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. 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. Approximately fifty percent of worldwide seafood consumption is raised via aquaculture. 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. As a result, aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production system in the world.

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.

To learn more about the business of aquaculture and to access Ocean Connect’s wide range of educational and career resources, please visit our Aquaculture snapshot.