NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Aquaculture May Meet the World's Demand for Fish

December 10, 2003

In 2000, the aquaculture industry produced 36 million tons of fish and shellfish. Since 1990, the industry has been growing at an average compound rate of around 10 percent a year; by comparison, farmed meat production grew 2.8 percent per year.

Traditional aquaculture required no more than a pond and some rotting vegetables. However, that aquaculture is now typically associated with pollution rather than revolution:

  • Waste from fish farms -- such as uneaten food and dead fish -- can accumulate and destroy parts of the sea.
  • The overuse of antibiotics can threaten both marine and human health.
  • Fish may transmit disease such as sea lice to wild stock, or breed with wild fish causing "genetic pollution".
  • Shrimp aquacultures are no exception; they can cause the destruction of wetland and mangroves, the dispersion of chemicals and nutrients, and the salinization of the soil.
  • The creation of feed formulations that are more digestible and leach less waste into the environment.
  • The use of vaccines which reduce the reliance on antibiotics and other chemicals.

While aquaculture has drawbacks, it has two important advantages over open-access fisheries: (1) it can be more easily governed and (2) it can meet the world's demand for fish. The same cannot be said, in either case, of the open seas.

Source: Special Report: Fish Farming, "The Promise of a Blue Revolution," Economist, August 9, 2003.

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