Every year on November 21st, the world celebrates World Fisheries Day and gives recognition to the vast and sometimes underappreciated food source for millions of humans – fish. On this day it is important to promote sustainable fishing methods, increase public awareness of the value of fisheries, and protect aquatic ecosystems while sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them across the globe.
Why grow fish in aquaculture settings?
Efficient Resource Use and Quality Assurance
When compared to traditional open-water fisheries, aquaculture excels in resource optimization, carefully managing water and feed for increased productivity. Controlled conditions and monitoring ensure safer and healthier food reaches customers and societies
Consistent and Predictable Harvests for Food Security
Unlike traditional fishing, where harvests are subject to natural fluctuations and seasonal changes, aquaculture creates a more consistent and predictable supply of fish all year. By providing a steady supply, aquaculture helps diversify diets and as the demand for food rises, aquaculture is essential to improving food security.
Relief on Wild Fisheries and Ecosystem Preservation
By providing an alternative source of food, aquaculture reduces pressure on wild fish populations, supporting ecosystem conservation and preventing overfishing. Sustainable practices prioritize biodiversity preservation and minimize environmental impact.
Economic Opportunities and Innovation
Fish farming offers jobs at all phases of the aquaculture process, from farms and hatcheries to processing and distribution, generating income for nearby communities. The industry leads in technological innovations, characterized by practices like aquaponics, that enhance farming techniques and sustainability.
Aquaculture in Africa
People have been practicing aquaculture in Africa for centuries, but it has only recently begun to gain widespread recognition as a viable source of food and income. According to experts, Africa’s fish production has grown more than 11% yearly since the 2000s and expanded over five times in volume and nearly ten times in value in the last two decades (1).
Africa’s aquaculture industry is highly diversified in terms of the technology employed, the natural resources available, and the value chain structure. However, even with this diversity inland waters account for 82% of the production volume of aquaculture with the primary production system being earthen ponds, cages, and basins systems (1). A recent technology that has taken a central stage for its efficiency and wide applicability is aquaponics. When creating and developing the system it is not only important to take a closer look at the type of aquaponics systems but it is also important to consider what species of fish to focus on.
Understanding the Fish
Choosing the right fish species is a crucial aspect of successful aquaponics/aquaculture systems. Presently, the majority of Africa’s aquaculture production consists of freshwater species like catfish and tilapia (1) and here are some reasons why they are selected:
Tilapia are selected due to their adaptability and resilience. Additionally, these fast-growing fish tolerate diverse water conditions.
Catfish are known for their hardiness, as they can handle varied water conditions well. Their rapid growth and adaptability make them a secure choice in aquaculture.
(1) Hinrichsen, Etienne et al. (2022) : Prospects for aquaculture development in Africa: A review of past performance to assess future potential, ZEF Working Paper Series, No. 211, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF), Bonn, https://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:101:1-2022021001555935838790