Marine Fish Farming Environmental Impact Information

The rapid expansion from extensive pond aquaculture systems to the advanced intensive culture methods used today has led to a growing concern regarding the sustainability of the industry. Modern aquaculture has arrived at a time when environmental knowledge and concern has rarely been higher, and when it must compete with tourism, environmentalists and the general public. Many have labelled aquaculture as a path to environmental disaster due to the mistakes made during the pioneering efforts some 30 years ago - when the industry was starting out. Incidents of severe pollution and irreparable damage have occurred, especially in the coastal waters of pioneer aquaculture countries such as Norway and Scotland. By learning from the mistakes of others, the approach of aquaculture proponents has changed to that of risk mitigation and environmental sustainability. This does not mean that no environmental impact occurs from aquaculture (any activity by man will impact on a pristine environment), but merely means that the impacts are controlled and limited to ensure the continued existence of a healthy environment. This is no different to the evolution that has taken place, albeit faster, in the much more practiced agricultural industry which has had a much longer history.

Any of man’s activities (terrestrial and marine) have an impact on the environment. In the case of terrestrial agriculture, indigenous vegetation needs to be cleared to make way for crops. Even in a conservation area, unnatural barriers such as fences are required. In the marine environment, even the culture of seaweeds causes the deposition of organic matter on the seafloor (Buschmann et al., 1996). The key issue is to limit these impacts by implementing sound management practices. This will ensure the continued existence of a healthy environment wherever aquaculture ventures take place.

Different individuals and groups have direct and indirect interests in the use of natural resources and the management of potential environmental impacts. This may be because the individuals are part of a geographical community located close to aquaculture activities, and/or because they are impacted by aquaculture activities, such as fishing organizations, research institutions and conservation organizations. Community perspectives of aquaculture, and the level of understanding of potential environmental impacts, can affect aquaculture development (Productivity Commission, 2004).

By taking an ‘open’ approach to community concerns, an environment of complete distrust and pessimism towards the marine aquaculture can be avoided (Suryanata & Umemoto, 2005).The intention of the Marine Finfish Farmers Association of South Africa (MFFASA) is to take an open approach to communicating environmental impact issues on marine fish farming with all stakeholders so that realistic and representative information is transferred. A full document compiled by MFFASA detailing the interaction between marine aquaculture and the environment is available for download at the top of this page.

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A document entitled Marine Fish Farming Environmental Impact Informationcompiled by Marine Finfish Farmer’s Association of South Africa (MFFASA), and detailing the interaction between marine aquaculture and the environment, is available for download here in PDF form.