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The case for fish farming | Mike Velings
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How can the pending seafood crisis be solved? With 1 in 5 humans getting a majority of their daily protein intake from the sea, there is a need to find more resources as the population grows. With 10 billion people expected by 2050, the time is now to find options. One of the most viable may be aquaculture. Here are the key pros and cons to consider.
What Are the Pros of Aquaculture?
1. It creates jobs.
People need to earn a living. Aquaculture provides that opportunity while creating a resource that the general population requires. The end result is that people can get fed when hungry, economic revenues can increase in various sectors, and it may even encourage local investments to growth the fish farming opportunity that is present.
2. It helps to protect coastal waters from development.
Aquaculture typically takes place along shorelines because it keeps costs down and creates easy access points. As a side effect, fewer invasive species tend to come near the shore when there is an aquaculture operation present, especially in regards to seaweed and mollusks.
3. It can reduce the pressures on local biomass populations.
Biomass management has become more critical than ever before in certain areas of the sea. Some habitats have been fished to 90% extinction and have not recovered in more than a decade of hands-off management. By introducing aquaculture to the region, it becomes possible to reduce the pressures and potentially save a habitat over time and with selective breed raising.
4. It’s an easy chance to study habits and behaviors.
We often know more about outer space and what happens billions of light years away from our planet than we know about the life in the seas. Aquaculture gives us an easy way to study the patterns and habits of sea life to better understand each species and how we can support them now and into the future.
5. Inland environments also support aquaculture.
As long as there is a viable water resource, such as a river or lake, there is the chance to establish an aquaculture venture. This gives us all options to manage a resource that so many vitally need.
What Are the Cons of Aquaculture?
1. It requires shared resources.
Fish farming requires certain resources that wild sea life also requires because aquaculture looks to replicate the natural environment. Over time, this can create a conflict in local ecosystems because more resources are being dedicated to the farming efforts than the regular harvesting options that have been traditionally done.
2. It can create a lack of diversity.
Many farmed fish are released into the wild at a certain age if they aren’t being bred for food. This means a lack of diversity within the gene pool of the farmed fish species can developed over time as the wild sea life begins to breed with the aquaculture sea life. The goal of aquaculture is to lessen the destruction of natural habitats, but it may inadvertently hasten the destruction process instead.
3. It may introduce new diseases into the local ecosystem.
Smallpox was to blame for the destruction of many empires during the colonial era in Europe. It wiped out large populations very rapidly. The same concept works for aquaculture. Diseases that develop during fish farming aren’t always of the same strain that is out in the wild. If the right disease comes along, the wild population could potentially be completely eliminated.
4. It’s unpredictable.
Just like most farming ventures, aquaculture is reliant on certain factors that are outside of human control in order to be successful. This means weather, disease, and even hunting predators can all quickly cause harm to the venture. Even the presence of competing aquaculture efforts can lower prices or raise costs to affect profitability.
5. It may increase the risks of water contamination.
Fish might seem like a clean commodity, but they’re incredibly messy creatures. Waste products can enter freshwater sources, contaminate habitats, and eventually contribute to species death in unanticipated ways. Some ecosystems may even need to be destroyed just to place an artificial one in its place.
The pros and cons of aquaculture show that it can be a very beneficial practice if the disadvantages can be appropriately managed. Some may believe that it could threaten the livelihoods of those who fish for a living, but in reality, many aquaculture projects are designed to save the fishing industry as we know it to make sure there will always be food to put on the table.
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