What is Aquaculture

The term aquaculture broadly refers to the cultivation of aquatic organisms in controlled aquatic environments for any commercial, recreational or public purpose. The breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals takes place in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, the ocean, and man-made “closed” systems on land.

Aquaculture facility in Gulf Port, Miss. Aquaculture facility in Gulf Port, Miss.

Aquaculture serves many purposes including:

It is one of the fastest growing forms of food production in the world. Because harvest from many wild fisheries has peaked globally, aquaculture is widely recognized as an effective way to meet the seafood demands of a growing population.

Mussel harvesting in Shelton, Wash. Mussel harvesting in Shelton, Wash.

Using aquaculture techniques and technologies, researchers and the aquaculture industry are “farming” all types of freshwater and marine species of fish and shellfish:

Longlines are used for mussel aquaculture. Longlines are used for mussel aquaculture.

Aquaculture produces almost half of the seafood consumed by humans globally, a trend that continues to increase. The United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products — we import 84 percent of our seafood, and half of that is from aquaculture — yet we are a minor producer.  In fact, U.S. aquaculture (both freshwater and marine) supplies about 5 percent of the U.S. seafood supply, and U.S. marine aquaculture supplies less than 1.5 percent. 

It is vital that the United States further develop its own sustainable aquaculture industry, both to reduce its annual $9 billion annual seafood import deficit and to keep pace with the growing demand for seafood.

Learn more: NOAA’s Fisheries Aquaculture Program is dedicated to fostering safe, sustainable aquaculture in collaboration with other NOAA offices including NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Editorial note: This article was written in collaboration with NOAA aquaculture expert Dr. Michael Rubino,
NOAA Fisheries Aquaculture Program.


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