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Aquaculture - What Is Aquaculture?

Is aquaculture the future of America’s seafood industry?


Photo: NOAA

NOAA adopted the 10-Year Plan for marine aquaculture in 2007. Aquaculture has gained favor as a viable seafood provider thanks to NOAA's efforts.

Photo: NOAA

Aquaculture is the breeding and harvesting of plants and animals in water. It can take place in natural waterbodies such as ponds, lakes, marshland or brackish water and the ocean. It can also be conducted in man-made tanks, commonly found in fish hatcheries.

Aquaculture is referred to as fish farming. Typical species that are found in aquacultural systems include oysters, salmon, trout, hard and soft-shell clams and other shellfish.

Over the last decade, aquaculture has gained momentum as a viable method to produce seafood. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the leading agency on aquaculture, has dedicated federal guidance and financial aid to states in order to develop aquaculture regulation, policy and physical systems. Officially, NOAA defines aquaculture as "the propagation and rearing of aquatic organisms in controlled or selected aquatic environments for any commercial, recreational, or public purpose."

Benefits and Problems with Aquaculture
There are numerous benefits to aquaculture. Aquaculture can help assist in the ever-increasing demand for seafood while ensuring that existing fisheries remain sustainable and consistent. It also is good for the economy. But it also comes with its own inherent problems and difficulties.

Aquaculture Financing
Aquaculture continues to be supported by the federal government by several grant and financing programs, making it a viable alternative to traditional fishing.

International Aquaculture
There are many problems inhibiting the expansion of American aquaculture. However, aquaculture is booming business across the globe.

Aquaculture Facts and Figures

Aquaculture serves two purposes, the first of which is to support commercial marine fisheries. Secondly, it is used to rebuild wild stock populations, a typical example being trout hatcheries used to restock rivers, ponds and streams. Historically, aquaculture has been used for this purpose for over 50 years.

Aquaculture Facts and Figures
According to NOAA

o The U.S. aquaculture industry is a small portion of the world's aquaculture production. Total U.S. production is about $1 billion annually, compared to a $70 billion world market. Only about 20% of U.S. aquaculture production is marine species.

o The United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products, importing 84 percent of our seafood. Half of that is from aquaculture.

o The largest single sector of the U.S. aquaculture industry is from oysters, clams and mussels, which accounts for about two-thirds of total U.S. production. This is followed by salmon (25 percent) and shrimp (10 percent).

o U.S. aquaculture (freshwater and marine, or saltwater) supplies about 5 percent of the U.S. seafood supply and U.S. saltwater aquaculture less than 1.5 percent.

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