Stronger Regulation of Aquaculture Farms Introduction

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Kennedy Hall

Unit III Argument Essay

8 December 2014

Stronger Regulation of Aquaculture Farms


Aquaculture is the process of farming fish for human consumption. Whereas aquaculture is beneficial in providing food for our growing population, it also has its drawbacks. One of the biggest issues with aquaculture is the accidental escape of exotic and potentially invasive aquatic species into our native waters, which results in the destruction of habitats and the endangerment/extinction of our native species. In order to prevent these escapes, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries needs to enforce bi-yearly inspections of aquaculture farms to ensure proper containment of farmed aquatic species.

Risk of Extinction [Consequence with counter argument revision]:

Aquaculture inspections and regulation need to be put in place to protect our native aquatic ecosystems. However, not all people agree. Gunnar Knapp, director and professor of Economics Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, suggests that regulations would make fish farming too costly and then the aquaculture business and fish production would decline (Knapp). According to Knapp, the United States has some of the lowest production rates in the world, less than 200,000 metric tons of fish, as a result of the already existing aquaculture policies. Why then would we enact more regulation and inspections when our aquaculture production is already low because of regulation requirements? The regulation we have is not working. Exotic species keep escaping into our environment and if they continue to do so our ecosystem will be compromised and native species will become endangered. Many invasive marine species change their new environments by preying on the native species, changing the habitat with extensive coverage, or creating a new structure of life that the native species may or may not be able to adapt to (Bax). For example, the catfish industry is concentrated in the southeast of the United States. (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). Since the industry has boomed in that area, the native freshwater mussel population has declined to the point where they are labeled as endangered because the catfish are escaping their enclosures and are preying on the native mussels (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). With higher regulation and more inspections, the native freshwater mussel population would not be so at-risk because the escape of the catfish could have been prevented. If the state does not enact more inspections, our native aquatic species, such as the freshwater mussels, will become extinct. Yes, cost is a concern, but endangering our native species is even more of a concern. According to The National Research council, invasive marine species is one of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity (Rosamond, Williams, Strong 1655). We cannot continue to put our wildlife into danger. Once a species is extinct there is no turning back. We must continue regulate aquaculture and increase inspections in order to preserve our environment. Exotic species are not only a risk to our own ecosystem, they are a risk to ecosystems all over the world.

Atlantic Salmon in British Columbia [Circumstance with qualitative date revision]:

Around the world, aquaculture has contributed to the release of exotic marine species, including but not limited to fish, parasites, and pathogens (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). As aquaculture expands, the number of invasive marine species is increasing (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). An obvious example of this is prevalent in the Southeast of the United States. "Freshwater mollusks are the most endangered group of animals in North America, and 90% of native mussel species designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern are found in the Southeast where the catfish industry is concentrated" (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). Ninety percent of endangered mollusks in all of North America are found where the catfish industry is concentrated. That is a huge percentage! This is an example of one of the effects that an escaped exotic species has on our environment. Exotic species prey on our native aquatic organisms, which leads to a dramatic decline in their populations due to a lack of defense.

Another example of the widespread populations of exotic species is found with the Atlantic salmon industry. Between 1987 and 1997, more than 500,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from the coast of North America and are now being found in 77 different British Colombian rivers (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). Those salmon escaped from North America and traveled all the way across the ocean, causing habitat disturbance all along the way. Exotic invasions are not only harmful to their surrounding ecosystems, they are also harmful to other ecosystems all over the world. The Atlantic salmon are proliferating so rapidly that 40% of Atlantic salmon caught in the North Atlantic ocean and more than 90% caught in the Baltic sea are from farmed origin, as shown by the genetic differences between farmed and wild salmon (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong 1655). The farmed salmon are taking over the habitats that the wild salmon typically inhabit, which is causing a decline in the population. In the Baltic sea only 10% of the original population of salmon still exists. Unfortunately, since the farmed salmon population is so large it may be too late to do anything to help the wild salmon. In the North Atlantic region though, 60% if the native population of salmon still exists. There is still time to make a difference. That is why we need enforce aquaculture inspections. It is not too late to prevent other invasions like the Atlantic salmon invasion. We can still preserve our native aquatic life, but in order to do so we must enforce policies on regulation as pointed out my specialists Naylor L. Rosamond, Susan L. Williams, and Donald R. Strong.

Clear Policy on Exotic Introductions [Authority]:

In "Aquaculture- A Gateway for Exotic Species," in the online journal, Science, authors Naylor L. Rosamond, director of Center on Food Security and the Environment, Susan L. Williams, holder of the Distinguished Service Award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, and Donald R. Strong, professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, discuss fish farming in the food industry and how it has resulted in the release of invasive marine species. According to Rosamond, Williams, and Strong, "A clear policy on exotic introductions is needed as aquaculture expands - one that includes scientific risk assessment for all nonnative introductions and single-agency oversight for the prevention, containment, and monitoring of potentially harmful exotics" (Rosamond, Williams, and Strong). All three of these experts study the environment, specifically aquatic ecosystems, and they agree that a clear policy needs to be made regarding the management of aquaculture farms to prevent to escape of exotic species because they harm our ecosystem. One way to protect our environment would be to issue aquaculture farm inspections, as done so by the "single agency" of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The inspections would ensure proper containment for the farmed aquatic species to avoid any accidental escapes. We do not have to create policies blindly. Oregon and Washington State have already enacted more strict forms of regulation to prevent the introduction of exotic species to their water ways.

Oregon and Washington State Regulation [Comparison]:

There are several states that issue inspections and/or regulation in order to prevent the introduction of exotic species. For example, in 2002 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued ballast water "inspections," meaning that ships are now required to filter the water before dumping it twenty-four hours prior to docking in the harbor (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality). If owners/operators of the ship do not comply with the state's regulation then they may be charged with fines of up to $25,000 per violation (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality). This policy was put into place in order to prevent ecological damage, economic costs, and human health concerns (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality).

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also serves as another example of regulation of exotic invasive species. After the escape and invasive overtake of the Atlantic Salmon from aquaculture farms in 2001, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a policy which gave them the authority "to work with marine net pen operators to improve prevention of escapes from net pens" (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and the authority "to regulate species and stocks of fish reared in marine net pens" (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). Washington now has the power and responsibility to ensure proper enclosures for aquaculture farming.

Other states, such as Oregon and Washington, have realized the impact that exotic species have on our environment, economy, and health and have taken the steps in order to ensure the safety of these things. Virginia has no such laws regulating the aquaculture in our state. The policy that I am proposing will work just like the previous two that I mentioned. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will be responsible for inspecting aquaculture farms at least twice a year to ensure the quality of the pens to prevent the escape of exotic species. If the owners of the farm are found to be in fault they will be charged with a fine of up to $20,000 a day. The inspections will force aquaculture farmers to have the highest quality pens in order to save our ecological system. The inspections policy enacted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries would serve as a system of ecosystem management for our aquatic habitats.

Ecosystem Management [Definition]:

Monitoring aquaculture and preventing the escape of invasive species is an act of ecosystem management. Ecosystem management is "a process that aims to conserve major ecological services and restore natural resources while meeting the socioeconomic, political, and cultural needs of current and future generations" (Wikipedia). For example, the development of the National Fire Plan was created to rehabilitate fire damaged forests and woodlands in New Mexico, California, Montana, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado, that were and continue to be affected by catastrophic wildfires (Ecosystem Management Inc.). This restores the environment and develops plans to prevent wildfires in the future. Similarly, preventing the escape of exotic, invasive species is a form of conserving our ecosystem by ensuring that native species and their habitats are not harmed. This also helps to meet the needs of future generations because we are keeping up with technology by allowing aquaculture, but modifying it so that the environment is safe. The best way to manage our ecosystem and prevent the escape of exotic species is by issuing mandatory inspections for all Virginia aquaculture farms. Ecosystem management is one of our responsibilities as custodians of this planet.

Custodianship [Value]:

Finally, this policy should be put into action because it is our responsibility to protect the wildlife around us. We are custodians of the environment; meaning that we are responsible for guarding, protecting, and maintaining the wildlife (Merriam and Webster). A few little fish escaping from their cages may seem insignificant, but they can actually cause catastrophic effects. Many fish grown in aquaculture are not native to the waters they grow in. When they escape our native fish are preyed upon, and they have no defense against the new predators (Bax). Not only that, but the exotic fish can change the habitats that they are introduced to (Bax). These things result in fewer fish and plants from aquatic environments, which sends a cascade of endangerment and possibly even extinction.

Human life cannot be sustained without the environment. We depend on it for everything. We depend on fish and aquatic plants for food and many people who life on the coasts, around lakes, or on rivers, depend on the water as a source of income. As our population grows, it is getting harder and harder to preserve the environment because we do depend on it for so many resources. Individually, we do not realize the impact our actions have on the ecosystem, which is why legislature needs to make us more aware. Escapes of exotic species from one farm may not make a very big impact, but unregulated farms all over the state definitely will. We are custodians of the environment, but not only that we are custodians of the future generations to come. It is possible that we will not see the effects of exotic species in our lifetime, but our children and grandchildren will. Do it for the generations to come. Regulate the aquaculture farms.


The effects of unregulated aquaculture farms can be catastrophic to the biodiversity of our aquatic ecosystems. It is our responsibility to protect the our environment by enforcing aquaculture farm inspections to prevent the escape of invasive species into our environment. New laws can be intimidating at first, but it will be beneficial for our environment and will help sustain our plants biodiversity.


Bax, Nicholas et al. "Marine Invasive Alien Species: A Threat to Global Diversity." Marine Policy. 27. (2003): 313-323. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.

Knapp, Gunnar. "The Political Economics of United States Marine Aquaculture." Bull. Fish. Res. Agen. 35 (2012): 51-63. Web. 8 December 2014. .

Merriam and Webster. "Custodian." Merriam-Webster. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. ionary/custodian>

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. "Emergency Response Program: Ballast Water Management." Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Web. 07 December 2014. .

Rosamond, L. Naylor, Susan L. Williams, and Donald R. Strong. "Aquaculture-A Gateway for Exotic Species." Science vol 294. (2001): 1655-1656. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Aquatic Invasive Species: Atlantic Salmon (Salmo Salar)." Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Access Washington. Web. 07 December 2014. .

Wikipedia. "Ecosystem Management." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 November 2014. Web. 07 December 2014. .
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