The Age of Aquaculture: The Future of Seafood?
As global population continues to increase while the annual catch from wild fisheries remains stagnant, seafood producers and consumers around the world are turning to aquaculture to satisfy growing seafood demand. Aquaculture currently supplies about one-third of the seafood eaten worldwide, with production growing at an annual rate of 8.3 percent.
In the United States, four thousand aquaculture facilities cultivate approximately one hundred marine and freshwater species, creating a $1 billion industry that produces about 5 percent of the country’s seafood. There is significant interest in expanding aquaculture production in the U.S. to meet rising seafood demand and create economic opportunity in a fast-growing segment of food production.
Aquaculture, if done correctly, is an industry with potential to bring prosperity to coastal communities and provide food security from a regional, well-managed, and easily traced source, said the president and CEO of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute during a Capital Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) panel on June 6.
Aquaculture is the practice of raising fish, mollusks, and crustaceans for consumption. Aqua farms may be land-based or open-ocean operations. The U.S. currently imports 84 percent of its seafood, making it second only to oil among natural products being purchased from vendors abroad.
Half of imported seafood is produced through aquaculture.
Senator Mark Begich of Alaska discusses the many ways Americans connect with the ocean. Courtesy: National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation
Don Kent called for increased U.S. aquaculture production for domestic consumption because it would lower the carbon footprint currently associated with imported seafood.
Echoing the message of Linwood Pendleton in the CHOW opening session, Kent sees opportunities for a variety of ocean and coastal activity, including aquaculture.
Aquaculture operation sites should be proposed to a gathering of ocean stakeholders to discuss various user needs, Kent said. Meetings allow, for example, fishermen to petition for the protection of locations where fish congregate in high density that few others may realize the value of leaving undeveloped. His vision of aquaculture as a reliable, sustainable source of seafood that increases food security, develops a supply of domestic product, and strengthens the U.S. economy is one that expands the potential of U.S. oceans to be both healthy and economically productive.
The presentation was titled The Ocean Connection: Economic Prosperity in Times of Change, with introductory remarks
made by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
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