What is aquaculture and how is it important
Aquaculture – the cultivation of aquatic organisms such as fish or shellfish – has been practiced since ancient times. Aquaculture in the United States began in earnest in the1960s, with extensive research and production of catfish in the southeast.
Aquaculture activities may include the sale, possession, capture, production, breeding, transportation, and processing of fish or aquatic plants. The production of many finfish and shellfish species, as well as aquatic plants, have been enhanced by being grown in ponds, constructed raceways, containers and support structures placed in public and private waters.
Currently, the Chesapeake Bay oyster population is at about one percent of historic levels because of over-harvesting, pollution and disease; primarily disease. Not only did oysters once provide the basis for a robust seafood industry in the region, but the billions of oysters that once inhabited the waters served as natural filters to help keep the Bay clean. By using aquaculture techniques, it is being discussed if oysters can be produced for market and keep watermen in business, while providing habitat for other species and filtering the water. The conclusion is yet to be determined, as there are many complex factors involved.
Under Governor Martin O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland is working to implement aquaculture enterprise zones which will help streamline the permit process in the Chesapeake and coastal bays, provide incentives to catalyze private investment in leasing operations and encourage commercial fishery experts to make the transition to aquaculture. Through this focus, Maryland can continue its tradition of high quality seafood while improving our local economy and improving water quality.
- Chris Judy