Commercial Aquaculture

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  • Topic: Aquaculture, Overfishing, Salmon
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  • Published : March 22, 2011
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publication 420-012

Planning for Commercial Aquaculture
Louis A. Helfrich, Extension Fisheries Specialist, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Tech Donald L. Garling, Extension Fisheries Specialist, Michigan State University


Aquaculture, the practice of growing finfish and shellfish under controlled conditions, is not a new concept. The Japanese, Chinese, Romans, Egyptians, and Mayan Indians of South America farmed fish for food and recreation prior to 2000 BC. They constructed ponds and raised fish much as fish are raised today. Both freshwater and saltwater fish are currently raised commercially throughout the world. Other fisheries-related products, such as shrimp, crayfish, oysters, clams, and frogs, are also raised commercially. Although many fish are reared commercially, the vast majority of fishery food products eaten in the United States are produced from wild stocks captured in natural waters, not farmed. Fishery food products are a potential answer to the growing problem of world dietary animal-protein shortages. Fish are able to convert their feed into flesh about two times more efficiently than chickens and five to ten times more efficiently than beef cattle. Feed conversion rates of fish are higher than other common commercial animal protein sources because: (a) fish can utilize foods that are not used by most land animals; and (b) they require less energy from their foods to live. Moreover, fish can use the entire three-dimensional environment of ponds, from top to bottom and sideways, for living space, while terrestrial animals are confined to the twodimensional surface of the ground. Consequently, the proper combination of fish species, adequate fertilizations, and careful feeding can result in yields approaching 6,250 pounds per acre compared to approximately 1,000 pounds per acre yield from beef cattle production. The potential for commercial production and the lure of high profits have accelerated the interest in fish farming and other types of aquaculture. Establishing a commercial aquacultural enterprise involves a four-step process that should be strictly followed by the prospective aquaculturist.

Planning Stage Economic Feasibility Biologic Feasibility Legal Constraints Accept

Step 1


Training Stage Water Management Fish Biology Fish Culture, Etc. Accept

Step 2


Small Scale Pilot Test Accept

Step 3


Commercial Operation
Figure 1. Flow Diagram: Four-Step Process to Establish a Commerical Aquacultural Enterprise

Step 4
Produced by Communications and Marketing, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2009 Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Mark A. McCann, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Alma C. Hobbs, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.

Step 1 -- Planning

I. Systems costs

An exhaustive planning stage is necessary before any large capital investment in aquaculture is made. This step is particularly important when deciding on the feasibility of any costly venture. The planning stage involves a detailed evaluation of the biologic, economic, and legal feasibility of raising a particular fish or group of fishes. Both economic and biologic considerations are of equal importance in the United States. Legal constraints can also severely limit the potential for aquaculture in certain areas.

1. Initial facilities investment

b. buildings and equipment (tanks,...
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