Aquaculture, or farming of fish and other seafood, holds great promise as a solution to the ever-increasing pressures on our ocean resources.
Today, half of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is farmed, and the practice is growing fast. Just as we raise cattle and chickens to eat, we're now raising seafood to meet the growing global demand.
But the environmental impact of fish farming varies widely, depending on the species being farmed, the methods used and where the farm is located. When the environment is considered and good practices are used, it's possible to create sustainably farmed seafood. Such operations limit habitat damage, disease, escapes of non-native fish, and the use of wild fish as feed.
Learn which seafood to buy or avoid
You can also learn more about the Seafood Watch criteria for farmed seafood.
Many of our favorite fish are themselves fish eaters. When we farm these carnivores, we need lots of wild fish to feed them. On average it takes over three pounds of wild fish to grow a pound of farmed salmon. Alternative feeds are being developed to reduce this dependence on wild fish. But the best solution may be farming shellfish and non-fish eaters like tilapia and catfish.
Learn more about wild fish
Pollution & disease:
When fish are farmed in open net pens, byproducts are released directly into the environment. This includes fish waste, uneaten food, disease, parasites, pesticides and antibiotics that can be harmful to the environment. In contrast, "closed" systems collect and manage these byproducts and have less impact.
Learn more about pollution & disease
Each year, millions of fish escape from aquaculture operations, and their impacts aren't known. These escapees compete with native fish and, in the worst case, may interbreed with them—changing forever the gene pool of the native species. Reducing the use of open systems can help.
Learn more about escapes
Farm location is important. Rich coastal waters have been polluted by open net pen farms and hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal mangrove forests have been lost by conversion to shrimp ponds. Protecting important habitats and the species that rely on them for survival are key to sustaining the oceans.
Learn more about habitat damage
The aquaculture industry is growing quickly. Innovative practices as well as careful oversight are needed to reduce impacts on the environment and ensure a sustainable future.
Learn more about management