The Case for Responsible Mariculture
The seafood component of the U.S. trade deficit currently runs at US$10 billion per year. While the demand for seafood increases, capture fisheries and marine ecosystems around the world are collapsing due to overfishing.
In the U.S., closures or buyback schemes to reduce effort have effectively shut down once-productive fisheries. Other environmental concerns for endangered species or marine mammals have seen closures or limitations. U.S. Domestic fisheries production is currently sustained largely by massive harvests of pollock in the Bering sea -- a former "trash fish" that is now increasingly sought after as more desirable alternatives become scarce. In 1999, for the first time ever, the U.S. imported more seafood than was caught by U.S. fishermen.
Aquaculture offers the only viable solution to the growing demand for sustainable, healthy sources of seafood. Fish farming can reduce exploitative pressure on already-depleted wild stocks, supports the growth of coastal and rural industries, and yields a product that is high in protein and rich in heart-healthy oils and fatty acids. It is a growing industry, and is projected to increase in pace. The U.S. Department of Commerce has set a goal of a fivefold increase in U.S. aquaculture production value, to $5 billion by 2025.
Domestic aquaculture production using existing methods or species cannot keep pace with such lofty goals. Almost all domestic production is from freshwater species, with the only marine species being produced in any quantity (salmon and striped bass) being anadromous (freshwater spawning). The relatively recent development of open-ocean culture systems and hatchery methods for desirable high-value marine fish offers a great opportunity for expansion of aquaculture in the vast undeveloped offshore regions of the U.S. territorial sea, in an environmentally responsible manner.
Offshore fish culture now stands on the cusp of a tremendous expansion. With increasingly specialized hatchery techniques, high value finfish such as tuna, grouper, and, of course, Kampachi are being (or may soon be) farmed in the open ocean to meet this demand. When coupled with cutting-edge fish nutrition and sustainable feeds research, this will afford the average consumer a safe, consistent supply of the most popular type of fish -- marine finfish -- without harming wild stocks.
Expanding aquaculture production in the face of declining world fisheries is an imperative, and by fostering this industry in the US, we can ensure that this expansion occurs responsibly. Doing it is important, but just as important is doing it right. With our yellowtail and other species, Kampachi Farms will remain at the forefront of this seafood revolution, leading the development of a safe, sustainable, environmentally responsible mariculture industry by example.