School of silver fish

Aquaculture

The Business of Feeding the World

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately 4.5 billion people get a significant source of their daily protein intake from fish.[1] But that doesn’t mean billions of people are going down to the pier every morning and casting their line out into the ocean (although plenty certainly do). Nor does it mean that all that fish is being caught out in the wild by commercial fisheries (although plenty of it certainly is). What it does mean, however, is that farm-raised fish and seafood – through a process known as aquaculture – plays an extremely important and growing role in satisfying the world’s food demands.

Aquaculture is the process of farming fish, shellfish, and plants in aquatic environments. It can be through submersible pens in the ocean or in artificial ponds hundreds of miles from the nearest natural body of water, but wherever and however it is done, the main goal of an aquaculturist is to increase production of whatever is being farmed (e.g., fish, shrimp, oysters, seaweed, etc.) beyond what is possible in nature. Aquaculture serves many different purposes, including the restoration of endangered species populations, wild stock population enhancement, fish habitat restoration, and the cultivation of exotic fish for aquariums, but its primary and most important purpose is the production of food.[2] Approximately fifty percent of worldwide seafood consumption is raised via aquaculture.[3] Because there has been such a steep decline in wild fish stocks, aquaculture is widely recognized as an increasingly vital way to meet the seafood demands of a growing population. In fact, over thirty percent of wild fish stocks have already reached their biological limit because of destructive fishing practices and overfishing.[4] As a result, aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production system in the world.[5]

Commerce and Science

Aquaculture is one of those fields of study (along with biomedical engineering and biotechnology) that fits under both commerce and science. That’s because while aquaculture is big business, that business is dependent on living organisms and therefore, requires knowledge of biological, chemical, environmental, fresh water (limnology), and oceanographic science. To manage an aquaculture company, you would certainly benefit from having a master’s degree in business. To operate an aquaculture company, you would certainly benefit from having a master’s degree in biology or another relevant area of science. But to own and operate a successful and profitable aquaculture company, you better have both that degree in business and in science because it is one of the few industries where knowledge of aeromonas hydrophila is as important as knowledge of financial statements.

Environmental Concerns

Aquaculture, when practiced on an industrial scale, is not without its detractors. Concerns over threats to both the environment and human health caused by (i) the spread of deadly diseases and parasites; (ii) the pollution of the ocean from nutrients, antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals; (iii) the discharge of nonnative species into the ocean; (iv) the destruction of mangrove forests and (v) the overfishing of wild fish to feed carnivorous farmed fish.[6] This has led to a call for greater oversight and regulation of the aquaculture industry.

Citations

  1. The Global Food System: An Analysis, Metabolic.
  2. What is Aquaculture?, Conserve Energy Future.
  3. What is Aquaculture?, Aquaculture Stewardship Council Foundation.
  4. What is Aquaculture?, Aquaculture Stewardship Council Foundation.
  5. About Aquaculture, NOAA Fisheries.
  6. About Aquaculture, Center for Food Safety.
The path to becoming an Aquaculturalist

The Path to Becoming an Aquaculturalist

From High School to Your First Job

Build a Solid Academic Foundation

Basics:

Take all science and math courses (biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics) and writing courses offered at your high school. Take all these classes at the most advanced level possible (honors, AP). This will help you to learn to think critically, problem-solve and build your knowledge base.

Recommended:

If not available at your high school, try and take biology-related (marine biology, microbiology, fish genetics, fish physiology, ecology), aquaculture or fisheries science-related, environmental science-related and aquatic science-related (hydrology, limnology, oceanography) classes offered online.

Keep in Mind:

Get work experience through a research internship. Learn how to write for both a technical and non-technical audience. Experience with both oral and written scientific and technical communication is equally important. Spend time learning the basics and the more complex concepts will follow naturally.

Dive In!

And become an expert

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Make all the right moves

Advice from those who know

Maintain an excellent GPA

Have work experience on your resume

Attend professional conferences and seminars

Build experience through internships in private industry or government

Join professional societies and organizations

Stay current by reading industry and professional journals

What degree is right for you?

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Undergraduate

A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement to work in aquaculture. If you are interested in the business of aquaculture, you do not necessarily need to attend a school with an aquaculture major and you should focus your studies on business and finance. You should, however, have a familiarity with some of the constituent areas of aquaculture including ichthyology, marine biology, zoology, hydrology, and limnology.

Graduate

Whether you have an entrepreneurial streak and want to start your own aquaculture business or go to work for a large industrial aquaculture company, you will certainly benefit from obtaining a master’s degree in business and finance. There are also graduate programs in fisheries management. As with your undergraduate studies, you will find it an asset to have a working knowledge of the basic science of aquaculture.

10 Schools With Excellent Aquaculture Programs

Want to see the full list of colleges and universities with degree offerings or relevant courses?

See the full list

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Aquaculture and Aquarium Science
Roger Williams University

Aquatic and Fishery Science
University of Washington

Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Ohio State University

Aquaculture and Fisheries Science
University of Rhode Island

Aquaculture and Aquarium Science
University of New England

Fisheries and Mariculture Program
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Marine Biology and Aquaculture
Salem State University

Marine Biology and Aquaculture
Salem State University

Tip 1

While business principles and best practices are fairly consistent no matter the industry, the unique nature of the aquaculture “product” requires that you supplement your business studies with the relevant science classes.

Tip 2

If you want to start your own aquaculture business, you need to learn how to maintain and repair machinery and have a working knowledge of aquaculture technology, Geographic Information Systems, and water quality monitoring.

Tip 3

If you cannot find an internship with an aquaculture company, you should seek one out with an agricultural or farming company as the basic business practices will be similar and transferrable to the aquaculture industry.

Have familiarity with one or more of the following areas

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Business strategy

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Aquaculture technology

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Leadership and management

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Entrepreneurship and innovation

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Financial accounting

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Global markets

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Business analytics

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Sustainable business

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Economics and finance

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Animal husbandry

Typical Job Functions of an Aquaculturalist

Here are some of the interesting things you could be doing.

Managing aquaculture farms.

Establishing budgets, monitoring production output, and preparing financial reports.

Setting business strategy.

Monitoring market activity and planning production to meet contract requirements.

Supervising and training aquaculture support workers.

Managing fish inventory and production.

Administering and executing policies relating to operation of the aquaculture business.

Ensuring sustainability of aquatic farms.

There’s an Ocean of Possibilities

Aquaculture is a great career choice for someone who wants to make a contribution to securing the world’s food supply. Aquaculture also allows you to pursue two distinct career paths – business and science – or for those who want to run their own aquaculture company, combine both of them into one interesting career.

Common jobs include:

  • Aquaculture Entrepreneur
  • Farm Manager
  • Hatchery Manager
  • Fishery Officer
  • Aquaculture Consultant
  • Exporter
  • Trader

Common employers include:

  • Aquaculture Farms
  • Fisheries
  • State and Federal Government
  • Nongovernmental Organizations
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Seafood Companies

Start your career search with our extensive list of employment websites.