The environmental impact of aquaculture has been a popular topic for decades, and there are a wide range of views, both good and bad. But the overwhelming view is that aquaculture is harmful.
This reputation isn’t deserved. Although aquaculture used to be problematic, as every industry is at the beginning, many of the major problems now have solutions.
But information about aquaculture is still sparse, so general opinions have not improved.
That’s why I’d like to shine a light on some of the recent advances in aquaculture, and why they are so impressive.
Recent Advances in Aquaculture
Aquaculture has been around for hundreds of years, but it was only industrialized about 40 years ago, and scaling up isn’t simple. The problems you get on a large scale in aquaculture are completely different to those you get at a small scale.
For example, we have learned that a concentration of certain species creates algae blooms. But, until you have had lots of fish in a small area, you don’t know what the effect will be. But with advances in technology, this is no longer a big problem.
We have also discovered that escapees damage the local population. When facility owners found out, they made the fish into triploids.
People experimented with putting fish into bays because there was easy access and easy monitoring. Nobody could have predicted that it would be a complete disaster and make the local area toxic because of a lack of water flow. We no longer build facilities in bays.
I strongly believe that all these improvements have come about because people who work in aquaculture have good intentions. The pioneers of aquaculture didn’t set out to damage eco-systems; they set out to do good and take the pressure off wild fisheries. That’s why they consistently found solutions to problems they created, even when the solutions were difficult and costly.
Aquaculture’s Next Hurdle
Aquaculture practices have improved tenfold in the past 20 years, but there are still hurdles to overcome. The biggest of which is the food conversion rate.
The food conversion rates are too high. The cause of this problem is time; we simply don’t have enough time under our belts. We don’t understand all the species, so we haven’t yet perfected their individual diets.
The next major advance will be to match the food conversion rates that are possible in agriculture through careful study of all the species we farm.
I am confident this will happen because there are so many people working to better the environment through aquaculture. And because fish is a resource efficient protein and the logical way forward to feed our growing population. We will solve all the remaining problems in aquaculture because we can’t afford not to.