The Promise and Perils of Aquaculture; The Oceans; Scientific American Presents; by Boyd, Clay, McKinsey, Staff Editor; 6 Page(s)
Aquaculture, or fish farming as it is often called, might appear to be the perfect solution to the dire problems facing many overly exploited varieties of marine fauna. If people can raise enough fish on farms, it stands to reason that they will be less inclined to hunt them from the sea. So the phenomenal growth of aquaculture in recent years might take some of the pressure off wild populations. Unfortunately, this seemingly logical supposition is surprisingly hard to confirm.
The complication is that aquaculture often exploits wild populations indirectly. Many of the species raised on farms are fed fish meal produced from capture fisheries. And countless farming operations rear juvenile fish taken from the ocean. For example, shrimp farmers in Latin America often shun larvae produced in hatcheries, because they believe that nature's shrimp are more robust. As a result, they will pay twice the price for captured larvae, and vast numbers of collectors take to shallow waters with fine mesh nets seeking them out. This intensive fishing constitutes a threat, but one is hard-pressed to demonstrate that it has actually diminished the numbers of wild shrimp.