Sustainably sourced food is becoming increasingly important to people around the world. It is no longer enough for food to be healthy and delicious. Consumers also want it to be ethically and sustainably produced. Due to an increased emphasis on transparency on the part of food companies, customers are growing more interested in knowing where their food is coming from, how it is produced, and what type of impact that sourcing and production have on the overall environment. Shifting customer demand has had a profound impact on nearly all aspects of the food industry, requiring companies to implement new sustainability practices and to work to improve transparency.
In the seafood industry, there has been a lot of discussion about its future and the sustainability of its practices. While the demand for seafood is rising, issues like overfishing mean that fisheries that focus on wild-caught seafood can’t keep up with demand. Fish farming, which is also known as aquaculture, is likely to continue to increase in popularity as a viable alternative. Aquaculture is the process of raising fish and other marine species for consumption in a controlled environment. Read on to learn about how aquaculture can help to solve this problem and provide a sustainable solution for farming seafood.
Throughout history, humans have obtained their seafood from wild sources without the benefit of controlled farms. One characteristic of many aquatic, egg-laying species is that they are fecund, meaning that they produce large numbers of eggs when reproducing. In contrast, a chicken can lay between 200 and 300 eggs each year, while some lobster species can produce as many as 1.5 million eggs within the same period of time. Despite the quality of being fecund, overfishing still affects wild populations and significantly reduces them. The same goes for many other types of marine life that people eat. However, with a continually growing global population and increased demand for seafood, a solution is needed.
Restocking the Ocean
Aquaculture developed as a solution to the increased demand for seafood. This practice produces most of the world’s seafood. Commonly farmed species include oysters, shrimp, tilapia, scallops, and salmon. They are raised on land in specially built tanks or in enclosed off-shore areas. There is a lot of untapped potential in the aquaculture industry to farm different aquatic species that have not yet been attempted.
Farming threatened wild species could provide fish farmers with the ability to help restock the oceans and allow dwindling populations of certain marine species to grow. Technological breakthroughs also create possibilities to improve recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), a process that filters the water in land-based fish-farming tanks for cleaning and recirculation. Such advancements could present more opportunities for raising more species on land, and it could offer a way for seafood producers and those interested in ocean conservation to work together toward a common goal.
Evolution Toward Sustainability
In order to promote sustainability and responsibility, businesses must possess a dedication to achieving these goals. Responsible fish farms focus on keeping their environmental impact low by using techniques such as recirculating farms that reuse resources and by not dumping waste into the environment. They also refrain from the use of harmful additives. Additionally, they feed their fish using environmentally friendly and mostly vegetarian fish feed, instead of the pellets made from animal-waste byproducts that are used in some fish farms.
Sustainable farms also find new uses for byproducts, which can reduce the amount of waste produced. For example, fish skin can help with gelatin production for pharmaceuticals and is useful as a leather alternative for fashion companies, scales can be used to derive collagen for the beauty industry, and fish solids and oil can supplement animal feed or be used to create biodiesel fuel.
The Future of Aquaculture
Sustainable fish farming can increase the availability of seafood, restock the ocean, and improve food security in areas in need. Moving land-based aquaculture production to urban areas can help to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting these products to cities and making fresh fish and other seafood more readily available to consumers who don’t live near the ocean or fishing spots. Moreover, ocean-based farms are working to adopt better practices in order to protect local marine life and keep the sea water clean and free from contaminants.
Much more work still needs to be undertaken in the aquaculture industry. However, with due diligence and changing practices, it can continue to serve as a source of sustainable seafood.