prawn farming
Freshwater prawn farming shares many characteristics with, including
many problems with, marine shrimp farming. Unique problems are
introduced by the developmental lifecycle of the main species, the
giant river prawn.
The global annual production of freshwater prawns (excluding crayfish
and crabs) in 2003 was about 280,000 tonnes, of which China produced
180,000 tonnes followed by India and Thailand with 35,000 tonnes each.
Additionally, China produced about 370,000 tonnes of Chinese river
Oyster farming and Geoduck aquaculture
Aquacultured shellfish include various oyster, mussel, and clam
species. These bivalves are filter and/or deposit feeders, which rely
on ambient primary production rather than inputs of fish or other
feed. As such, shellfish aquaculture is generally perceived as benign
or even beneficial.
Depending on the species and local conditions, bivalve molluscs are
either grown on the beach, on longlines, or suspended from rafts and
harvested by hand or by dredging. In May 2017 a Belgian consortium
installed the first of two trial mussel farms on a wind farm in the
Abalone farming began in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Japan and
China. Since the mid-1990s, this industry has become increasingly
Overfishing and poaching have reduced wild populations
to the extent that farmed abalone now supplies most abalone meat.
Sustainably farmed molluscs can be certified by
Seafood Watch and
other organizations, including the
World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund (WWF). WWF
initiated the "
Aquaculture Dialogues" in 2004 to develop measurable
and performance-based standards for responsibly farmed seafood. In
2009, WWF co-founded the
Aquaculture Stewardship Council
Aquaculture Stewardship Council with the
Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative to manage the global standards and
After trials in 2012, a commercial "sea ranch" was set up in
Flinders Bay, Western Australia, to raise abalone. The ranch is based
on an artificial reef made up of 5000 (As of April 2016[update])
separate concrete units called abitats (abalone habitats). The
900 kg abitats can host 400 abalone each. The reef is seeded with
young abalone from an onshore hatchery. The abalone feed on seaweed
that has grown naturally on the abitats, with the ecosystem enrichment
of the bay also resulting in growing numbers of dhufish, pink snapper,
wrasse, and Samson fish, among other species.
Brad Adams, from the company, has emphasised the similarity to wild
abalone and the difference from shore-based aquaculture. "We're not
aquaculture, we're ranching, because once they're in the water they
look after themselves."
Other groups include aquatic reptiles, amphibians, and miscellaneous
invertebrates, such as echinoderms and jellyfish. They are separately
graphed at the top right of this section, since they do not contribute
enough volume to show clearly on the main graph.
Commercially harvested echinoderms include sea cucumbers and sea
urchins. In China, sea cucumbers are farmed in artificial ponds as
large as 1,000 acres (400 ha).
Around the world
Global aquaculture production in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as
reported by the FAO
Main aquaculture countries, 1950–2010
Main aquaculture countries in 2010
In 2012, the total world production of fisheries was 158 million
tonnes, of which aquaculture contributed 66.6 million tonnes, about
42%. The growth rate of worldwide aquaculture has been sustained
and rapid, averaging about 8% per year for over 30 years, while the
take from wild fisheries] has been essentially flat for the last
decade. The aquaculture market reached $86 billion in 2009. 
Aquaculture is an especially important economic activity in China.
Between 1980 and 1997, the Chinese Bureau of Fisheries reports,
aquaculture harvests grew at an annual rate of 16.7%, jumping from 1.9
million tonnes to nearly 23 million tonnes. In 2005, China accounted
for 70% of world production.
Aquaculture is also currently one
of the fastest-growing areas of food production in the U.S.
About 90% of all U.S. shrimp consumption is farmed and imported.
In recent years, salmon aquaculture has become a major export in
southern Chile, especially in Puerto Montt, Chile's fastest-growing
A United Nations report titled The State of the World Fisheries and
Aquaculture released in May 2014 maintained fisheries and aquaculture
support the livelihoods of some 60 million people in Asia and
National laws, regulations, and management
Laws governing aquaculture practices vary greatly by country and
are often not closely regulated or easily traceable. In the United
States, land-based and nearshore aquaculture is regulated at the
federal and state levels; however, no national laws govern
offshore aquaculture in U.S. exclusive economic zone waters. In June
2011, the Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration released national aquaculture policies to address
this issue and "to meet the growing demand for healthy seafood, to
create jobs in coastal communities, and restore vital ecosystems." In
Lois Capps introduced the National Sustainable
Aquaculture Act of 2011 "to establish a regulatory system
and research program for sustainable offshore aquaculture in the
United States exclusive economic zone"; however, the bill was not
enacted into law.
China overwhelmingly dominates the world in reported aquaculture
output, reporting a total output which is double that of the rest
of the world put together. However, there are some historical issues
with the accuracy of China's returns.
In 2001, the fisheries scientists Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly
expressed concerns in a letter to Nature, that China was over
reporting its catch from wild fisheries in the 1990s. They said
that made it appear that the global catch since 1988 was increasing
annually by 300,000 tonnes, whereas it was really shrinking annually
by 350,000 tonnes. Watson and Pauly suggested this may be have been
related to Chinese policies where state entities that monitored the
economy were also tasked with increasing output. Also, until more
recently, the promotion of Chinese officials was based on production
increases from their own areas.
China disputed this claim. The official
Xinhua News Agency
Xinhua News Agency quoted Yang
Jian, director general of the
Agriculture Ministry's Bureau of
Fisheries, as saying that China's figures were "basically
correct". However, the
FAO accepted there were issues with the
reliability of China's statistical returns, and for a period treated
data from China, including the aquaculture data, apart from the rest
of the world.
Mariculture off High Island, Hong Kong
Carp are one of the dominant fishes in aquaculture
The adaptable tilapia is another commonly farmed fish
Main article: Mariculture
Mariculture refers to the cultivation of marine organisms in seawater,
usually in sheltered coastal or offshore waters. The farming of marine
fish is an example of mariculture, and so also is the farming of
marine crustaceans (such as shrimp), molluscs (such as oysters), and
seaweed. Atlantic salmon and mollusk farms is for example prominent in
Mariculture may consist of raising the organisms on or in artificial
enclosures such as in floating netted enclosures for salmon and on
racks for oysters. In the case of enclosed salmon, they are fed by the
operators; oysters on racks filter feed on naturally available food.
Abalone have been farmed on an artificial reef consuming seaweed which
grows naturally on the reef units.
Main article: Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture
Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture
Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) is a practice in which the
byproducts (wastes) from one species are recycled to become inputs
(fertilizers, food) for another. Fed aquaculture (for example, fish,
shrimp) is combined with inorganic extractive and organic extractive
(for example, shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for
environmental sustainability (biomitigation), economic stability
(product diversification and risk reduction) and social acceptability
(better management practices).
"Multi-trophic" refers to the incorporation of species from different
trophic or nutritional levels in the same system. This is one
potential distinction from the age-old practice of aquatic
polyculture, which could simply be the co-culture of different fish
species from the same trophic level. In this case, these organisms may
all share the same biological and chemical processes, with few
synergistic benefits, which could potentially lead to significant
shifts in the ecosystem. Some traditional polyculture systems may, in
fact, incorporate a greater diversity of species, occupying several
niches, as extensive cultures (low intensity, low management) within
the same pond. The term "integrated" refers to the more intensive
cultivation of the different species in proximity of each other,
connected by nutrient and energy transfer through water.
Ideally, the biological and chemical processes in an IMTA system
should balance. This is achieved through the appropriate selection and
proportions of different species providing different ecosystem
functions. The co-cultured species are typically more than just
biofilters; they are harvestable crops of commercial value. A
working IMTA system can result in greater total production based on
mutual benefits to the co-cultured species and improved ecosystem
health, even if the production of individual species is lower than in
a monoculture over a short term period.
Sometimes the term "integrated aquaculture" is used to describe the
integration of monocultures through water transfer. For all
intents and purposes, however, the terms "IMTA" and "integrated
aquaculture" differ only in their degree of descriptiveness.
Aquaponics, fractionated aquaculture, integrated
agriculture-aquaculture systems, integrated peri-urban-aquaculture
systems, and integrated fisheries-aquaculture systems are other
variations of the IMTA concept.
Various materials, including nylon, polyester, polypropylene,
polyethylene, plastic-coated welded wire, rubber, patented rope
products (Spectra, Thorn-D, Dyneema), galvanized steel and copper are
used for netting in aquaculture fish enclosures around the
world. All of these materials are selected for a
variety of reasons, including design feasibility, material strength,
cost, and corrosion resistance.
Copper alloys in aquaculture
Recently, copper alloys have become important netting materials in
aquaculture because they are antimicrobial (i.e., they destroy
bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and other microbes) and they
therefore prevent biofouling (i.e., the undesirable accumulation,
adhesion, and growth of microorganisms, plants, algae, tubeworms,
barnacles, mollusks, and other organisms). By inhibiting microbial
growth, copper alloy aquaculture cages avoid costly net changes that
are necessary with other materials. The resistance of organism growth
on copper alloy nets also provides a cleaner and healthier environment
for farmed fish to grow and thrive.
See also: Issues with salmon aquaculture
If performed without consideration for potential local environmental
impacts, aquaculture in inland waters can result in more environmental
damaging than wild fisheries, though with less waste produced on a per
kg on a global scale. Local concerns with aquaculture in inland
waters may include waste handling, side-effects of antibiotics,
competition between farmed and wild animals, and the potential
introduction of invasive plant and animal species, or foreign
pathogens, particularly if unprocessed fish are used to feed more
marketable carnivorous fish. If non-local live feeds are used,
aquaculture may introduce plant of animal. Improvements in methods
resulting from advances in research and the availability of commercial
feeds has reduced some of these concerns since their greater
prevalence in the 1990s and 2000s .
Fish waste is organic and composed of nutrients necessary in all
components of aquatic food webs. In-ocean aquaculture often produces
much higher than normal fish waste concentrations. The waste collects
on the ocean bottom, damaging or eliminating bottom-dwelling life.
Waste can also decrease dissolved oxygen levels in the water column,
putting further pressure on wild animals. An alternative model to
food being added to the ecosystem, is the installation of artificial
reef structures to increase the habitat niches available, without the
need to add any more than ambient feed and nutrient. This has been
used in the "ranching" of abalone in Western Australia.
Tilapia § Nutrition
Tilapia from aquaculture has been shown to contain more fat and a much
higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 oils.
Impacts on wild fish
Some carnivorous and omnivorous farmed fish species are fed wild
forage fish. Although carnivorous farmed fish represented only 13
percent of aquaculture production by weight in 2000, they represented
34 percent of aquaculture production by value.
Farming of carnivorous species like salmon and shrimp leads to a high
demand for forage fish to match the nutrition they get in the wild.
Fish do not actually produce omega-3 fatty acids, but instead
accumulate them from either consuming microalgae that produce these
fatty acids, as is the case with forage fish like herring and
sardines, or, as is the case with fatty predatory fish, like salmon,
by eating prey fish that have accumulated omega-3 fatty acids from
microalgae. To satisfy this requirement, more than 50 percent of the
world fish oil production is fed to farmed salmon.
Farmed salmon consume more wild fish than they generate as a final
product, although the efficiency of production is improving. To
produce one pound of farmed salmon, products from several pounds of
wild fish are fed to them - this can be described as the
"fish-in-fish-out" (FIFO) ratio. In 1995, salmon had a FIFO ratio of
7.5 (meaning 7.5 pounds of wild fish feed were required to produce 1
pound of salmon); by 2006 the ratio had fallen to 4.9.
Additionally, a growing share of fish oil and fishmeal come from
residues (byproducts of fish processing), rather than dedicated whole
fish. In 2012, 34 percent of fish oil and 28 percent of fishmeal came
from residues. However, fishmeal and oil from residues instead of
whole fish have a different composition with more ash and less
protein, which may limit its potential use for aquaculture.
As the salmon farming industry expands, it requires more wild forage
fish for feed, at a time when seventy five percent of the worlds
monitored fisheries are already near to or have exceeded their maximum
sustainable yield. The industrial scale extraction of wild forage
fish for salmon farming then impacts the survivability of the wild
predator fish who rely on them for food. An important step in reducing
the impact of aquaculture on wild fish is shifting carnivorous species
to plant-based feeds.
Salmon feeds, for example, have gone from
containing only fishmeal and oil to containing 40 percent plant
protein. The USDA has also experimented with using grain-based
feeds for farmed trout. When properly formulated (and often mixed
with fishmeal or oil), plant-based feeds can provide proper nutrition
and similar growth rates in carnivorous farmed fish.
Another impact aquaculture production can have on wild fish is the
risk of fish escaping from coastal pens, where they can interbreed
with their wild counterparts, diluting wild genetic stocks.
Escaped fish can become invasive, out-competing native
Aquaculture is becoming a significant threat to coastal ecosystems.
About 20 percent of mangrove forests have been destroyed since 1980,
partly due to shrimp farming. An extended cost–benefit analysis
of the total economic value of shrimp aquaculture built on mangrove
ecosystems found that the external costs were much higher than the
external benefits. Over four decades, 269,000 hectares (660,000
acres) of Indonesian mangroves have been converted to shrimp farms.
Most of these farms are abandoned within a decade because of the toxin
build-up and nutrient loss.
Pollution from sea cage aquaculture
Salmon farms are typically sited in pristine coastal ecosystems which
they then pollute. A farm with 200,000 salmon discharges more fecal
waste than a city of 60,000 people. This waste is discharged directly
into the surrounding aquatic environment, untreated, often containing
antibiotics and pesticides." There is also an accumulation of heavy
metals on the benthos (seafloor) near the salmon farms, particularly
copper and zinc.
In 2016, mass fish kill events impacted salmon farmers along Chile's
coast and the wider ecology. Increases in aquaculture production
and its associated effluent were considered to be possible
contributing factors to fish and molluscan mortality.
Sea cage aquaculture is responsible for nutrient enrichment of the
waters in which they are established. This results from fish wastes
and uneaten feed inputs. Elements of most concern are nitrogen and
phosphorus which can promote algal growth, including harmful algal
blooms which can be toxic to fish. Flushing times, current speeds,
distance from the shore and water depth are important considerations
when locating sea cages in order to minimize the impacts of nutrient
enrichment on coastal ecosystems.
The extent of the effects of pollution from sea-cage aquaculture
varies depending on where the cages are located, which species are
kept, how densely cages are stocked and what the fish are fed.
Important species-specific variables include the species' food
conversion ratio (FCR) and nitrogen retention. Studies prior to 2001
determined that the amount of nitrogen introduced as feed which is
lost to the water column and seafloor as waste varies from 52 to
A type of salmon called the AquAdvantage salmon has been genetically
modified for faster growth, although it has not been approved for
commercial use, due to controversy. The altered salmon
incorporates a growth hormone from a
Chinook salmon that allows it to
reach full size in 16–28 months, instead of the normal 36 months for
Atlantic salmon, and while consuming 25 percent less feed. The
Food and Drug Administration reviewed the AquAdvantage salmon in
a draft environmental assessment and determined that it "would not
have a significant impact (FONSI) on the U.S. environment."
While some forms of aquaculture can be devastating to ecosystems, such
as shrimp farming in mangroves, other forms can be very beneficial.
Shellfish aquaculture adds substantial filter feeding capacity to an
environment which can significantly improve water quality. A single
oyster can filter 15 gallons of water a day, removing microscopic
algal cells. By removing these cells, shellfish are removing nitrogen
and other nutrients from the system and either retaining it or
releasing it as waste which sinks to the bottom. By harvesting these
shellfish the nitrogen they retained is completely removed from the
system. Raising and harvesting kelp and other macroalgae directly
remove nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Repackaging these
nutrients can relieve eutrophic, or nutrient-rich, conditions known
for their low dissolved oxygen which can decimate species diversity
and abundance of marine life. Removing algal cells from the water also
increase light penetration, allowing plants such as eelgrass to
reestablish themselves and further increase oxygen levels.
Aquaculture in an area can provide for crucial ecological functions
for the inhabitants.
Shellfish beds or cages can provide habitat
structure. This structure can be used as shelter by invertebrates,
small fish or crustaceans to potentially increase their abundance and
maintain biodiversity. Increased shelter raises stocks of prey fish
and small crustaceans by increasing recruitment opportunities in turn
providing more prey for higher trophic levels. One study estimated
that 10 square meters of oyster reef could enhance an ecosystem's
biomass by 2.57 kg The shellfish acting as herbivores will
also be preyed on. This moves energy directly from primary producers
to higher trophic levels potentially skipping out on multiple
energetically-costly trophic jumps which would increase biomass in the
Pain in fish
Pain in fish and Pain in invertebrates
As with the farming of terrestrial animals, social attitudes influence
the need for humane practices and regulations in farmed marine
animals. Under the guidelines advised by the
Farm Animal Welfare
Council good animal welfare means both fitness and a sense of well
being in the animal's physical and mental state. This can be defined
by the Five Freedoms:
Freedom from hunger & thirst
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, disease, or injury
Freedom to express normal behaviour
Freedom from fear and distress
However, the controversial issue in aquaculture is whether fish and
farmed marine invertebrates are actually sentient, or have the
perception and awareness to experience suffering. Although no evidence
of this has been found in marine invertebrates, recent studies
conclude that fish do have the necessary receptors (nociceptors) to
sense noxious stimuli and so are likely to experience states of pain,
fear and stress. Consequently, welfare in aquaculture is
directed at vertebrates; finfish in particular.
Common welfare concerns
Welfare in aquaculture can be impacted by a number of issues such as
stocking densities, behavioural interactions, disease and parasitism.
A major problem in determining the cause of impaired welfare is that
these issues are often all interrelated and influence each other at
Optimal stocking density is often defined by the carrying capacity of
the stocked environment and the amount of individual space needed by
the fish, which is very species specific. Although behavioural
interactions such as shoaling may mean that high stocking densities
are beneficial to some species, in many cultured species
high stocking densities may be of concern. Crowding can constrain
normal swimming behaviour, as well as increase aggressive and
competitive behaviours such as cannibalism, feed
competition, territoriality and dominance/subordination
hierarchies. This potentially increases the risk of tissue damage
due to abrasion from fish-to-fish contact or fish-to-cage
Fish can suffer reductions in food intake and food
conversion efficiency. In addition, high stocking densities can
result in water flow being insufficient, creating inadequate oxygen
supply and waste product removal.
Dissolved oxygen is essential
for fish respiration and concentrations below critical levels can
induce stress and even lead to asphyxiation. Ammonia, a nitrogen
excretion product, is highly toxic to fish at accumulated levels,
particularly when oxygen concentrations are low.
Many of these interactions and effects cause stress in the fish, which
can be a major factor in facilitating fish disease. For many
parasites, infestation depends on the host's degree of mobility, the
density of the host population and vulnerability of the host's defence
system. Sea lice are the primary parasitic problem for finfish in
aquaculture, high numbers causing widespread skin erosion and
haemorrhaging, gill congestion, and increased mucus production.
There are also a number of prominent viral and bacterial pathogens
that can have severe effects on internal organs and nervous
The key to improving welfare of marine cultured organisms is to reduce
stress to a minimum, as prolonged or repeated stress can cause a range
of adverse effects. Attempts to minimise stress can occur throughout
the culture process. During grow out it is important to keep stocking
densities at appropriate levels specific to each species, as well as
separating size classes and grading to reduce aggressive behavioural
interactions. Keeping nets and cages clean can assist positive water
flow to reduce the risk of water degradation.
Not surprisingly disease and parasitism can have a major effect on
fish welfare and it is important for farmers not only to manage
infected stock but also to apply disease prevention measures. However,
prevention methods, such as vaccination, can also induce stress
because of the extra handling and injection. Other methods
include adding antibiotics to feed, adding chemicals into water for
treatment baths and biological control, such as using cleaner wrasse
to remove lice from farmed salmon.
Many steps are involved in transport, including capture, food
deprivation to reduce faecal contamination of transport water,
transfer to transport vehicle via nets or pumps, plus transport and
transfer to the delivery location. During transport water needs to be
maintained to a high quality, with regulated temperature, sufficient
oxygen and minimal waste products. In some cases
anaesthetics may be used in small doses to calm fish before
Aquaculture is sometimes part of an environmental rehabilitation
program or as an aid in conserving endangered species.
Global wild fisheries are in decline, with valuable habitat such as
estuaries in critical condition. The aquaculture or farming of
piscivorous fish, like salmon, does not help the problem because they
need to eat products from other fish, such as fish meal and fish oil.
Studies have shown that salmon farming has major negative impacts on
wild salmon, as well as the forage fish that need to be caught to feed
Fish that are higher on the food chain are less
efficient sources of food energy.
Apart from fish and shrimp, some aquaculture undertakings, such as
seaweed and filter-feeding bivalve mollusks like oysters, clams,
mussels and scallops, are relatively benign and even environmentally
restorative. Filter-feeders filter pollutants as well as nutrients
from the water, improving water quality.
nutrients such as inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus directly from the
water, and filter-feeding mollusks can extract nutrients as they
feed on particulates, such as phytoplankton and detritus.
Some profitable aquaculture cooperatives promote sustainable
practices. New methods lessen the risk of biological and chemical
pollution through minimizing fish stress, fallowing netpens, and
applying Integrated Pest Management. Vaccines are being used more and
more to reduce antibiotic use for disease control.
Onshore recirculating aquaculture systems, facilities using
polyculture techniques, and properly sited facilities (for example,
offshore areas with strong currents) are examples of ways to manage
negative environmental effects.
Recirculating aquaculture systems
Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) recycle water by circulating
it through filters to remove fish waste and food and then
recirculating it back into the tanks. This saves water and the waste
gathered can be used in compost or, in some cases, could even be
treated and used on land. While RAS was developed with freshwater fish
in mind, scientist associated with the Agricultural Research Service
have found a way to rear saltwater fish using RAS in low-salinity
waters. Although saltwater fish are raised in off-shore cages or
caught with nets in water that typically has a salinity of 35 parts
per thousand (ppt), scientists were able to produce healthy pompano, a
saltwater fish, in tanks with a salinity of only 5 ppt.
Commercializing low-salinity RAS are predicted to have positive
environmental and economical effects. Unwanted nutrients from the fish
food would not be added to the ocean and the risk of transmitting
diseases between wild and farm-raised fish would greatly be reduced.
The price of expensive saltwater fish, such as the pompano and combia
used in the experiments, would be reduced. However, before any of this
can be done researchers must study every aspect of the fish's
lifecycle, including the amount of ammonia and nitrate the fish will
tolerate in the water, what to feed the fish during each stage of its
lifecycle, the stocking rate that will produce the healthiest fish,
Some 16 countries now use geothermal energy for aquaculture, including
China, Israel, and the United States. In California, for example,
15 fish farms produce tilapia, bass, and catfish with warm water from
underground. This warmer water enables fish to grow all year round and
mature more quickly. Collectively these California farms produce 4.5
million kilograms of fish each year.
Sustainable development portal
Marine life portal
Copper alloys in aquaculture
Maggots used as food for fish
List of harvested aquatic animals by weight
Recirculating aquaculture system
Aquaculture by Country:
Aquaculture in Australia
Aquaculture in Canada
Aquaculture in Chile
Aquaculture in China
Aquaculture in East Timor
Aquaculture in the Federated States of Micronesia
Aquaculture in Fiji
Aquaculture in Indonesia
Aquaculture in Kiribati
Aquaculture in Madagascar
Aquaculture in the Marshall Islands
Aquaculture in Nauru
Aquaculture in New Zealand
Aquaculture in Palau
Aquaculture in Papua New Guinea
Aquaculture in Samoa
Aquaculture in the Solomon Islands
Aquaculture in South Africa
Aquaculture in South Korea
Aquaculture in Tonga
Aquaculture in Tuvalu
Aquaculture in Vanuatu
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Ottinger, M.; Clauss, K.; Kuenzer, C. (2017). "Large-Scale Assessment
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Look up aquaculture in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aquaculture.
Aquaculture Factsheet". Waitt Institute. Retrieved 2015-06-08.
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