Aquaculture Final No.2

This topic submitted by Heather Allen ( at 11:05 AM on 9/20/03.

Check out this huge M. annularis and accompanying fish at Molasses Reef, Key Largo, Florida.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Heather Allen
Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys and Bahamas 2003


Aquaculture, which is the growth of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions (Bardach et al., 1972), is a highly productive farming technique that is being implemented in many areas around the world today in order to produce the aquatic products that are of need. Aquatic farming can be used for the cultivation of various kinds of plants and animals. Bait organisms are cultured for both sport and commercial purposes. Growth of ornamental fish and plants constitutes one important industry in some areas, particularly in Florida (Harrell, 2000). Pearls are cultured in appropriate molluskan species, and goldfish and other species are commercially raised for use as laboratory animals (Bardach et al., 1972). The products from this type of farming technique are being used so widely today, because of high demands, which are growing along with the whole world’s population. The industry based upon aquaculture is of recent development. It is very profitable and provides a great number of resources that number up to millions of tons per year and hundreds of millions of dollars in profit (Pillay, 1992). As the world’s population continues to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, the more resources we must depend on for survival. Demand is greater than the ability of the ocean’s and streams to provide (Lee et al., 1992). More food is necessary in order to support the growth so aquatic farming is seemingly an essential tool used within the environment that can detract the reliance on nature and place it on specialized farmers. The production comes from a variety of farms ranging from small scale owner-operated fish ponds to larger-scale co-operative and corporate farms, supported by industries producing feeds and equipment manufacture (Pillay, 1992). There are lots of different reasons for producing high quantities of aquatic organisms. There are issues with the world’s natural fish populations due to over-fishing, water pollution and the shrinkage in natural habitats for breeding.
There is a positive side and a negative side to aquatic farming.

Containment Issues:

Increased production is occurring due to the expansion of areas of land and water under culture, and that involves higher usage of inputs (water, feeds, fertilizers and chemicals) (Pillay, 1992). Water enclosures for the organisms include ponds, cages, raceways, and tanks. Ponds are no restriction habitats. Cages confine fish to a particular area of water. Raceways are long narrow pens that use flowing water. Sometimes a series of ponds is linked together so that water flows from one to another like a raceway. Tanks may be of different designs and sizes and use flowing water. Water movement is essential for aeration to occur. Ponds are often artificially aerated with water that is sprayed into the air or with air or oxygen that is sprayed into the water. Tanks and raceways use flowing water. The rate of water flow also designates the density at which fish can be stocked (Lee et al., 1992). It is possible for farm raised fish to escape their habitat and escape into a larger body of water. When this occurs it is dangerous to the native fish that live nearby. After escaping, the farmed fish have the opportunity to mate with native fish. When stock escape this negatively affects the gene pool of the wild native fish because farm raised fish are not bred for survival. Instead non-native fish may be bred for characteristics like size (lb. on scale) and color (fancy fishes) or perhaps another variation of characteristics that are attractive in the markets. Breeding the fish and plant organisms using a selective method like the one used by aquatic farmers creates a weaker gene pool for the organism overall, because it does not allow the process of natural selection to take place. The environment is completely controlled not allowing the idea of the survival of the fittest to occur. The escaping fish issue has brought on particular guidelines known as “codes of containment”, created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for aquaculture farmers to follow.

Fish Diet:

Due to the high usage of inputs into the water, increased waste discharges are a resulting impact farmers must encounter and control (Pillay, 1992). Drug-laced fish foods provide the fish with parasite control. Disinfectants are used to kill bacteria; herbicides are used for killing excess vegetation. Resulting from this, some farmed fish have been discovered to be carrying the same chemical residues of hormones and drugs found in cattle (Pillay, 1992). There are also vaccines given to prevent infections. This naturally creates a completely controllable environment for the fish. Some people consider this a good thing, because of the fishes guaranteed wholesomeness (Lee et al., 1992). Others do not consider this good, because obviously it is so unnatural.

Pollution Issues:

Aquaculture was at one time thought to be “environmentally sound”. Today, however, it is seen as a potential pollutant of the aquatic environment and the cause of wetland area degradation (Pillay, 1992). Supplying the habitats for a large number of farmed fish in a small place is not environmentally ideal. It is not an ecosystem that would be naturally supported. It is far too compact, and lacking in so much diversity. A massive amount of waste material is created from this habitat. Wastes are created from uneaten fish feed and the high amounts of excreted wastes that go along with densely stocked habitats. The resulting wastes are high in nitrogen and phosphorus and when they are released in rivers or oceans they can cause the growth of algal blooms, which deplete oxygen.

Degradation of the Environment:

Lots of the mangroves that used to exist are no longer around. One major reason is because the habitats are not very “attractive”, so they are destroyed, and another reason is because the habitats are so nutrient rich and create excellent breeding grounds and hatchery environments for farmers. As with any other resource that uses the land, there are slash and burn techniques used by some that use up the land quickly and leave it in no shape to still be worked with afterwards. Another reason is because the techniques used were releasing water with “better quality” than what was flowing in, but this was also a detrimental cause of destruction for the organisms existing in the natural habitats (Pillay, 1992).

Consumers and Producers:

Health-conscious people are increasing their consumption of fish and shellfish. Ocean fish catches are also declining, so naturally production to fill the demand for these fish is taking place. There is a market for fish not only in the grocery store, but in pet stores too.
A lot of money must go into starting up an aqua farm. A proper facility for the aquatic organisms to grow in must include an ample supply of water of suitable temperatures, salinity and fertility (Bardach, et al, 1972). This type of facility must be built, in a practical area, and it must also follow regulations set by the government. In the South there is a long growing season for aquatic organisms. There are positive changes that are taking place in aquaculture including new methods such as the integration of plants in the farming environment, the use of species such as mussels (that feed on droppings), and the usage of large bags for living species) and capture wastes for collection instead of dispersal. As more time using these methods goes by more safe productivity will take place. Overall, more awareness about the flaws and misuse along with the correct way to aqua farm will be helpful to aqua farmers in the future.


Bardach, John E., John H. Ryther, and William O. McLarney. Aquaculture; the Farming and Husbandry of freshwater and Marine Organisms. New York, Wiley-Interscience, 1972.

Lee, Jasper S., and Michael I. Newman. Aquaculture: An Introduction. Danville, IL: Interstate Pub. 1992.

Pillay, T.V.R., Aquaculture and the Environment. New York: Halsted Press, 1992.

Harrell, Jackie, "Florida Aquaculture, Live on the Web!" 25 May, 2000. Online. Internet. March 5, 2003. Available

"Global Aquaculture Alliance." Feeding the World through Responsible Aquaculture. Northwest fisheries Science Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Environmental Protection Agency Online.

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