A Consumer’s Guide to Aquaculture

October is National Seafood Month, which is the perfect time to become acquainted with aquaculture! 

Published October 11, 2017

Aquaculture, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), “refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes and the ocean.” More generally speaking, aquaculture is the process of farming seafood, including many kinds of fish, shellfish and sea vegetables. 

To better understand aquaculture, why it’s important for ocean and human health and how you as a consumer can support sustainable seafood, let’s dive a little deeper: 

What types of fish and sea vegetables are grown using aquaculture? 

In the United States, freshwater aquaculture primarily produces catfish, trout and tilapia. Additionally, two-thirds of marine production is dedicated to shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels. The U.S. is also home to seaweed farms. Globally, more than half of all seafood produced for human consumption comes from aquaculture. This number will continue to rise as the global population increases. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that by 2030, another 40 million tons of seafood worldwide will be necessary every year just to meet current consumption rates.


Is farm-raised seafood safe to consume?

Around the world, there are numerous laws and certifications that have improved the quality and sustainability of farmed seafood. Approximately 90 percent of the seafood we eat is imported. However, to gain confidence of reputable U.S. retailers, restaurants and consumers, seafood farms are raising their standards regarding quality—as well as environmental and social concerns—by obtaining eco-labels and becoming more transparent about their operations. In addition, U.S. laws regulating the harvesting and processing of seafood are incredibly stringent. The Food and Drug Administration, NOAA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency all contribute to the regulation of the industry. As with wild-caught fish, seafood farmed in the U.S. is among the best you can buy. 

When shopping for seafood, what should I look for? 

Be empowered to ask your seafood supplier where their products come from and how they were produced! Choose domestic seafood that is local to your region whenever possible. U.S. regulations are often stricter than those of other countries, ensuring a better product for you. We also encourage you to try new things— shrimp, salmon and tuna are by far the most-consumed species of seafood in this country, but consider adding others to your menu. Examples include barramundi, Arctic char, scallops and kelp–all of which can be responsibly farmed.


Why does aquaculture matter?

Fish are an efficient protein source for our bodies, and with a smaller carbon footprint than other sources, seafood production is beneficial for our planet. Responsible, modern aquaculture practices support healthy eating, create a secure and reliable protein supply for a burgeoning population and relieve the environmental strain on our ocean, while also enhancing our maritime economies, creating jobs and protecting wild fisheries and ocean habitats.

Learn more about our commitment to sustainable seafood here!

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