Americans eat millions of tons of shrimp each year. Biologist Jim Diana told EarthSky that a lot of it is farmed in the waters of warm parts of Asia. He said this kind of aquaculture – farming of fish or water plants – can pollute local waters.
Jim Diana: Essentially you’re adding nitrogen and phosphorous waste from the shrimp or the feed to the local waters.
Dr. Diana, who’s been working with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, has been researching a more sustainable method of shrimp farming – which can be done even in colder climates. As part of the study, shrimp are raised indoors, in what he describes as a kind of greenhouse.
Jim Diana: Instead of turning over new water all the time, you would filter out the waste, you would treat for the chemicals in the water so that you could continue to reuse the same water in the indoor system.
He added that shipping fish overseas takes a tremendous amount of fossil fuel. Diana said his two-year study led him to conclude that it might be better, energy-wise, to have indoor aquaculture farms throughout an area like United States, near markets.
Jim Diana: If we work in terms of thinking about the future and trying to make positive returns for those people who are doing the right things when it comes to aquaculture, we will get big changes in how aquaculture produces species.
Jim Diana is also interested in much smaller scale aquaculture, which he said can be used to help people in the developing world:
Jim Diana: The rural poor in many areas, let’s take Thailand for example, they are often limited by their ability to have enough protein in their diet. They might have a small patch of land where they can grow rice, but their ability to grow animals to eat is low…and aquaculture can intervene in that.
He said that he’s worked with NGO’s to help people figure out how to farm fish in the equivalent of their own backyards
Jim Diana With a small pond and a little bit of management, rural poor can actually grow a crop that is high in protein that improves their household food consumption. And if they do that a little bit better, than they might even be able to grow animal crops that they can sell to other people.
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.