Aquaculture is one of the most important food production systems on Earth. It has also been the fastest growing sector of agriculture for the past 40 years. Day by day we are domesticating additional species of fish, shrimp, crabs, bivalves, seaweeds and other denizens of freshwater and marine ecosystems—repeating in 50 years what has taken 5,000 years to accomplish on land.
By applying all we know about genetics, nutrition, animal health, and engineering to farming the waters, we now provide more than half of all seafood from farms. In 2012, production of fish exceeded the production of beef. Join us in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (January 5) to hear Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons of the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science describe how aquaculture is and will continue to be a very important aspect of our food supply.
Just as hunting and gathering for food on land has evolved from subsistence to sport and leisure, we are seeing the same thing in aquatic systems. There are no commercial freshwater fisheries left in the US, but enormous sport fishing. The same is happening in the ocean as overfishing has led to restricted seasons and gear types, marine protected areas, and stock enhancement from hatcheries.
Surprisingly, the University of Arizona has been a leader in aquaculture, exactly because of the state’s limited supply of water. Farmers in Arizona are under tremendous economic, environmental and social pressure to make the most efficient use of limited water resources. Integrating aquaculture into irrigation systems allows for a non-consumptive use of water that allows farmers to grow two crops with every drop of water and use the waste from fish and shrimp as organic fertilizer.
Written by Charles Prewitt, Academy Village Volunteer