Does Aquaculture Have An Environmental Impact?

Aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of aquatic life, has boomed in the last decades.  But does aquaculture have an environmental impact?

World aquaculture production has more than doubled since 1984 and aquaculture is the fastest-growing agricultural industry in the United States. In an age when industrialization seems synonymous with environmental havoc, aquaculture is an industry that could go green and still prosper.

Unfortunately, aquaculture currently does contribute to greenhouse gases and to organic pollution.  However, the future is promising as there are environmental alternatives to destructive aquaculture practices.


For instance, a recent green house gas (GHG) study covered in Science New evaluated thecarbon footprint of a commercial fish varies based on how the fish is harvested, what it is fed, and how far it is transported.  Environmental mindful purchases can reduce your impact on the environment.  Next time you are shopping for fish before you decide check out the Sustainable Fish guide on your smartphone.

Does Aquaculture Have An Environmental Impact?There are promising innovations in aquaculture that can reduce organic pollution.  The closed-containment method of fish farming is a method in which fish are raised in hard-wall pens or containment ponds (as opposed to open net pens) that prevent interaction with the external environment.

This closed-containment method is both healthier for consumers and the environment.  The containers limit the spread of diseases and prevent organic wastes from flowing into the ocean.  While closed-containment systems are costly up-front, they result in long-term profits as they reduce feed requirements.

Green aquaculture is not new. The Chinese have been practicing “green” fish farming for centuries.

Fish ponds were often located beside rice paddies so that the fish waste could be re-used as fertilizer.



This clever method can be implemented in modern society as well.  A report released by Canada’s SOS Marine Conservation Foundation suggested that profits could be increased by using nitrogen wastes from fish to grow vegetables. While the technology to harvest fish with minimal environmental impact exists, most companies are not green.

Since spending can be a form of activism, you should buy fish from companies such as AgriMarine, Eco-Farm, Mariculture Systems, and Future Sea Technologies that are pioneering closed-containment technology and are trying to minimize environmental impact.

You may also want to consider reducing your consumption of carnivorous fish such as salmon.

Salmon consume at least 3-5 times their own weight in other fish. This is inefficient and unsustainable, as the input of fish stocks is greater than the output of fish products.

A better option is to buy carp, catfish, and tilapia because they are vegetarian and also produce less waste and minimize the environmental impact from your consumer choice.




So, the mindful and aware environmentalist can still enjoy that delicious fried catfish, tilapia, fresh sushi, or even baked haddock with lemon sauce without a morsel of guilt !

Read to appreciate how commerical fisherman harvest our fish.

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About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.