What is marine aquaculture?
Marine aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of aquatic plants and animals. It can take place in the ocean, or on land in tanks and ponds.
U.S. marine aquaculture produces primarily oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, salmon, and other marine fish.
What can marine aquaculture do for the economy?
Marine aquaculture creates jobs, supports resilient working waterfronts and coastal communities, and provides new international trade opportunities. As aquaculture has grown to complement our wild fisheries, current and former fishermen are using aquaculture to supplement and support fishing livelihoods.
Farmed seafood products already make up half of the world’s seafood supply, but U.S. production lags behind much of the world, leading to a $14 billion seafood deficit in the United States in 2016.
Aquaculture currently accounts for 20 percent of the value of domestic fisheries landings. Doubling current production could result in tens of thousands of jobs in coastal communities.
Why is aquaculture needed to increase seafood supply?
Marine aquaculture provides a domestic source of economically and environmentally sustainable seafood that complements and supports our wild fisheries production.
The global level of wild-caught fisheries has been relatively steady for more than 20 years, even as the human population continues to grow. Today, the United States imports over 80 percent of the seafood we eat—more than any other country—and about half of this imported seafood is farmed.
Global and domestic demand for seafood is poised to grow. Even as we maintain and rebuild our wild fisheries, we cannot meet increasing domestic demand for seafood alone through wild-caught fisheries. Shellfish, finfish, and seaweed farming is a steady source of safe, nutritious, sustainable seafood for consumers in the United States and worldwide.
Are U.S. farm-raised fish and shellfish safe and why should I buy U.S.-grown seafood?
From a seafood safety standpoint, the U.S. laws governing the harvest and processing of seafood for human consumption are among the most stringent in the world. Buying U.S.-grown farmed fish and shellfish guarantees that your seafood meets rigorous state and federal standards and supports American jobs. The responsibilities of monitoring and controlling seafood safety are divided among various agencies of the federal government and individual states. The primary federal agencies involved with seafood safety include:
- Food and Drug Administration
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Environmental Protection Agency
Consumers play an important role in seafood safety as well. When shopping for seafood, it is important to know what to look for. Visit FishWatch.gov for information about buying, handling, storing, and cooking seafood.
What is a hatchery and why is it important?
Hatcheries provide the seed for aquaculture and some commercial fisheries. All kinds of fish and shellfish begin life in tanks in a hatchery. A hatchery is a mix of a laboratory and a farm, where fish and shellfish are spawned, then hatched and cared for. They remain at the hatchery until they are large enough to be transferred to a fish or shellfish farm or released into the wild as part of a stock enhancement program. Commercial fish and shellfish farms require a steady, predictable source of juveniles from hatcheries in order to stay in operation and provide a consistent product.
Hatcheries are also used for stock enhancement — also known as 'restoration aquaculture' — through which fish and shellfish are raised in a hatchery and then released to supplement the populations of recreational, commercial, and ecologically-important species.
How do you farm marine finfish?
A variety of techniques and technologies — each with its own advantages and disadvantages — can be used to raise marine finfish:
- Hatcheries — most aquaculture fish begin their lives in a hatchery. In fact, the populations of many fish caught by traditional fishing are augmented in hatcheries, then released.
- Pond culture — one or many earthen ponds are used to culture some marine species.
- Cage culture — enclosed cages are submerged in aquatic environments. Careful protocols and monitoring help to minimize potential interactions with the environment.
- Recirculating systems — fish, shellfish, and or plant-life are raised in "closed-loop" production systems that continuously filter and recycle water and waste.
- Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture — several species are raised together in a way that allows one species' by-products to be recycled as feed for another.
What does marine aquaculture look like in the United States?
The United States has a small and vibrant commercial marine aquaculture industry supported by world class research and technology. Marine aquaculture supplies only about 1.5% of the entire U.S. seafood supply and has a landed value of $200 million. We primarily grow salmon, oysters, clams, mussels, and aquatic plants.
Over the past 30 years, we have learned how to manage aquaculture sustainably. The practices and technologies available today are significantly improved over what was available in the industry’s early years. However, knowledge gaps still exist, and NOAA is committed to monitoring siting and operation of aquaculture facilities to ensure sustainability in production. With our partners and collaborators, we will continue to develop economically and environmentally sustainable marine aquaculture practices in U.S. waters.
What does aquaculture look like around the world?
In contrast to world wild-capture fisheries production, which has essentially plateaued since the mid-1980s, aquaculture practices continue to expand globally. In addition to fish production, aquaculture produces considerable quantities of aquatic plants. World aquaculture production of fish and plants combined reached 101.1 million tons in live weight in 2014, for an estimated total value of $165.8 billion. Many other countries invest heavily in aquaculture to feed their growing populations and export seafood to other nations including the United States.
According to the 2014 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the United States ranks 17th in total aquaculture production behind China, Indonesia, India, Viet Nam, Philippines, Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Chile, Egypt, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.