If you’re asking what the heck Aquaculture is, just know that it isn’t some mythical place full of mermaids and mermen. While the demand for fish increases, it is now possible to grow food in the open ocean all thanks to technology. Aquaculture is a method used to produce food and rebuild populations of threatened and endangered species. It’s basically farming under water!
There are two main types of aquaculture; marine and freshwater. NOAA primarily focuses on marine aquaculture, which is farming species that live in the ocean.
In the United States, marine aquaculture produces numerous species including oysters, clams, shrimp, and fish such as salmon and yellowtail. There are many ways to farm marine shellfish, including “seeding” small shellfish on the seafloor or by growing them in sinking or floating cages. Marine fish farming is typically done in net pens in the water or in tanks on land.
Now, more than ever Dietary guidelines support a more seafood-focused diet. With the human population on the rise, it’s becoming more difficult to keep up with the demands for fish and aquatic wildlife. Where is all that seafood going to come from? U.S. freshwater aquaculture produces species such as catfish and trout. Freshwater aquaculture primarily takes place in ponds or other manmade systems. The U.S. produces nearly 60% of all seafood produced for human consumption and that percentage will continue to rise.
Yes, you read right! Farmed shellfish and seaweed improve water quality around them by filtering water and removing excess nitrogen. We can even selectively use aquaculture to help restore struggling species and habitats. Farmed seafood leaves a smaller carbon footprint than that of most farmed animals according to NOAA. We can grow a lot of fish in a small amount of space to increase our food supply and help satisfy consumer demand for locally grown food. And seafood farming has come a long way in the past 30 years. Antibiotics are nearly non-existent in U.S. seafood farms today and we can now feed fish vegetarian diets, insects, or parts of fish we currently throw away.
So next time you order that fish fillet, know that it could have been farmed right here in the U.S. For more information on Aquaculture, laws and policies or for outreach and education visit www.fisheries.noaa.gov