Fish and seafood are a major component of many diets around the world. Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and plants in aquatic environments. These Environments include ponds, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Some of the products produced by these operations include fish for food, bait, sport, shellfish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, fish eggs, sea vegetables, and algae (nmfs.noaa.gov). This research will explore the sustainability of aquaculture and its ability to supply a sufficient source of food for humans in the future.
Purpose and goals of aquaculture
The practice of aquaculture has been in existence for nearly 4 centuries and is a part of traditional Chinese culture, using practices passed down through the generations as an oral tradition (fao.org). The world population is now approximately 7.3 billion, within nearly 800 million suffering from hunger. The population of the world is expected to grow to nearly 9.6 billion by the year 2050. This growing population has suffered from a reduction in available protein sources, particularly for impoverished people (fao.org). Even though the practice of aquaculture has grown throughout the world, it is unable to meet the current demand of providing an inexpensive source of protein.
Why Goals Have Not Been Met
Several reasons are behind the inability of aquaculture to meet current demand. The first is that in some areas of the world trash fish that are used to feed farm raised fish have depleted. There is also a lack of water or heavily polluted water in some area of the world, making it difficult for farmers to sustain operations. At the same time the ability to produce fish has decreased, the world demand for fish has increased (nmfs.noaa.gov). The use of antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemical means to prevent disease in a stressed fish population can accumulate to harmful levels in the tissue of the fish (nmfs.noaa.gov). These substances also accumulate in the water sources, making fish from them unsafe for human consumption.
Economic Advantages in Southeast Asia
Aquaculture remains a traditional component of Asian culture. It has an abundance of water sources that have the potential to provide a viable food source for a growing population. However, it can only provide the answers to the current imbalance between supply and demand if it can be done sustainably. If production cannot be done sustainably, the economic advantages will dry up with the decrease in the ability to maintain healthy farmed fish populations.
One example of this is the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. Nearly 3 million people depend on the lake for sustenance (Keatts, 2011). The lake experiences seasonal fluctuations in water level between 965 square miles in dry season to 5,800 square miles in the wet season. The lake has been heavily overfished by families living near the lake to meet their daily needs, as well as for income. The primary cage raised fish are heavy carnivores, which require a ratio of 10 to 1 wild trash fish per edible fish produced (Keatts, 2011). One of the problems with feeding trash fish is that many juveniles are used, which quickly depletes the food for farmed fish species.
Current practices that involve overfishing and techniques that are destructive to the waterways cannot continue to provide a viable means of support for this society. These environmental concerns currently outweigh the advantages of current high production methods. Environmental concerns must be a part of the conversation. If more waterways are destroyed and become unable to sustain healthy populations, the humans who depend on those populations will face increasing challenges in their ability to feed themselves. Developing methods that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly must be a part of the conversation in order for aquaculture to remain a viable industry in Southeast Asia.
- FAO. (2014). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Food and Aquaculture organization
of the United Nations. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org
- Keatts A., (2011). Promoting Sustainable Aquaculture in Southeast Asia’s Largest Lake.
Conservation International. Retrieved from:
- NOAA. (na). What is Aquaculture? National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved