draft 2 Aquaculture

This topic submitted by Heather Allen ( allenhe@miamioh.edu) at 10:01 AM on 6/13/03.

A sobering view of a Two-toed Sloth as it makes its way along utility lines on our way to Monteverde Preserve. This is what can happen to animals faced with disappearing habitat.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University


Aquaculture

As the world population continues to grow, at a seemingly exponential rate, the more resources we must depend on for survival. More food is necessary in order to support the growth. Aquaculture, the growth of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions is a farming technique that is becoming more commonly used around the world today. Aquaculture is a highly productive farming technique that is being implemented in many areas around the world in order to produce the aquatic animals and plants that are greatly in need there.
The aquatic animal and plant products that are created by this process vary in several ways from that of a natural born organism in the wild. The products bred by aquatic farming provide a different form of the organisms because they are not necessarily bred for survival. They are bred for size and color or perhaps another variation or other characteristics that seems 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. There are antibiotics and vaccinations applied to the organisms that are created as well. These maintain the health of the fish and plants by keeping the problems and diseases out of the picture. There are also drug-laced fish foods fed to the fish that are farmed. The drugs in the fish food help to control parasites and other diseases as well. Herbicides are also used in some instances in order to kill off excess vegetations in the surrounding farm areas. Resulting from these techniques, some farmed fish have the same chemical residues of hormones and drugs found in cattle.
The aquaculture industry has positives and negatives. The positives are the massive supply of organisms that can be farmed and the “guaranteed wholesomeness” of the products. The negatives are that the technique is not free from pollution or degradation of the environment. The densely stocked environments generate large quantities of wastes, just like in any other form of intensive farming. There are also issues that involve releasing the waste materials into the surrounding bays or rivers and their negative affects on the areas that can cause oxygen-depleting algae blooms that can result in a kill-off of wild fish and other water dwellers. Another ngative factor in aquatic farming is the fact that fish meal is used to replace the diets of some fish. Using fish meal to supply food creates a significant need for other fish to make the fish feed. According to my sources, I found that it takes five pounds of fish to create just one pound of fish meal. Feeding some of the fish this diet is necessary in order to allow them survival, but it is also inefficient in ways because it takes the use of so many fish for the small amount of food that is created. There have also been issues surrounding the netting materials that farmers use for the protection of the organisms they are growing. The netting used not only protects the organisms; it entangles birds and marine mammals as well. There are also instances when imported species are brought into a place for farming and they bring diseases that threaten the native species. These factors pose a seriously dangerous situation for the natural aquatic organisms’ survival.
There are positive changes that are taking place in the aquaculture field 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 enclosing sea-raised fish in order to prevent escapes (these instances threaten the natural living species) and capture wastes for collection instead of dispersal. These positive changes are taking place due to the Clean Water Act and overall more awareness.


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