The Role of Marine Aquaculture in the United States
The Oxford English Dictionary defines agriculture as “The science and art of cultivating the soil; including the allied pursuits of gathering in the crops and rearing live stock.” Modifying that definition by replacing “soil” with “Earth’s surface” makes aquatic agriculture – or in shorthand “aquaculture” – the fastest growing sector of agriculture.
Seafood demand is increasing in the United States and abroad because of changes in
- Population size
- Diet preferences
- Health consciousness
More than 70% of the seafood Americans currently consume is imported and at least 40% of that is from aquaculture.
Wild caught fisheries have been stable for decades. Increases in the availability of seafood must come from aquaculture products whether domestic or foreign.
Contributing to the Economy
The United States' trade deficit in seafood is currently more than $8 billion annually.
Development of a strong domestic aquaculture industry could help reduce that deficit, provide jobs for coastal communities and increase seafood supply and security.
Sustaining and Restoring Marine Fisheries
Over exploitation and habitat degradation are putting stress on many U.S. marine fish and shellfish populations.
Traditional tools for management of marine fisheries are limited for the most part to limits on fishing and protection of habitat.
Marine aquaculture programs can offer an additional tool that aids in replenishing and restoring fisheries by:
- Stock enhancement – the production of large numbers of individuals in aquaculture to supplement numbers of young moving into natural populations.
- Production of marine fish to be tagged, released and recaptured in designed experiments that can be used to understand the ecological characteristics and health of fish species and their fisheries.
- Augmenting supply of seafood affected by limits on fishing that become necessary to sustain wild marine fish populations.