This article featured in Eurofish Magazine 6 2018.
Demand for fish and seafood products is growing throughout the world. Although catches from the fishing sector have stagnated since the 1990s per capita supply worldwide has increased. This is mainly due to global aquaculture which is growing year by year at impressive rates of between 6 and 8 per cent. In spite of this, fish farming is still criticised and its image is in many places far from good.
Without aquaculture it would not be possible to maintain today’s level of fish and seafood supply to mankind. Despite improved sustainability the quantity of fish landed cannot be increased at will, especially since the effects of regional overfishing, natural stock fluctuations, and climate change are difficult to calculate. With the targeted production of fish and seafood humanity has found a way out of this dilemma rendering aquaculture a logical step that has long been common and "normal" in other areas of food production such as fruit, vegetables and meat. We are all well aware of the fact that these products are not collected from the wild but are systematically grown or bred and produced by mankind according to his needs. Although agricultural production has a “head start” of hundreds of years, aquaculture is rapidly catching up, with its production capacity growing worldwide by 3 to 4 million tonnes a year. In the last decade alone it almost doubled. If this growth continues aquaculture could be on a level with traditional fishing by the beginning of the next decade.
There is a lot to be said for aquaculture. For example the fact that most of the production and spectacular growth rates are achieved in Asia and South America, thereby strengthening the economies of developing countries. Aquaculture has become an important source of income, providing welcome – and valuable – export goods. Low resource and feed requirements also clearly speak in favour of aquaculture. In the case of salmon only 1.3 kg of feed is needed for the fish to grow by one kilogram, whereas poultry need 2 kg and pigs 2.9 kg of feed. And measured in terms of land use per kilogram of protein produced, aquaculture performs better, too. Depending on farming intensity, 160 to 2,100 square metres of land area per kilogram of protein produced are required for cattle farming, whereas fish in aquaculture are presumed to require less than 25 square metres. And even when we look at nutrient emissions that contribute to the eutrophication of water bodies, aquaculture often scores better than people think, as the following table shows.