Aquaculture is like agriculture, except that it's done in water, not on
land. (Aqua is the Latin word for water.) In other words, an aquaculturist
is a farmer of sea plants and animals. They're also called fish farmers.
Aquaculture is the science of raising aquatic plants and animals. Aquaculturists
breed, grow and produce crops and food for human use.
Aquaculturists run their own farms, often called "fish farms." They take
care of the fish, including their feeding. They also harvest the fish when
that time comes. Just like any farmer, an aquaculturist has to know a lot
about the animal. An aquaculturist uses knowledge of fish behavior
to create a good environment for the fish to grow and reproduce.
Aquaculture isn't a term that most people have heard, admits Jennie Koolstra.
She and her husband own a fish farm in Colorado.
"People in the industry know what that is, people in the industries that
sell to us know what that is, but everybody else -- when we just talk to people
we call it fish farming," says Koolstra.
Many aquaculturists raise fish like catfish, salmon, trout and shrimp.
The fish are sold to restaurants or markets. Some aquaculturists also farm
sea plants, like seaweed. The seaweed gets used to wrap foods like sushi rolls.
Within the aquaculture industry, there are a number of different jobs --
researchers, economists and veterinarians -- but the people known as aquaculturists
are the farmers.
Koolstra sees fish farming as a good opportunity for young people. She
and her husband were still in their 20s when they built their fish farm.
"This is a very good job for young people," says Koolstra. "It's a good
industry to get started in young, because of the physical demands, and it's
kind of an on-the-job learning situation, because every hatchery is going
to be different."
Experts say wild fish aren't reproducing fast enough to keep up with consumption.
Farming fish ensures a steady, controlled supply of fish.
There are two types of aquaculture farms: intensive and extensive.
- Intensive aquaculture uses technology and controlled environments
to farm fish. The fish are kept in large manufactured pools and fed by machines.
Intensive aquaculture uses complex technology. One of the largest fish farms
in the United States is the size of 26 football fields and is in the middle
of a desert!
- Extensive aquaculture involves raising young fish for release
into the wild and counting on their homing instinct to bring them back for
harvesting. Salmon fishing is the most common example of this kind of farming.
Experts say much of the salmon we eat would not be available if it weren't
for this kind of aquaculture.
An aquaculturist may be responsible for monitoring water temperature and
conditions in fish pools, controlling the hatching process, testing for disease
among fish, keeping track of the numbers and size of fish, feeding fish by
hand or with mechanized feeders, and harvesting fish using nets or complex
"You need to like to be outside because, even though it's fish farming,
it's still essentially farming," says Koolstra.
People in this field also conduct a great deal of research to ensure they
are operating their fish farm in the most productive way.
Fish don't keep bankers' hours, so neither do many aquaculturists. Many
intensive aquaculture fish farms have to be monitored 24 hours a day to ensure
none of the equipment malfunctions. The number of hours an aquaculturist
puts in depends a great deal on whether they own the farm.