Tuesday, December 2, 2014

To Feed The World, We Need More Aquaculture

With our ever-growing population, we need to find ways to feed all of the new mouths during the next twenty years. And there seems to be little doubt that aquaculture is an essential element to feeding the world. As such, we need more aquaculture to ensure there is an adequate food supply in the future, and the U.S. needs to step up and promote more local aquaculture.

The United Nation Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) has just released a new report, Economic analysis of supply and demand for food up to 2030 – Special focus on fish and fishery products, which was authored by Audun Lem, Trond Bjorndal, and Alena Lappo. The report projects the future food supply up to 2030, looking into supply and demand, and paying particular attention to seafood.

Though the rate of the world's population growth is expected to slow, it should still reach about 8.2 billion people by 2030, up from the current population of about 6/9 billion. "The main trends that will probably influence future food demand are food safety and health benefits, social concerns, production systems and innovations, sustainability and food origin." As such, there will be increased demands for sustainable seafood, especially due to its proven health benefits.

Seafood production across the world has experienced significant growth, primarily due to aquaculture as wild fisheries have seen, and continue to see, significant problems with resource depletion. Aquaculture currently accounts for about 43% of the total world seafood supply. Technology and scientific innovations have helped spur on the significant growth of aquaculture. It has become less costly to produce and operations have become more efficient. Within the next twenty years, all of this will only improve, making aquaculture a more appealing option. The report also addresses the problems which will affect agricultural production, causing its growth to slow, meaning it won't be able to meet the increased demands of a larger population.

I've discussed this issue multiple times before, stating the U.S. needs to increase its own aquaculture efforts, and for a few examples, check out U.S. Aquaculture Advocacy, Is Aquaculture Sustainable, and Updates From The Aquaculture Stewardship Council.  In 2012, the U.S. produced about 594 million pounds of aquaculture seafood, both freshwater and marine, valued at about $1.2 billion. However, the volume of aquaculture is only about 6% of the wild catch so there is much room for growth.

There are some promising signs in the Northeast region of the U.S., as noted in a recent Boston Globe article. Federal waters are starting to be opened up to aquaculture efforts. In October, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the first East Coast permit to grow mussels in federal waters. Federal waters present both challenges and opportunities, and could give a positive boost to aquaculture, and help boost the East Coast fishing industry. The article notes that the demand for mussels has nearly doubled in the last ten years, and my recent mussels article, Want Cheap, Tasty, Healthy & Sustainable Seafood? Choose Mussels, explains why they are such a great seafood choice.

There is hope, but we need to work harder to promote aquaculture. We need to pave the way for the future, for the greater population. Aquaculture can be sustainable and efficient, and the more progress that occurs, the better it will become. And the U.S. needs to make it a priority.

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