What is good aquaculture? << back

Aquaculture and Sustainability I

Our global quest for sustainability has taught us it is a journey and not a destination. And aquaculture is most certainly a voyageur on the sustainability journey to become environmentally, socially, and economically responsible. In 1960, global aquaculture production was 1.6 million tons, by 2012 the figure had grown to 66.6 million tons (FAO 2014).1 This type of growth has been spearheaded by aquatic pioneers who learned as they went and the industry is benefiting from their experience. Lessons learned early on have been established as good aquaculture practices providing guidance for this important quality protein production sector.  An example of this would be the use of antibiotics in the Norwegian salmon farming industry. In an October 15, 2015 blog the UN World Health Organization stated, “Norway has cut antibiotic use in salmon—one of the principal foods consumed in the country and a major export—to virtually zero. This has led to a flourishing industry and a reduction in the risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. 2 To support the aquaculture industry, in 2011, The UN Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) finalized a set of guidelines to codify these good aquacultural practices and promote certified aquaculture. This is important especially as the world’s population continues to grow. It is forecasted to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, thus our reliance upon aquaculture for economic livelihood and sustenance will only increase.

As interested consumers it is helpful to know something about good aquacultural practices and certified aquaculture, to make sound purchasing decisions. But first, let’s step back and discuss aquaculture in general. In 2012, the FAO identified 567 farm-raised species: finfish (inland and marine); molluscs; crustaceans; amphibians and reptiles; aquatic invertebrates and marine and freshwater algae.3 These 567 species combined for a total 90.4 million tons of products (this includes algae). It is interesting to note, that of the 66.6 million metric tons previously mentioned, 30% of the species raised do not require fed. When this figure is combined with algae products (mostly seaweed) this increases non-fed species to approximately 48% of total aquaculture production. The majority of aquaculture takes place in Asia 88.39% and a staggering 61.69% of total production is in China (FAO 2012). North and South America produce 4.78% and Europe 4.32% of total production and Africa 2.23% (FAO 2012). Popular certified aquaculture farm-raised species include: abalone; Atlantic salmon; clams; cobia; freshwater trout; mussels; Pangasius, oysters, scallops, sea bass; seabream; shrimp (Penaeus monodon and vannamei), seriola and tilapia. Finally, in 2012, it was estimated there were 18,861,000 individuals engaged as farmers in aquaculture. Now that we have covered the basics let’s explore how good aquaculture practices make certified aquaculture the preferred protein choice with regard to sustainability.