Fish farming, or aquaculture, is the process of raising fish in underwater cages, pools or tanks for food. Commonly farmed species include salmon, tilapia and cod. While not without its drawbacks, fish farming has a number of real advantages. This has triggered a huge rise in aquaculture projects. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, fish farming is now the fastest growing method of producing food in the world.
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Compared to deep sea trawling, fish farming is very efficient. Farms remove the need to spend weeks at sea locating, catching and delivering fish. Instead, farmed fish are usually fed a specialised diet that promotes fast growth and maturation. This means that they are ready for consumption sooner than they would be in the wild. When the fish are ready to be processed, they can simply be packaged and distributed.
Global demand for fish is vast--and rising. Aquaculture is one of the best ways to meet that demand. According to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, around 43 per cent of all fish consumed worldwide in 2006 were farmed. In addition, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that aquaculture has increased by 8.8 per cent every year since 1970. Fish farming is growing as an industry in order to meet the increase in demand, something that natural fisheries are unable to do.
The high demand for fish means that wild stocks and marine ecosystems are under enormous pressure. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, up to 76 per cent of all fish species are at either exploited, fully exploited or depleted. Aquaculture takes the pressure off wild stocks by supplying a captive source of fish.
Fish farming can offer large economic benefits to local communities, and the global economy overall. For example, in British Columbia, Canada, around 3,500 jobs have been directly created by salmon farming. Fish farming also has an additional benefit of keeping the price of fish more affordable for consumers.
By-catch is the amount of fish and marine animals that accidentally get swept up by trawler nets or hooked on the long lines from fishing boats. By not using nets or lines, fish farming produces very little bycatch. This could save the lives of millions of dolphins, turtles, sharks and other fish species every year.
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