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Open Oceans and Aquaculture
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Aquaculture can be done in inland freshwater environments and in or adjacent to the sea. Like all farming, it involves some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, and protection from predators. It often requires high capitol and is currently done with more input than output. Globally, close to 30% of all wild fish caught are used for the production of fishmeal and fish oil for animal feeds. This is a reckless use of protein and it further depletes the wild fish populations. Furthermore, there are other environmental concerns and human health impacts. Done for the right purposes and in the right manner, aquaculture could offer the potential to bolster local food security and livelihood opportunities for many. Unfortunately, it is more often done for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way. Two devastating forms of fish farming are open ocean aquaculture and shrimp aquaculture.
Open Ocean Aquaculture
Open ocean aquaculture (OOA) of finfish can have significant negative impacts on wild fish stocks, water quality, and consumer health. Aquaculture facilities are giant submerged or floating cages, often attached to oil rigs or other ocean platforms. Carnivorous finfish, such as cod, halibut, tuna and red snapper are raised in large numbers within these cages 3-200 miles off the coast -in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the United States.
One significant unresolved risk of OOA is that of escapement - when farmed fish find their way out of the nets, whether from storms, shark attacks or other factors, and interbreed with wild populations. Such genetic mixing could weaken wild fish populations, making the already at-risk populations even more vulnerable. Other significant risks involve fish feed, waste, and other chemicals that contaminate the water flowing through the cages. Additionally, disease and parasites become problems as the fish are raised in unnaturally concentrated conditions. When diseases are treated with chemicals and antibiotics, there could be risks to both the local ecosystem and to consumer health. There is a pressing need for research regarding the negative environmental impacts of OOA and the health impacts to consumers.
Creating offshore fish farming is the first step toward privatizing the oceans. It will not create more employment for already struggling fishing communities, who don’t want to bump into cages in the open ocean or be forced to compete with farm-raised fish in the marketplace. Natural resources like open oceans should not be treated as a commodity. Our oceans should be managed in the public trust, not parceled off for profit.
IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE THAT SHRIMP—the most popular seafood in the U.S. today—was once a delicacy reserved for Asian royalty. What was once a luxury item can now be consumed all-you-can-eat style at chain restaurants throughout the United States. In 2003, 1.1 billion pounds of shrimp was imported to the U.S., worth nearly $3.8 billion.
How did this happen? Until recently, shrimp were caught in the open ocean, but today most shrimp are "farmed" in tropical coastal areas where saltwater is available and waste can be flushed into the ocean.
Industrialized shrimp aquaculture is causing environmental, economic and social disasters in many nations—particularly in Asia and Latin America. It is devastating the U.S. shrimp industry, and it is creating potential health hazards for the consuming public. The price of shrimp has fallen from approximately $18 a pound to $10 a pound. But when all things are considered, how high is the cost?
QUICK FACTS ABOUT FARMED SHRIMP
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