Aquaculture (Fish Farming) vs. Commercial Fishing and Wild Capture
1. True environmentalists are pro-aquaculture. Aquaculture takes supply pressure off of wild stocks and puts it where it should be—on production from farms. Aquaculture is agriculture. Hunting and gathering must end in the seas as it ended on land 10,000 years ago at the dawn of terrestrial agriculture. The seas have reached their limits in growth of production, and did so more than 25 years ago. Wild supplies are finite while farmed supplies are not.
2. Farmed fish are not abused! The notion of abuse is completely counterproductive to the best interests of the fish farmer and counterintuitive to their goals, which are fast-growing and healthy fish. Water quality, fish densities, and nutrition are optimized to reduce stress and create a healthy production environment. They are treated with the respect they need and deserve. Happy fish create high rates of survival, smaller feed bills, and healthy profits for producers. Humane treatment is simply good business.
3. Aquaculture products are fully traceable, from feed to hatchery to grow-out to processing to distribution to endpoint of sale. We know exactly what went into their production and their exposure. Traceability simply is not possible with wild finfish and shellfish! We don't know what they have eaten or what they have been exposed to (toxins, medical waste, plastics, heavy metals, etc.).
4. Water use and discharge from many indoor facilities is limited by the use of recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) technology. This approach uses filters that reuse water again and again, filtering out wastes and replenishing oxygen. This is a very frugal approach that uses minimal amounts of water as compared to other conventional technologies such as raceways, ponds, and ocean net-pens.
5. More and more fish farm operators use a technique called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) where the "wastes" from the fish facility are used as raw materials for the production of other products such as shellfish and saleable plants. These secondary crops act as natural filters, turning potential liabilities (i.e., fish wastes) into raw material assets. Literally, operators make money from wastes. Additionally, solid wastes can be used as high-quality material for composting and application to farmers' fields.
6. Aquaponics (i.e., integrated aquaculture and hydroponics) is one form of IMTA.
7. When RAS and IMTA systems are used, discharge water (what of it there is—only small amounts) is high quality or higher than the intake water.
8. Indoor facilities can operate year-round in good and bad weather and employ people who otherwise may not be able to find work.
9. The excessive use of chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture is a myth in North America, Europe, and many parts of Asia. In fact as aquaculture is such a fledgling industry, the controlling government departments have made the use of these compounds more difficult than most other forms of agriculture. In the USA, the FDA highly regulates use of most chemicals and antibiotics. They are only allowed after the demonstration of need through a clinical examination and/or under the guidance of a veterinarian.
10. Aquaculture producers avoid the use of all therapeutants (i.e., antibiotics, sterilants, vaccines, etc.) whenever possible. They are expensive and diminish profitability. Instead, producers are turning to probiotics, superior management techniques and equipment, and other benign forms of health maintenance. Farmed finfish and shellfish are health food—wholesome and nutritious.
11. Third-party certification programs are now the norm in aquaculture and in all parts of the world (much like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval or Underwriters Laboratories UL). They guarantee fish welfare, sustainability, environmental sensitivity, sanitation, freedom from chemical residues, and wholesomeness.
12. Fish have a much better feed conversion ratio (i.e., weight of feed to weight of fish—usually at or below 1.5:1) than any other agriculture species. By comparison, swine and cattle convert at rates as high as 8:1 or more, and poultry at 2-3:1. Because fish are cold-blooded (poikilothermic), little or no food energy goes into producing heat, so much more of it is directed toward growth. Growth is regulated by the water temperature in which the fish grow. With proper species selection and/or supplying appropriate conditions, growth rates can be optimized. Low feed conversion ratios mean more sellable production for each unit of food consumed.
13. Aquaculturists can easily adjust the nutritional qualities of their fish for consumers by simple manipulations of their feed, including eliminating contaminants. Cultured fish are as nutritious or often more nutritious than their wild-caught counterparts.
14. Fish farms can actually use less water per unit of production than cattle ranches and feed lots, and are virtually odorless.
15. Aquaculture in general offers a much more efficient use of space. Aquaculture can produce a greater amount of product in a given area by virtue of production in a three-dimensional culture environment.
16. Fish farms can be the envy of the nearby conventional and regional farmers, as they become models of sustainability and environmental stewardship. Their neighbors and other customers will be proud to buy products from these facilities.
17. If you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, then support aquaculture and eat farmed products. Avoid fish from the wild.
18. Finally, as your consultants, we are here to make you look good in the eyes of your customers, all other nearby stakeholders, and the general public. The last thing we want is for you to look foolish, or look like you don't care about the environment. Indeed, your facility can be used as an educational center for students at all levels, and a way to teach them how food will be produced in the future. In short, it's all good!