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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 aquaculturalist
is a farmer of sea plants and animals.
Aquaculture is the science of raising aquatic plants and animals. Aquaculturalists
breed, grow and produce crops and food for human use.
"Since two-thirds of the Earth is covered with water, it is not surprising
that we would eventually raise fish and aquatic plants. We've got a whole
lot more room for underwater farming," says aquaculturalist Deirdre Barbar.
Aquaculturalists 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 aquaculturalist has to know a lot
about the animal. An aquaculturalist uses knowledge of fish behavior to create
a good environment for the fish to grow and reproduce.
Many aquaculturalists raise fish like catfish, salmon, trout and shrimp.
The fish are sold to restaurants or markets. Some aquaculturalists 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 aquaculturalists
are the farmers.
Aquaculture marks a major change in how we humans use sea plants and animals.
"Fishing is like hunting wild animals. Like hunters and gatherers who adopted
farming on land thousands of years ago, we must adopt sea farming to produce
adequate seafood for a growing world populace," says Rhode Island aquaculturalist
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.
An aquaculturalist's work environment and duties can be as diverse as the
fish species themselves.
"Where we work can range from the laboratory-type conditions of a small-scale
hatchery to open ocean fish farm conditions during a rainstorm," says Jay
Huner, an aquaculturalist in Louisiana.
An aquaculturalist 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 mechanical processes.
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 aquaculturalists. Many
intensive aquaculture fish farms have to be monitored 24 hours a day to ensure
none of the equipment malfunctions.
"As with any livestock industry, you are dealing with organisms that are
totally dependent upon you for life support. If an aerator or pump fails,
or you do not feed your fish....All your investment goes down the drain. So
you have to be available to look after every problem," says Huner.
The number of hours an aquaculturalist puts in depends a great deal on
whether they own the farm.
"Since they have the most to lose or gain, owners usually work longer days
to make their fish farm work," says Huner, who points out an owner's efforts
might not begin to be rewarded until one to two years after they begin.
Farm sea animals and plants
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