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Something Fishy: Aquaculture’s Environmental Consequences

The mass harvesting industry continues to flourish, deepening the disastrous effects on the planet

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[Noozhawk’s Note from Green Hawk Interactive Producer Sarah Ettman-Sterner: The Nuvigreen Project is a mentorship experience that helps bring to light a new source of environmental reporting, while supplying the community with up-to-date eco-news from fresh, youthful perspectives. Nuvigreen serves as terra firma to support and encourage high school and college students to pursue green careers, especially green journalism. Now, inspired young environmentalists have an outlet — a place to be seen, heard and published, and get feedback. It is a cooperative effort supported by Noozhawk and Santa Barbara educational institutions including Dos Pueblos High School and UCSB.]

I remember watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants one day when I was younger, and there was significant emphasis on the idea of playing “hooky.” Not hooky as you and I know it, where one skips classes at school, but rather a game where a fish sits on a hook and jumps off as it begins to tug.

SpongeBob’s boss, Mr. Krabs, forbade SpongeBob from participating because of the danger associated with it. Ironically, Mr. Krabs later ended up being the one caught by a hook and served for dinner — an unintended consequence of fishing with disastrous results.

Commercial fisheries are an enterprise that encompasses any form of mass fish harvesting for use in the market. There is a high demand for fish, so the industry thrives.

In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, his boss, Mr. Krabs, becomes an unintended victim of hooky
In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, his boss, Mr. Krabs, becomes an unintended victim of “hooky.” (Wikia courtesy photo)

Unfortunately, the industry also has contributed to several unfortunate environmental consequences, including — but not limited to — destruction of coral reefs and biodiversity loss as the food chain is disrupted by human practices.

These outcomes are mainly associated with “big boat” fishing, with nets, hooks and large-scale commercial fishing apparatus. Another part and lesser known faction of the industry — aquaculture — is associated with several different environmental maladies, namely, cultural eutrophication and water pollution.

Companies partaking in the industry are frowned upon by environmentalists and criticized for their destructive practices. Yet, aquaculture production not only flourishes, it is escalating.

In the United States, commercial aquaculture revenue increased about 40 percent from 2002 to 2006

In the United States, the revenue gained from aquaculture production industry from 2002 to 2006 has increased from about $900,000 to more than $1 million, an increase of about 40 percent over a mere five-year period.

From 1991 to 2000, global revenue from aquaculture production increased significantly

Global trends don’t appear much different, with inland aquacultures (the black) increasing from about 13 million to more than 25 million (more than a 100 percent increase) and maritime aquaculture (the red) increasing from about 17 million to more than 30 million (about an 80 percent increase,) both over 10 years. Proportionally, there is an obvious spike in metric tons of commercial aquaculture production.

Cultural eutrophication is essentially the destruction of an ecosystem because of some trauma from an outside influence, and is mostly associated with the reduction of dissolved oxygen content from an aquatic body.

With respect to aquaculture, eutrophication occurs when bacteria makes its home in the fishes’ fecal matter and depletes the oxygen in its own life cycle. This makes the ecosystem uninhabitable to the wild. Think about that for a moment, and then put the numbers together with it. Aquaculture consumption is increasing, steadily. This leads to biodiversity loss. This means that the ocean is continuing to decline in health and is becoming a place where SpongeBob and his aquatic buddies can no longer live.

So, the next time you’re out for some fresh, farm-raised seafood, think for a moment where that fillet you order is actually coming from, and what the real price we all will pay when it comes to the negative effects of aquaculture on the health of our planet.

Dos Pueblos High School student Andrew Sanchez is a participant of the Nuvigreen Project, a student-produced reporting series in Noozhawk’s Green Hawk section.

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