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Learn how to farm salt water fish ...and more
The term “Mariculture” refers to a sub-category of Aquaculture that deals specifically with Marine Aquaculture.
According to the FAO the term “Mariculture” (in its present usage) may be defined as:
“The culture of marine organisms, both plants and animals, in an aquatic medium or environment which may be completely marine (sea), or sea water mixed to various degrees with fresh water. This definition would include both the sea and inland brackish-water areas. These can be freshwater or salt water organisms, or have development phases in both types of waters.”
Marine fish stocks are increasingly under pressure.
Every year, this situation provides more opportunity (and potential profitablity) for the mariculture industry.
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Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
What is Mariculture?
Mariculture is a complicated business and anyone who intends entering it should undertake extensive research on the topic. It requires a large investment of time and money over a period of years. By conducting a feasibility study before starting a farming venture, you can determine how much it will cost to operate a farm and if the right conditions for growing a particular species are available.
Given the high start-up costs, most successful mariculture operations target high-value fish, such as ornamental fish, as well as food fish, such as red snapper, salmon, and eels. Shellfish mariculture has a broader product range including clams, oysters, shrimp, scallops, and crabs. Algae are often produced with finfish or shellfish to provide a food source for the primary product.
A major cause of failure in any aquaculture or mariculture operation is poor marketing. In mariculture, farmers are competing with wild-caught commercial species. This can be beneficial, given wild stocks are declining and seasonal availability can produce supply shortages that a producer can fill if he or she can arrange harvests for the times of shortages. However, if wild catches are plentiful, the producer may not be able to sell the product at a price that covers costs.
Types of Mariculture
The kinds of aquaculture generally practiced use either salt or freshwater species, under either extensive or intensive production. Another over-lapping classification for aquaculture systems considers the origin of the main inputs to the system, water and nutrients. This classification defines three types of systems: open, semi-closed and closed systems.
Extensive Mariculture Production (Ep)
An extensive production system involves the use of natural waters (i.e. oceans, saltwater estuaries, rivers, dams, lakes and various impoundments). It is a system where animals are stocked, allowed to spawn and increase in number and size.
Sometimes there will be some input in terms of water, fertilization, feeding and/or protection. Usually a simple stocking and harvesting routine is followed.
Extensive culture systems have been employed throughout the world since man learned to fish, particularly where there are shallow coastal lagoons, as in river deltas in the Tropics and Mediterranean areas (Nile delta, Rhone delta, lagoons and canals in the Adriatic Sea, Yucatan Peninsula coastal lagoons in Mexico, etc), and in more recent times when impoundments have been stocked for angling recreation.
This system is also employed for casual harvesting (i.e. non commercial) by rural communities. It is generally accepted that it is less expensive to produce a harvestable crop from an Extensive Production system than that from an Intensive Production system. Water is available at little cost, manpower needs are lower and the degree of expertise required from both the farmer and his workers is considerably less for extensive than intensive fish production.
The estuaries, ocean, lakes, and dams used for extensive production are usually large and have sufficient food and cover to support a large number of fish and allow them to grow reasonably quickly to a marketable size. However, they will grow more slowly than fish which are force fed under intensive conditions.
The mass of fish harvested is considerably less on a per hectare rating than under intensive production. Nutritional quality may be more variable also, depending on water quality and environmental conditions that determine fish food quality (climate variability, nutrient input to lagoons and dams, competition amongst species for the same food sources).
Intensive Mariculture Production (Ip)
An intensive production system (IP) is managed to ensure optimum water conditions, feeding regimes and production of marketable flesh at all times. This is important for high production.
It requires a well designed and managed production unit so water flow, water quality, light intensity, oxygenation, waste build up, feed, predation, competition and most other factors affecting or limiting production are efficiently controlled, improved or otherwise manipulated. Reproduction can sometimes be initiated slightly out of season by manipulating water temperatures, oxygen and light intensity.
Pools, raceways or dams are typical units for intensive production. They are designed and constructed to offer the farmer as much control as possible, to circumvent problems and to improve any natural limitations. They also enable the farmer to determine exactly his marketable stocks and have them available whenever they are needed.
Intensive aquaculture for example may involve artificial spawning by means of hand stripping, with or without hormone stimulation. The ova (eggs) are hatched, and the young are raised, under protected and controlled conditions. They are regularly sorted and those of the same size are kept together. The weaker fish (those that would normally have died had they been in a natural habitat) are now a useable and marketable additional percentage.
In a hatchery, diseases that are often dormant in wild fish population may suddenly develop and spread quickly because of the large number of fish contained in a small amount of water. Epidemic proportions may be reached quickly. Treatment is imperative to ensure a suitable harvest and is often costly. However, most sicknesses can be quickly and efficiently treated.
To avoid the spread of disease, fish must be surveyed often, and procedures for fish health monitoring must be put in place. Observation, experimentation and selection for improved breeding are usually extremely difficult where extensive production is practiced, but relatively easy in a hatchery or intensive farm. Selection for fast growth, good feed conversion, marketable characteristics and many other factors are usually done over a long period of time.
Finding a Suitable Location for Mariculture
Problems facing both mariculture and freshwater aquaculture operations include: water quality factors, such as temperature, oxygen, ammonia, and nitrite levels, as well as bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases.
Mariculture operations must be able to maintain salinity levels and adapt to the changing needs of the culture animals.
Disease-free seawater can be made with sea salt, but it is often expensive.
Raw seawater can be expensive given the typically high value of waterfront property.
Raw seawater can introduce diseases and competitors that can devastate culture organisms.
Given the constraints listed above, it is evident that site selection is probably the single most important factor that determines the commercial viability of a mariculture operation.
An operation should be located, designed and operated to provide optimum water quality and to avoid conditions that may induce stress, reduce growth or predispose the fish to disease.
Some biological and natural distribution information for the species should be known before a site is selected i.e. is the species found naturally in that location, are the temperature limits of the area within that of the species etc.
For open or flow through systems, the area should be of a suitable depth, have good tidal flow with pristine conditions and ideally sheltered from intense wind and wave action.
The main physio-chemical parameters that need to be considered in grow out systems include factors such as water temperature, water quality, dissolved oxygen and light.
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