Aquaculture: An Industry in Search of Sustainability

Aquaculture is defined as the controlled production of aquatic species.

That industry is an important economic activity in the production of foods and living organisms intended for repopulation and ornamentation. Nowadays more than half the food of aquatic origin consumed in the world come from aquatic farms.

Seahorses farm in Hawaii. These seahorses are cultivated to repopulate some areas of the sea and for sale for aquariums (avoiding thus overfishing).

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates that before 2030, more than 65% of aquatic foods will come from aquaculture. Thereby, that industry is considered as an activity that contributes to the efficient use of natural resources, food safety and economic growth, with a limited and controllable impact over the environment.

The negative environmental impacts that could result from that activity, such as the variation of water quality, or the deterioration of the seabed, can be handled and minimized through a good knowledge of different processes, a responsible management and the right localization of the farms.

Mackerel larvas cultivation tanks

Thereby, that industry could reach a sustainable production of aquatic products by applying various strategies that can contribute to the conservation of the planet.

Sustainability is a concept that aims to provide a long-term livable environment for everybody, and its development encompasses 3 fundamental components:  conservation of the environment, economic health and social equality.

Aquaculture fulfills all of them.

However, that industry still isn’t very famous as our society is rooted in the consumption of products from traditional fishing. Few know that cultivated fishes come from wild progenitors, without any genetical modification, feeding on high quality nutrients. And few know that their breeding lasts between one and three years before they reach their commercial size.

Mackerel fish in a bucket before being moved to a new cultivation tank

Reducing the Impact On the Environment

One of the main problems of that young practice is that fishes and crustaceans are fed on diets full of proteins and oils, coming from flour and wild fish oil, which implies fishing for low economical value fishes.

In other words, fishes are produced from other fishes.

Another aspect to highlight is the chemical interaction with the aquatic environment, caused by the discharge of organic matter coming from the stool of the cultivated organisms, and by the possible waste from therapeutic products or non-ingested food. 

In both cases, we are currently looking for a way to fix these problems.

Flour and wild fish oil are being replaced by proteins and vegetable fatty acids, such as soy and palm, which gave good results.

Rotifers culture (living food for mackerels)

As for the discharge of nutrients and other pharmaceutical products in the aquatic environment, the problem can be minimized by placing the aquatic facilities in places that have the right depth and currents, in order to have a very localized possible negative impact.

Regarding therapeutic waste, antibiotics are being replaced by autovaccines.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the breeding of aquatic species it not all about “negative aspects in process of solution”. Some important aspects for the population are being unnoticed by the consumers as aquaculture remains an unknown practice.

Mackerel larva

Food safety is a standard in aquaculture as the fishes raised in that industry are free of any parasites that can cause zoonosis, such as the anisakis. Hence these parasites won’t reach your plate.

Moreover, thanks to exhaustive controls during the whole breeding fattening, killing and manufacturing process, the final products are absolutely healthy.

Miriam measuring the size of a mackerel larva

Therefore, next time you’re in the supermarket, we recommend you to give a chance to marine food cultivated in farms. No only they are, or are trying hard to be, eco-friendly, but they are also of excellent quality and really healthy for the consumer.


This is a guest post by Miriam Viader Guerrero.

She has a degree in Biology from the University of the Balearic Islands and soon a Master of Science, with orientation in Aquaculture, from the Center for Biological Research of the Northwest

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