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INTRODUCTION The Global Aquaculture Industry began When European explorer, John Cabot, landed in Newfoundland he remarked on the unbelievable bounty of seafood near the coast. In particular, the abundance of cod (Atlantic cod) was noted. Over 400 years later the stock of Atlantic cod has been depleted and the oceans of the world can no longer keep up with the growing demand for what was once seen as an inexhaustible supply of food. The oceans are running out of fish at the same time the world is demanding more seafood. As the world’s population continues to increase and global incomes rise, increased demand for fish has pushed the world’s stock to the point of collapse. No better example can be seen than the case of the Atlantic cod. The once abundant species experienced a sudden and profound collapse in 1992 as the seas were overfished along the Atlantic with more modern and efficient fishing methods. The use of larger ships, refrigeration allowing for longer voyages, modern technology such as sonar, and foreign poaching vessels eventually resulted in the full exploitation of the stock of Atlantic cod. Other species of fish have also been depleted, although not as dramatically. In order to fill the void left by the rapidly diminishing wild fish stock a new form of fishing has recently emerged called aquaculture, or fish farming. With aquaculture, fish are raised in coastal ponds or inland pods and harvested much like farm animals or crops. While this new industry may be able to compensate for the loss of wild fish, the process is not without its own problems, including concerns over sustainability and other environmental issues, the safety of the stock, and the cost of operation. Fish farming has been called “the next big thing” by some, given the strains on the oceans relative to the increased need for global food production. In an article in the June 2012 issue of Nature, a team of researchers led by University of California professor, Anthony Barnosky, proposed that the earth may be reaching a “tipping point” in which global population relative to land mass decreases biodiversity. A growing human population can put strains on the ability of the Earth to maintain biological balance. The overfishing of the seas may be an early warning sign of this imbalance and of further trouble ahead. FISH FARMING TO THE RESCUE As the statute of John Cabot stands in Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland showing its age, it acts as a potential symbol of an age gone by when men hunted for food. Our history of being hunters and gathers has mostly vanished as animals became domesticated and food crops developed and became routinely harvested. The last vintage of this bygone was perhaps the hunting and capture of wild fish. Aquaculture may represent the new frontier in farming. This new industry may provide the needed food for a growing population. It has been estimated that aquaculture is now approaching about half of the world’s seafood demand and has helped make up the shortfall in wild fish catch over the past few decades. The industry is also keeping up with the growing demand for seafood worldwide, much of it coming from Asia. Rising income levels in Asia translate into more food consumption, including seafood. With rising demand comes the need for additional sources of seafood. Rising demand in seafood is particularly troubling, given the grim prospects of future harvesting of marine (saltwater) fish supplies. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that wild fish species populations are in serious trouble, with 76% of marine fish being either depleted, fully depleted, or over exploited. Depleted means that the catches are below historical levels, fully depleted refers to fish yields which have no room for more growth, and over exploited means the species is being caught at a level which is unsustainable in the long run. The FAO reports that 20% of marine fish are moderately depleted and only 4% the world’s marine stock are recovering or unexploited. Since 2008 aquaculture production has continued to grow with much of the production, as well as the demand, coming from Asia. Asia now accounts for an estimated 80% of fish produced by aquaculture. In particular, China has become a major player in the industry. China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of farm-raised seafood. India is in second place with Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand being serious players in the market. Even isolated Myanmar is ahead of the United States in aquaculture production. For centuries the Chinese have been raising fish in ponds, however, only recently has the practice become an industry. China has large coastal areas for fish ponds and cheap labor, making them very strong competitors in the global aquaculture industry. Recently the United States government has begun the process of opening federal waters to commercial fishing. Not only does the shrinking stock of ocean fish reduce domestic employment, it also creates the need for greater imports for the United States. For the United States, imported seafood represents a multibillion dollar deficit in the country’s current account. Most seafood now consumed by American consumers is imported, including a favorite, tilapia, 80% of which is imported from China. The collapse of the Atlantic cod supply caused the loss of thousands of jobs in fishing, fish processing, and related industries, and helped increase the trade deficit. There is some good news for the United States in that evidence of better management and fishing restrictions have started to cause a natural replenishment in some fish species in U.S. coastal waters, although the gains may be short-lived if abused. While China is leading the aquaculture industry by a large margin, the United States has begun to enter the playing field. While many Chinese fish farms are fishing pens or nets in coastal waters, a number of American fish farmers are using tanks. Tanks can be cleaner and considered healthier, but come at a greater cost. SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THIS STINKS Major aquaculture exporting countries have developed their industries to be competitive, however, there is some concern about the quality and safety of the product. China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand have all been accused of feeding farmed fish antibiotics and other chemicals. China has been accused of adding malachite green, a substance used for various biological diseases in fish, but banned in the U.S. due to its potential as a carcinogen. The chemical has turned up in some inspected fish from China. With only 2% of fish imported into the United States being inspected, American consumers may be eating potentially hazardous food products. Coastal farms may have the problem of algae bloom from fish excrement and feeding, additional water pollution to surrounding waterways, and possible escape of non-native species and their consequences if they are being raised. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), fish farming is an unhealthy and inhumane way to raise food. Waters are crowded with fish, they become polluted and filled with chemicals, fish contract diseases including sea lice, and then finally die a painful death at the hands of a fish processor. PETA also claims that mortality rates in fish farms are unreasonably high. Fish farming, like the raising of cattle is essentially reverse protein production. In other words, it takes more protein to feed the animals than is produced in the final product. Consumer appetites for top of the food chain products are inefficient and expensive. Carnivorous fish such as tuna or salmon must be fed “lesser” or “forage” fish such as anchovies or sardines captured from the sea. It is estimated that two pounds of food is required for each pound of fish. An estimated one-third of ocean wild catch is used as feed for carnivorous fish farms and feed for livestock such as pigs and chickens. Omnivorous fish such as carp, milkfish, and tilapia that eat both animal and plant matter have less of an impact on the remaining fish sea stock, but are still inefficient producers of protein. They also lack the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids found mostly in carnivorous fish. While fish in general require less food input than other farm animals (due to of the lack of need to generate body temperature), eating a vegetarian diet would be still more efficient. Fish farms, especially those on land can be expensive to operate. Land-based systems are more complex. Equipment such as tanks, pumps, filters, and energy needed to operate the farm can greatly reduce profitability. In addition, fish feed is a major cost, and land an additional cost not incurred by coastal farming. Offsetting these expenses relative to traditional fishing is a likely reduction in labor costs, no shipping vessel expenses, and possible lower supply costs. In addition, commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation and that danger is greatly reduced using fish farming. DEFUSING A TICKING TIME BOMB Aquaculture has its potential and pitfalls like most other industries. Perhaps more important than most industries, however, is the importance of food production for the human population. Recently the United Nations predicted that the world’s population would most likely continue to rise and not level off as some had earlier predicted. While population counting in the world is not exact, and predictions not certain, what does appear likely is that the human population, now standing at over 7 billion, will continue its sharp increase into the next century. Much of that growth will come from developing countries in Africa and Asia. While eventually the world’s population will begin to level off, the coming decades will see rapid growth. Feeding a growing world population will present many challenges for governments and policy makers in order to avoid the mass starvations seen by the world in previous times. A rising global population requires larger amounts of protein. Land-based animals are an expensive source of that protein. With the seas being depleted of fish and the aquaculture industry still being relatively new, more efficient and sustainable approaches may need to be developed to meet the increased demand. Experiments with genetically engineered fish such as those that can grow faster with less food, or those that can eat a vegetarian diet and still provide omega 3 fatty acids are currently under way. However, genetically engineered food products come with their own set of concerns. While the need is great, and the potential for growth and profitability is large, the future of aquaculture, especially in the U.S., still remains uncertain. INSTRUCTIONS: Consider the facts in the case to address the discussion questions below. Your response should be an essay format. Final response is limited to maximum of five pages. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. Who are the stakeholders in this case? 2. How could American aquafarmers compete with China and other Asian countries that currently possess a more competitive position in aquaculture? 3. Identify at least two ethical issues found in the case, take a position relative to these issues, and provide a reasoned argument to resolve the issues. 4. Considering social responsibility, what obligations does the industry have to society? QUESTIONS: 1. Who are the key stakeholders in this case? 2. How could American aquafarmers compete with China and other Asian countries that currently possess a more competitive position in aquaculture? 3. Identify at least two ethical issues take a position relative to these issues, and provide a reasoned argument to resolve the issues. 4. Considering social responsibility, what obligations does the industry have to society?
Your response should be an essay format. Final response is limited to maximum of five pages. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. Who are the stakeholders in this case? 2. How could American aquafarmers compete with China and other Asian countries that currently possess a more competitive position in aquaculture? 3. Identify at least two ethical issues found in the case, take a position relative to these issues, and provide a reasoned argument to resolve the issues. 4. Considering social responsibility, what obligations does the industry have to society? QUESTIONS: 1. Who are the key stakeholders in this case? 2. How could American aquafarmers compete with China and other Asian countries that currently possess a more competitive position in aquaculture? 3. Identify at least two ethical issues take a position relative to these issues, and provide a reasoned argument to resolve the issues. 4. Considering social responsibility, what obligations does the industry have to society?
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