Agriculture, and the way we utilize land to grow food and resources, needs to be sustainable if it is to be reliable. The same is true in offshore food production, better known as aquaculture.
While the term may not be as familiar as agriculture, it’s a centuries-old method of acquiring nutrition and other resources, and it has continued to grow and evolve with rising demand, new technology, and other factors.
All over the world, aquaculturists raise various types of shellfish, fish, seaweed, and other organisms using the natural fertility of oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes. Although it’s vastly different in many ways, aquaculture can be compared to land farming and ranching for using many different methods—simple and complex—in order to maximize yield. But, this can come at a cost.
In both aquaculture and agriculture, the impact on the environment and the ability to sustain production can be both positive and negative. The less positive effects are sometimes inherent to the process itself; the natural environment often must be changed to improve growing conditions, resources are used, and waste is a result. But in many cases, production can be improved through better management.
When it comes to agriculture, sustainably-minded improvements are good news for more than just seafood lovers and the farmers that depend on that market, but also for aquatic and marine habitats on the whole.
The Benefits And Disadvantages Of Aquaculture
Aquaculture delivers many benefits on many fronts. In addition to providing a wide variety of food sources and raw materials—particularly those that are high protein and nutrient-dense—it is a vital source of income for many people around the world. Aquaculture supports small and large economies located in coastal regions, as well as those in areas that can support hatchery tanks and cages.
These can be maintained in ponds, lakes, and other waterways, which provides a level of versatility that traditional, large-scale agriculture can seldom offer. With the right infrastructure, it’s possible to bring aquaculture to many locations, including in-land with artificial ponds as well as along the seafloor. But, as with most food and resource-producing industries, aquaculture comes at a cost and creates waste.
Industrial-scale propagation of certain fish species and the impact on the surrounding habitat can lead to the encouragement of invasive species, contagions and contaminants that impact wildlife, and the destruction of the local environment to accommodate necessary infrastructure. Even with these and other issues, better fish farming sustainability may still be achievable with the right approach. Currently, oyster farming is seen as a prime example of sustainable aquaculture.
Oyster Farming As A Natural Water Filter And Coastal Rehab Method
Oysters, clams, muscles, and other shellfish are high-value food sources and a staple in aquaculture. But apart from being aquaculture-friendly, they play an important role in the nitrogen cycle in the ocean and other bodies of water. As natural filter-feeders, bivalves ingest nutrients, microorganisms, and suspended particles, essentially providing natural filtration of water.
For habitats that have been affected by land runoff and other pollution, this is no small benefit. Farming these organisms can also provide major financial incentives for coastal habitat restoration and preservation. Additionally, oyster farming is shown to have very little impact on native shorebird and other marine populations.
If other types of fish farming can be maintained in a manner that supports and restores local habitats, rather than depletes them, then the resulting financial incentive will go that much further towards habitat preservation. Of course, not every species is going to deliver the same environmental benefits and certain types of aquaculture will be more challenging than others, but they all require a healthy and sustained habitat. When the benefits of maintaining these conditions also amount to economic prosperity, sustainability and profitability can meet.