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Aquaculture & Mariculture

China is turning towards aquaculture to produce up to 60 percent of the country’s seafood production. Thomas Kraft of Norpac remarks, “Seafood’s going to be the only viable way to have protein by 2050. Even if we remove all the forests from the planet and plant them as agricultural crops, we still couldn’t sustain nine billion people. So seafood, whether it’s wild-capture or aquaculture, is going to play a big part in feeding the world’s population.”

Fish farms are either land-based (aquaculture) or ocean-based (mariculture). Each has it’s own perks and challenges which will be investigated in this edition of Food List.

Often the most unsustainable practice of fish farming is the amount of wild fish used as feed. It takes three pounds of wild fish to make one pound of domesticated salmon. Grist shares a controversial solution.

Our globetrotting friends from the Perennial Plate provide a glimpse into the ecologically beneficial impacts of sustainable aquacultures at Veta La Palma farms in Spain in Future Fish.

We are then introduced to shellfish farms, and to the lives of oystermen and shuckers of Florida in the film Apalachicola Oysters by Southern Foodways Alliance.

Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, discusses with GRACE the challenges of carrying capacity in aquacultures and how recirculating aquaculture systems mitigate these issues.

A class of high school students in Iowa present a sustainable aquaponics farm that was born from the vision of a veteran from Afghanistan. Another aquaponics system, this one created by an Arizona family in their backyard swimming pool, has cut the McClungs’ monthly grocery bill by three-quarters.

The significance of fishermen is often overlooked, but they play a crucial role as ambassadors to the sea. To create a future without food scarcity and environmental plunder, our critical challenge is to find new ways to produce more fish without causing more harm. Future of Fish analyzes the benefits of aquaculture.

Seafood expert Carl Safina discusses the potential of sustainable fisheries with increased understanding on the consumer’s end.

We wrap up this week’s Food List with an anecdote from LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America. Douglas Gayeton shares with us his first hand experience with fish farms in China in “Pigs in Boats.”

This week's terms


Mariculture is a branch of aquaculture in which aquatic species are raised within the marine environment.


Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic animals (finfish, crustaceans, and mollusks) and seaweeds (kelp) in inland freshwater, brackish coastal water, and seawater. Production takes place in tanks, ponds, net pens and mudflats. Farmed finfish include Asian carps, tilapia, milkfish, catfish, pangasius, salmon, trout, sturgeon, cobia, kingfish, tuna, seabass, halibut, flounder, ornamental, and bait fish. Farmed shellfish and mollusks include shrimp, prawns, crabs; clams, mussels, oysters, abalone, sea urchins, and sea cucumber. Sustainability in aquaculture is essential to prevent the farm from negatively impacting local communities, land, or water resources. However, multi-trophic, closed-containment, and aquaponic production techniques, and a shift from marine to plant-based sources of protein can improve sustainability, but these are still not major components of total production.

Carrying Capacity

The maximum amount of fish that can be raised in a given area of water (raceway) while maintaining a healthy environment for the species (subject to seasonal variability, with less fish in warmer months, more fish in cooler months).

Connected Markets

When producers and consumers can envision each other – even across great distances – a product (like salmon) transforms from a commodity into a carefully guarded, precious resource

Filter Feeding Bivalves

A bivalve mollusc is an invertebrate with two shells (bivalve). They intake water to provide oxygen to their gills and filter out planktonic algae on which they feed. They pump out filtered water.

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