Mariculture: Yield

A rapidly growing human population has led to in an increased reliance on new and enhanced methods for cultivating food on land and in the ocean. The term aquaculture refers to the cultivation in water of animals or plants for human consumption. Depending upon the particular species, aquaculture may be done in freshwater, brackish water or salt water.

Mariculture refers specifically to cultured food production in marine or brackish waters using floating cages, net enclosures, natural or artificial ponds, or closed circulation water systems. Sustainable mariculture supports human well-being, both now and in the future.

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing animal-food production sector in the world, and 17% of the global yield comes from mariculture. 96% of mariculture yield is produced by only 15 of the world’s 151 coastal nations and their territories.

Half of All Farm-Raised Fish and Seafood For Direct Consumption by People Comes
from Mariculture
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Which Goals Does This Affect?

How Was It Measured?

Reported mariculture production comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Global Aquaculture Production Quantity dataset. Only production classified in marine and brackish water environments was included in the analysis; all freshwater production was excluded. Total species produced within a country were summed to give a single production value per country for each year that production took place. 

What Are The Impacts?

Fish and
Seafood Farming is the Fastest Growing Animal-Food Production Sector
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1 in 7 People
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Ecological Impacts
As the volume of mariculture production has risen steadily over the past 30 years, so has the potential risk to surrounding environments. One potential threat comes from farmed populations that have escaped into the wild.

If genetically modified, farmed, species come into contact with wild stocks, there is the risk of “biological pollution” through interbreeding, which can weaken ecosystem structure and foster the spread of disease. If these non-native species establish viable populations, they may compete or prey upon native species to the point of driving them to extinction.

Certain mariculture methods can damage or destroy coastal habitats.  Mangroves, in particular, have suffered significant losses as forests worldwide are cleared to make way for shrimp farms. By some estimates, shrimp farming is responsible for 10% of global mangrove loss (FAO 2006).

Nutrient pollution from (fish) waste and chemical pollution from compounds employed to kill parasites in mariculture species can have adverse effects upon the environment.
Human Health Impacts
Currently, over 1 billion people are dependent upon fish as their daily source of protein. As the population continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to implement sustainable mariculture. 

Demand for seafood is expected to continue growing by as much as 10 percent annually, or 11 million tons per year for the foreseeable future (FAO 2008).

The growing field of aquaculture has the potential to supplement nutrition, alleviate hunger, improve food security and reduce poverty in many regions (Subasinghe et al. 2009; WFS 2011). However, mariculture practices with poor wastewater treatment, and chemical and/or antibiotic use, can yield seafood that is hazardous to human health.
Economic Impacts
Aquaculture has increased steadily from 2001-2009, with an average annual growth rate of 6.1%.

Mariculture production of the Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) increased nearly tenfold from 269,000 tonnes in 2001 to 2.3 million tonnes in 2009, and generated US$9.2 billion in 2009; the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) generated US$6.4 billion (FAO 2009). 

Get More Information

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Fisheries and Aquaculture Department     
This database provides aquaculture volume and value statistics by country or area, fishing area and culture environment.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Fisheries Service (NOAA)
This database provides quantity and value information for U.S. fisheries, searchable by species, year(s), or state/area.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Aquaculture Canada     
Aquaculture Canada provides an overview of aquaculture activity, production rates, economic and employment activity, and output by species.


PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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