Fish on a Farm


NOAA Aquaculture Program


NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

NOAA Aquaculture Program

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Every weekend small farmers around the country head to their local farmer's markets to sell their fruits and veggies.

Well guess what? There's a new farmer in town. Fish farmers.

In the U.S., we import over 80% of the seafood we eat, and half of that is farmed. This growing demand for safe, healthy seafood has prompted a revival of the fish farming industry here at home.

Farmers raise finfish using a variety of methods, but they all start out with baby fish or fingerlings raised in a hatchery. Once they are large enough, the fish are placed in either surface pens near the shore or submersible cages in the open ocean. The netting or cages allow ocean water to flow in and out, but keeps the fish contained in one area.  Fish food is dispensed from buoys floating on the surface at the top of the pen. Once the fish have matured – they are harvested using large vacuums. The fish are then prepped, placed on ice, and taken to market.

There are some environmental concerns associated with fish farming: For example, the pellets used to feed the fish are actually made from small fish caught in the wild.  In order to keep larger numbers of these important fish in the food chain, experts are now finding alternative ingredients for fishmeal.

Another concern is that too many cages in the wrong location can lead to water pollution.  But experts are now using computer models to map out sites where cages would have less environmental impact.

Fish farming can generate jobs and profits here at home.  And with the use of new technologies, it can also safely and sustainably meet the demands of a seafood hungry nation.