How Aquaculture Works

Issues Surrounding Contemporary Aquaculture

Taking care of indoor fish farms like this one in Norway requires careful management.
Taking care of indoor fish farms like this one in Norway requires careful management.
Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

The aquaculture industry continues to grow very quickly, and so have many problems and issues surrounding it. Living conditions and potential diseases affecting aquatic organisms are two top issues. Aquaculture's impact on the environment is another big issue. Some animal rights activists criticize aquaculture and, more specifically, fish farming, due to the unnatural, crowded conditions in which fish live. In some cases, more than fifty thousand fish are kept in a two-acre area. With all the fish cramped in a small space, fish waste turns into pollution very quickly. And when the fish rub against each other and bump against their holding tanks, it can cause disease and infection. As it turns out, crowding is usually not a problem, because knowledgeable aquaculturists often use fish accustomed to high-density conditions.

One pesky disease for farmed fish is sea lice. This disease appears to cause trouble especially for Atlantic salmon and nearby wild fish. Some researchers allege that farmed salmon with sea lice infections will wreak havoc on the wild salmon population in the very near future. On the other hand, researchers on the other end of this argument suggest that the link between sea lice and salmon is tenuous at best. They say that sea lice have been a problem for wild salmon long before salmon farming began.

Another problem when harvesting organisms in the river, lake or sea is the presence of pesticides and other harmful chemicals in the water sources.

Physical and chemical contamination can be hard to control in an aquatic environment. However, these properties may actually be used to an aquaculturist's advantage. Animal waste may be used as powerful fertilizer if properly utilized by aquaculturists.

With proper management by aquaculturists and careful government regulation, aquaculture promises to evolve as an economically prosperous business. It's also an important player in the development of environmentally sustainable and responsible industries. See the next page for lots more information on aquaculture.

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