ARS Aquaculture: More Than Fish Farms
by Caird Rexroad, AgResearch Magazine
Posted: 2018-01-02 15:50:44 EST

If you are planning to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, adding some seafood to your diet might be a good way to start. Seafood is a highly recommended, nutritious source of protein. That’s one reason why Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in laboratories around the country are focused on finding better ways to produce farm-raised seafood. Another reason is simple: We need a thriving U.S. aquaculture industry.

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, and ensuring its future is critical to our diet and our health. It also is a matter of basic economics.

U.S. marine and freshwater aquaculture production now ranks 16th worldwide, with a farmgate value approaching $1.4 billion annually. By contrast, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $91.7 billion on seafood products as recently as 2014. That’s because some 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. We now run a $14 billion “seafood deficit” each year, meaning we bring in that much more seafood than we export. The number of “caught” fish consumed in the United States has remained static since the 1980s, and wild-caught harvests are either maxed out or in decline. That means there is a huge opportunity to produce more seafood here in the United States.

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