When you think of a sustainable future, what do you picture? Electric cars, wind turbines or massive solar panels may come to mind—you’ve seen these things in the news and on social media. But do you think of aquaculture?
Socially responsible and environmentally friendly fish farms are going to play a huge role in meeting the world’s sustainability goals in the coming decades. Aquaculture will not only benefit the planet’s growing population, but will also help save our marine ecosystems from overfishing.
Our World Depends on Fish
In the developed world, we have access to an abundance of food, from red meats and processed goods to vegetables and seafood. Some food is better for you than others, particularly some protein sources.
It’s hard to beat the health benefits of seafood. Fish provide nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus and vitamin D and are also full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and combat issues such as heart disease. Whether the fish you choose is super lean, like Tilapia, or full of oils and omega-3s, like salmon, it’s beneficial to add a serving or two of seafood to your weekly dinner rotation.
But what if someday there are no fish left? This is a real concern for the future, as many wild fish populations are already depleting. It’s also a pressing matter for the present: in the developing world, hunger is a big obstacle and seafood is often the primary source of wholesome nutrition.
Aquaculture Can Help
Aquaculture is good for more than just your diet—it also brings job opportunities to communities around the world. More than 820 million people worldwide depend on aquaculture for their livelihoods. To be socially responsible, aquaculture needs to go beyond simply providing food and employment: companies should engage with local people and give back to their communities.
Regal Springs, for example, provides vital infrastructure in the villages where it farms. The company paves roads, installs solar panels, builds schools and clinics, and even pays teachers’ salaries. Aquaculture is about more than making sure everyone has enough to eat—it’s about ensuring a high quality of life as well.
To continue to feed the world, aquaculture is mandatory for fish supply to meet the global demand. An oft-cited research report published in the scholarly journal Nature Ecology & Evolution shows this is more than possible—it claims all of the wild fish that are caught by fisheries each year could easily be farmed in an area that takes up less than 0.015% of the ocean’s total surface.
The study also suggests that almost every coastal country has ocean area suitable for aquaculture, meaning nations would be capable of meeting their own seafood needs.
By increasing the number of fish farms, we take pressure off of wild fish stocks that are already threatened. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of depleting fish stocks has tripled in the last 50 years and today, a third of fisheries are classified as being overfished. But in order for aquaculture to continue feeding the world, it’s important that proper steps are taken to ensure it is done responsibly and in an environmentally friendly manner.
We must also abstain from treating fish with hormones, chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize pollution in the waters where the fish are farmed. Additionally, all farms should have facilities for treating waste and monitoring water quality.
Feeding people is important, but so is ensuring our oceans and lakes stay clean for generations. This is why aquaculture practices will play a big role in cultivating a more sustainable future.
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