New Study Shows Minimal Environmental Impact from Commercial Aquaculture

The need to feed a burgeoning world population points to seafood as a key resource. Good news is that a study conducted off Panama’s Caribbean coast to evaluate the impacts of organic and inorganic pollution from offshore fish farming, one of the major concerns raised in relation to commercial aquaculture production, found minimal environmental impact. This is the first report of its kind from a commercially scaled aquaculture facility that utilized offshore submersible cage technologies. The farm studied houses 22 prism-shaped cages 8 miles offshore in waters from 180 to 210 feet deep. It produces more than 1,500 tons of fish per year.

“Several Caribbean countries exhibit enormous potential for offshore aquaculture. When we look at the map of the Caribbean region, most of what we see is the ocean and rather than competing for limited space on land and distal waters, that’s where we think seafood production should take place. But we must be careful not to go into low energy sites and coastal waters to avoid any activity that could be detrimental to the environment and compete with fisheries. Properly developed aquaculture will benefit the next generations of fishermen and consumers,” says Daniel Benetti, professor and director of aquaculture at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, in Miami, FL.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.