Marine aquaculture is the process of breeding, raising, and harvesting animals and plants for commercial use. Aquaculture can take place in man-made bodies of water or existing waterways. Marine aquaculture refers to raising marine animals, such as shrimp, salmon, oysters, and mussels.
Aquaculture includes many different types of farming. The industry produces hatchery shellfish and fish for release into the wild, as well as the production of shellfish and fish for consumption. Marine aquaculture also encompasses the production of fish for the pet industry, as well as many plants used by nutritional and pharmaceutical companies.
The most common form of marine aquaculture is the production of mollusk shellfish, which include clams, mussels, and oysters. Farm raised salmon is another popular product in marine aquaculture, as is shrimp. While most of the production of these animals occurs in coastal waters, there are several open ocean aquaculture locations.
Several different forms of marine aquaculture used around the world. They include sea ranching, rack and line farming, and intensive aquaculture. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and farmers often make their choice based on the type of fish or shellfish they plan to grow.
Sea ranching is the process of raising the farmed animals in their native environment. No special facilities are required for sea ranching, and the animals do not receive supplemental feed. This type of aquaculture only works for animals, such as sea cucumbers, that remain in place as they grow. No fishing is allowed in the area until after the harvest.
Rack and line farming provides additional structures for the animals, but no additional feeding is conducted. It is used for animals such as oysters and mussels. The farmers string lines between two buoys and the animals grow either directly on the line, or in net bags attached to the lines.
Intensive aquaculture is the closest type of aquaculture to conventional agriculture. The animals live in sea pens or cages, and the farmer provides them with food. Salmon and tuna are often raised this way. It is also the most labor-intensive form of aquaculture.
There are many benefits to marine aquaculture. They include the production of seafood that tastes good and is consistent in quality, the ability to produce more seafood in less space, the reduction in the number of wild fish and shellfish killed, and the ability for countries to grow their own seafood, reducing the demand for importation. The drawback of aquaculture is that in some countries, government oversight is not keeping pace with the growth of aquaculture, raising potential environmental concerns. Also some forms of farmed seafood are believed to be less healthy than fish caught in the wild.