Aquaculture is the term used for the growing and cultivating of plants and animals in water. Fresh water aquaculture can take place in lakes, streams, ponds or man-made environments. Marine aquaculture takes place in salt water and involves the raising of shellfish, mussels and saltwater varieties of fish.
According to the BBC News, Science and Envirionment, fish consumption reached an all time high in 2009 accounting for approximately 16% of the global consumption of animal protein.
In 2009 the total global production of fish, shellfish and mollusks was 145 million tons. This figure includes both cultivated aquaculture produced fish and those fish that are harvested from the natural environment through fishing operations. The production of aquatic plants such as seaweed reached 16.8 million tons in 2008. The total value of this production is more than 105 billion US dollars.
Over exploitation in the global fishing industries poses a serious threat to the sustainability of certain species. Illegal and unreported fishing accounts for additional threats to the sustainability of the fishing industry.
Other threats to the production and harvesting of fish and aquatic plants and animals are pollution, encroachment of populations, environmental issues and poor management of resources in general.
Importance of Aquaculture
A sustainable aquaculture is critical to our ability to supply a highly nutritious protein source to the world. Fish and aquaculture products also contribute to the trade and economy of many countries. Plants that grow in water and which are cultivated through aquaculture are used for food and in medicine.
The biodiversity of our oceans and aquatic life continues to diminish. A healthy and thriving aquaculture helps to repopulate and enhance natural environments by maintaining and growing the population of diminishing and endangered species. Additionally, a healthy industry of farmed and cultivated fish will help to take the pressure off the wild environments allowing fish to repopulate with less stress.
Research and programs
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has implemented a grant program for the advancement of aquaculture. The National Marine Aquaculture Initiative administered by NOAA provides funding through grants for aquaculture research and technology with an emphasis on supporting a “safe and sustainable seafood supply”. NOAA also maintains in house research facilities for promoting and advancing aquaculture. Currently NOAA is working toward legislation to establish federal regulations that would allow permits for an environmentally sound marine aquaculture industry to be developed and implemented in US coastal waters.