For 3 billion people around the world, Seafood is a vital source of protein and nutrition. But recent studies show that 33% of non-regularized fisheries are over fished. While another 60% fish to the limit of their maximum capacity. In fact, over half the Seafood we eat, from finfish and shellfish to seaweed and algae, is not hunted in the wild. It’s grown through Aquaculture or Aquatic Farming.

Aquaculture or Aquatic Farming is one of the fastest-growing food industries. Its size is increasing at 5.8% annually. But different methods of Aquaculture have various advantages and disadvantages. A variety of them echoes the severe problems we have seen in industrial agriculture.

So how can we avoid repeating the mistakes we made on land, at sea? What are the methods of Aquaculture we use at the moment? And what does a sustainable way to farm the ocean really look like? One of the foremost popular methods of Aquaculture involves large cages made of nets, where fishes are farmed offshore inside the floating cells approximately 1,000 square meters each in size. They are usually found on Chile’s coasts and in the Straits of Norway.

The disadvantages of using aquaculture to produce fish

These fish, like many industrially farmed animals, occupy stressful and overcrowded cages. They leave enormous amounts of waste, the surrounding areas are polluted, potentially transmitting diseases to other wild species. Even worse, since antibiotics are employed to fight these diseases are not fully absorbed by the fishes, they get excreted back to the environment.

Net cages are also susceptible to escapes, unleashing vast numbers of fish that compete for resources and weaken the local gene pool with genes adapted for captivity. Escaped fish may additionally disturb the local ecosystems as an invasive species. Other techniques, like man-made coastal ponds commonly used for shrimp farming in Southeast Asia, create additional environmental problems.

Just like net cages, these ponds are also prone to spreading pollution and disease. Their construction also frequently destroys important ecosystems near the shore, like mangrove forests and marshes, that protect coastal areas from storms, provide natural habitats, and absorbs plenty of greenhouse gases.

A way to solve these problems is to farm fish on land within fully contained systems. Tanks and raceways can recycle and purify water to prevent pollution. But even fully managed facilities face another big hurdle: Fish meal. About 10% of the Seafood caught around the world is used to feed animals, including carnivorous farmed fish.

Sustainable aquaculture techniques

Researchers are working on fish feed made from insects and agro-based proteins. But nowadays, many inland fish farms are connected to over fishing. All of these obstacles can make sustainable aquaculture out of reach. But innovative farmers are finding new ways to farm the seas responsibly. One of the foremost promising solutions is to look lower on the food chain. Instead of cramming large carnivorous fish into the cages, we have to work with the ocean’s natural systems to produce vast quantities of shellfish and seaweeds.

These low-maintenance flora and fauna don’t need to be fed at all. In fact, they naturally improve water quality in their biome. They purify it while getting sunlight and food within the ocean. By absorbing carbon during photosynthesis, these farms help fight climate change and reduce ocean acidification. While creating natural habitats for other species to grow in them. Due to a lack of data and research, the current scale of disease impacts on global aquaculture is thought to be large but unknown. The governments, industries, and academics must work collaboratively to determine the extent of these impacts.

Switching to restorative ocean farming could provide good job opportunities for the coastal communities. It also supports healthy diets supported by vegetables and shellfish that have an incredibly low carbon footprint. In mere 5 months, 4000 square meters of the ocean can produce 25 tons of seaweed and 250,000 shellfish. With a good distribution network, a series of small farms, approximately the size of Washington state, could feed the entire earth’s population. Farms like these are already popping up everywhere globally, and a new generation of farmers began to strive to appreciate a more sustainable future.

Aquaculture is the future of seafood production. We must now work collaboratively to support sustainable enhanced output from the industry. If done right, Regenerative ocean cultivation, or Aquaculture can play a significant role in helping our oceans, climate, and ourselves.

Learn more here: Aquaculture

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