How Can Aquaculture Prevent Overfishing

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Aquaculture has existed for thousands of years. This age-old method of farming fish has been relied upon as a sustainable source of lean protein. The fact that Aquaculture supports the fragile marine ecosystem through restoring habitats, replenishing wild fish and rebuilding threatened species clusters has made it a thriving industry akin to livestock rearing.

With so much potential and popularity, comes keen scrutiny. Naysayers believe that Aquaculture may be detrimental to the native fish population in the oceans which make up 70% of water on earth. However, there is one all-important aspect of Aquaculture that sometimes goes unnoticed: substituting farmed seafood for wild seafood is likely to reduce fishing pressure on wild fish. With one-third of the world's wild fisheries over fished, any solution to reduce fishing pressure is certainly welcome.

Ever-Rising Demand For Fish
The world’s appetite for fish and fish products shows no sign of slowing. According to the UN World Population Prospects report, by 2050, the world population will have risen to 9.7 billion people. In 2016, fishery generated nearly 171 million tonnes of fish and this provided nearly 20 percent of the average animal protein intake for 3.2 billion people.

Given these figures, we can safely assume that the increase population and resulting fish consumption will grow well above the production capacity of the oceans and seas in the near future.

The aquaculture industry has also made significant progress in areas where environmental factors have had a negative impact on production quantity and quality

Can Commercial Wild Fishing Satisfy This Demand?
Firstly, wild fishery poses a threat of over exploitation of certain popular marine species, such as salmon.

Secondly, it also leads to rapid harvest stagnation making it feature low in terms of commercial viability and demand satisfaction.

Thirdly, more than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits. This degradation of the underwater environment could be attributed to pollution, unplanned development, and the effects of climate change.

Declining fish populations, coupled with human-led ocean pollution, and the deterioration of important coastal ecosystems threatens fishery and the resulting economic and food security in many parts of the world. These challenges are further complicated by the changes in the ocean caused by climate change, which may extend the range of some fisheries while dramatically reducing the sustainability of other fisheries.

This is where Aquaculture fits in, as the pivotal piece of the puzzle. Given that over half of the fish consumed globally now comes from aquaculture, it has the potential to, therefore, respond to this increase in the demand of fish for human consumption, in order to meet demand and protein requirements.

Potential Of Aquaculture
World aquaculture production attained another all time record high of 114.5 million tonnes in live weight in 2018. Aquaculture plays a critical role in feeding the world’s growing population with healthy, lean protein in a sustainable manner.

Aquaculture’s primary responsibility is to efficiently supplement wild caught fish options in order to increase the amount of seafood available globally.

The aquaculture industry has also made significant progress in areas where environmental factors have had a negative impact on production quantity and quality. For instance, to reduce nitrogen excretion by fish, some feeds have been formulated with lipids instead of proteins as an energy source. Plant proteins with lower phosphorus levels are also used in feeds to reduce water pollution because most fish meals contain more phosphorus than fish can absorb.

Typically, Aquaculture occurs anywhere where there is access to significant amount to water in coastal ocean waters, freshwater ponds and rivers, and even tanks on land. Given the ease with which it can be set up, practiced and converted to a profitable, sustainable and secure business, it is in all our hands to work together to protect our oceans and seas while ensuring sustainable livelihoods, diets and development of humans in future.

To ensure a food secure future for all, the aquaculture sector is key.