3 Major Issues Related to Aquaculture

by Jason Shaw


Given its considerable contribution to world fish food supply and the generation of livelihood opportunities, this academic paper aims to recognize the distinguishing features of aquaculture, learn about its advantages, and dig into three major issues posed against it, namely fish feed extraction, aquatic diseases, and general environmental degradation. Given the abundance of literature on aquaculture, the reach of this paper is minimal. In either scenario, one of the paper’s value-added features is a revised status of global aquaculture and a modern framework for solving the above problems.


The global demand for fish supply will inevitably grow over the next decade as a result of growing population and urbanization. Aquaculture has been described as a potential long-term option for maintaining food protection and better nutritional quality in emerging, third-world, and poorest-of-poor areas. According to estimates, it has provided a major contribution to the global food supply. Currently, though, “there are a few concerns that, if not handled properly, may jeopardize the success of aquaculture and global fisheries in general.” “Environmental destruction, decreased water safety, disease, enhanced fish feed consumption from the world’s fisheries, and a lack of legislation and control” are only a couple of the problems (Lehane, 2013). If aquaculture does not resolve these problems urgently, fish intake will be limited, and less developing countries will be sensitive to these improvements.

In this regard, the aim of this paper is to provide a brief description of aquaculture as well as to address the facts behind these alleged problems. If these claims are real, how can these concerns be handled from the standpoint of designated foreign organizations such as the FAO, as well as a Marine Biologist’s perspective?

3 Major Issues Related to Aquaculture

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            Aquaculture may be one of the traditional ancient food producing methods. “The advent of aquaculture dates back millennia, though its exact origins are unknown” (White, et al., p.2 2004). In fact, “thousand of years ago early civilizations like the Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese and Indonesians were found engaging in crude aquaculture” (Agius, C.1993). Remnants of its influence are evident “in Asia and other parts of the world wherein Thegei wais of Hong Kong, or the tambaks of Indonesia, offer striking examples of traditionally-derived forms of aquaculture that still exist today” (Quarto, n.d.).


“In the last three decades (1980-2010), world food fish production of aquaculture has expanded by almost 12 times, at an average annual rate of 8.8 percent. Global aquaculture production has continued to grow, albeit more slowly than in the 1980’s and 1990’s.” (The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2012)

“World aquaculture production attained another unparalleled high volume in 2010, at 60 million tonnes (excluding aquatic plants and non-food products), with an estimated total value of US$ 119 billion. When farmed aquatic plants and non-food products are included, world aquaculture production in 2010 was 79 million tonnes worth US 125 billion. About 600 aquatic species are raised in captivity in about 190 countries for production in farming systems of varying input intensities and technological sophistication” (The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2012).

Aquaculture’s Diverse Systems and Operations

Varying aquaculture practices used worldwide are done in “three types of environment: freshwater, brackishwater and marine” (Aquaculture Methods, 2013).

“Aquaculture has two diverse systems: open and closed systems which may be further classified as extensive, semi-intensive and intensive depending on degree of intervention applied. Freshwater aquaculture make use of contained environment such as: fish pens, fish cages, on a limited scale, the rice-fish culture or integrated farming. Brackishwater aquaculture is mainly carried out in fish ponds located in coastal areas. Mariculture relies on fish cages or substrates for mollusks (e.g. oysters, mussels, cockles) and seaweeds hanged or suspended in such as stakes, ropes and rafts.” (Aquaculture Methods and Practices: A Selected Review, n.d.). 

Aquaculture practices are done in selected different types of enclosures. These include

“static water ponds, running water (or raceways) culture, culture in re-circulating systems (or in reconditioned water and in closed systems), culture in rice fields, aquaculture in cage pens, running water (raceways), and containment or enclosures, integrated faming such as finfish-culture cum livestock rearing, stick methods of oyster culture and hanging, ‘on-bottom’  ” (Jinghran, J.V., 1987; Aquaculture Methods, 2013 ).

Current Updates on Global Aquaculture

  1. Supplementing Word Food Supply Requirement :

FAO records reveal that:

       “Capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 148 million tonnes of fish in 2010 (with a total value of US$ 217.5 billion), of which about 128 million tonnes was utilized as food for people and preliminary data for 2011 indicate increased production of 154 million tonnes, of which 131 million tonnes was destined as food” (The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2012).

FAO also reports that “fish accounts for about 16.6 percent of the world population’s intake of animal protein and 6.5 percent of all protein consumed. Globally, fish provides about 3.0 billion people with almost 20 percent of their intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of such protein” (Eknath et al, 2013; “TheWorld View of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2012).

  1. Generate Livelihoods Opportunities

Fisheries and aquaculture provided livelihoods and income for an estimated 54.8 million people, engaged in the primary sector of fish production in 2010, wherein an estimated 7 million were occasional fishers and fish farmers. Asia accounts for more than 87 percent of the world total with China alone having almost 14 million people (26 percent of the world total) engaged as fishers and fish farmers” (The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, (2012).

 Aside from the primary production sector,

“Fisheries and aquaculture provide numerous jobs in ancillary activities such as processing, packaging, marketing and distribution, manufacturing of fish-processing equipment, net and gear making, ice production and supply, boat construction and maintenance, research and administration. All these employment together with their dependents is estimated to support the livelihoods of 660 million-820 million people, or about 10-12 percent of world’s population” (The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, (2012).

  1. Commercial Aquaculture – Accordingly,  commercial aquaculture refers to

 “Fish farming operations aimed at maximizing profits which are translated into revenues minus costs. Commercial aquaculture has the potential to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, assisting in poverty alleviation” (Lehane, 2013).

The Issues Concerning Aquaculture

Lehane, S. (2013) of Future Directions International and an FDI Analyst presented the following report:

  1. “Fish- Feed Extraction – There are still inner sub-conflicts within this umbrella. First, rising demand and increasing incomes are creating an incentive for farmers to move away from low-value food fish for domestic consumption to high-value for export. Second, fully exploited capture of small fish for the production of fish meal, fish feed and fish oil poses a problem in maintaining balance in the marine ecosystems and food webs for larger predators and such attempts will cause future conflicts.
  2. Disease outbreak– Closed systems ensure to eliminate pollution and predators. However, the movement of live aquatic animals across boundaries is a major cause of the spread of diseases and pathogens within the aquatic environment.
  3. Environmental degradation – Use of chemicals and effluent pollution which are often man-made, can easily deplete oxygen and bring heavy pollution that can bring destruction to natural habitat such as mangroves.” (Lehane, 2013)


Considering the cited threats and weaknesses of aquaculture, the question to be asked is can the world continuously feed its population sustainably? The potentials of aquaculture will continue to grow and develop but it must always be monitored and controlled to achieve SUSTAINABILITY. Experts’ views are as follows: “the required aquaculture growth rate is 5.6 percent so as to maintain the 4.0 percent growth rate annually of the world food requirements” (Eknath, 2013). This cannot be achieved in a single sitting or with either one or two entities. This is the challenge where all necessary synergistic efforts and commitment must be harnessed. Hence more action must be seen in policy making, initiating training and incorporating aquaculture program into the national plan. FAO has already made its move when it promulgated in “1995 its Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture which enshrines the principles of environmental and social responsibility” (Eknath, 2013). A crucial factor here is to ascertain its success that comes with how these are implemented. The next requirement is the commitment of the Marine Biologist and other aquaculture and fisheries personnel to do its part in initiating relevant academic research, committing their selves to extend the assistance required by this industry and carry always that social responsibility that will save mother earth.


Indeed, aquaculture was studied and reported to have its own threats and weaknesses. Learning its lessons in the past, Aquaculture must adopt a paradigm shift to include ecosystem approach and sustainability in its concerns. Through concerted efforts to attain food security via aquaculture, there should always be three major incorporated provisions, namely: the maintenance of genetic, species and ecosystem approach to biodiversity; food supply and livelihood sustainability. It is not advisable to wait for and reach the threshold on food supply scarcity. Otherwise scarcity on food will always lead to violence. More harm than good can man do if this is not resolved at his level. Again, the main concern should be centered not only in providing affordable and reliable supply of food to feed world population but simultaneously continue achieving sustainability, security and order for mother earth.

Works Cited:
  • Aquaculture Methods and Practices: A Selected Review. (n.d) FAO Corporate Document Repository: Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. [Lecture Files] Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/t8598e/t8598e05.htm      
  • Aquaculture Methods (2013). Retrieved November 24, 2013 from http://www.seachoice.org/state-of-our-oceans-2/aquaculture-issues/aquaculture-methods/
  • Agius C. Aquaculture: The blue revolution. In: Busuttil S. (ed.), Lerin F. (ed.), Mizzi L. (ed.). Malta: Food, agriculture, fisheries and the environment. Montpellier: CIHEAM, 1993. p. 121-124 (Options Méditerranéennes: Série B. Etudes et Recherches; n. 7) Retrieved November 25, 2013 from http://om.ciheam.org/om/pdf/b07/93400014.pdf
  • De Silva, S. Aquaculture: With Special Reference to Developments in Asia. Challenges Facing Asian Aquaculture. (n.d.) Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) [PowerPoint File]. Retrieved from http://innri.unuftp.is/lectures_guest/aq_challenges-asia4.pdf
  • Eknath, Ambekar. (2013)  Proceedings from the Nordi Marine Innovation Conference, Challenges and Opportunities to promote Responsible Aquaculture in Asia-Pacific Region. Reykjavik, Iceland: Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific’s (NACA) [PowerPoint File]. Retrieved from http://nordicinnovation.org/Global/Presentasjoner%20Nordic%20Marin%20Conference/Eknath%20-%20Nordic%20Marine%20Innovation%20Conference%20-%20Reykjavik,%20Iceland%20-%20without%20pictures.pdf
  • Jhingran, V.G. (1987). Introduction to Aquaculture.  FAO Corporate Document Repository.     [Lecture Files ] Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/003/ac169e/ac169e00.htm
  • Lehane, Sinead. (2013). Fish for the Future: Aquaculture and Food Security. Retrieved November 25, 2013 from http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/food-and-water-crises/1269-fish-for-the-future-aquaculture-and-food-security.html
  • Miget, Russel. (2004) The HACCP Seafood Program and Aquaculture. Retrieved November 25, 2013 from https://srac.tamu.edu/index.cfm/event/getFactSheet/whichfactsheet/173/
  • Quarto, Alfredo. (n.d.) Global Warming and the Third World: The Rise and Fall of the Blue Revolution . Retrieved from http://www.tiempocyberclimate.org/portal/archive/issue32/t32a1.htm
  • The World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, (2012). Retrieved November 23, 2013 from http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i2727e/i2727e01.pdf
  • White, K., O’Neill, B. & Tzankova, Z. (2004). At a Crossroads: Will Aquaculture Fulfill the Promise of the Blue Revolution? Retrieved 21 November 2019 from http://www.seaweb.org/resources/documents/reports_crossroads.pdf[/sociallocker]

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