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Have you ever thought about where your shrimp cocktail comes from? It could have been caught in a fishery (wild) or grown in and harvested from an aquaculture operation (farmed). It might have come from the U.S. or maybe it was imported from Southeast Asia or Latin America, which is likely since we import over 91 percent of the seafood we eat, and half of this is farmed. Perhaps you’re wondering why any of this matters.
It's important to know the source of your seafood because not all of them measure up the same. Some seafood is caught or farmed under regulations that protect the health of the folks that eat seafood as well as the health of the marine environment and the animals that live within it; however, some is not. By buying seafood from the United States and other reputable sources, you’re helping to conserve our ocean resources and support the economies and communities that ensure our seafood supply is safe, healthy, and sustainable. Learn more about aquaculture, the source of farmed seafood, here.
What is aquaculture?
Approximately half the seafood eaten worldwide—including in the United States—is farm-raised. Because harvest from many wild fisheries has peaked globally, aquaculture is widely recognized as the method by which we will meet the seafood demands of a growing population. As a result, aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world.
Aquaculture—also known as fish or shellfish farming—refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Researchers and aquaculture producers are farming all kinds of freshwater and marine species of fish, shellfish, and algae (seaweed). Aquaculture produces food fish, sport fish, bait fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs. LEARN MORE about different aquaculture techniques and technologies and the types of seafood commonly grown in aquaculture.
Aquaculture in the U.S.
As a complement to wild harvest fisheries, aquaculture can help meet the growing demand for seafood, reduce our dependence on imports, and help rebuild wild fish stocks. Domestic aquaculture is also critical to maintaining an infrastructure in coastal communities to support both commercial fisheries and aquaculture and all of the jobs associated with the seafood industry. LEARN MORE about what farmed seafood we produce in the U.S., how U.S. aquaculture is regulated, and how NOAA is working to enable sustainable domestic aquaculture.
Outside the U.S.
Many countries are developing regulatory systems for aquaculture and investing heavily in aquaculture research and development to provide seafood and create economic opportunities for coastal communities. Aquaculture production in the United States has not kept pace with production increases in other parts of the world. Half of the seafood we import is produced in aquaculture operations in other countries, contributing to our annual seafood trade deficit of more than $10.4 billion. LEARN MORE about global aquaculture production and the farmed seafood we import.
There are lots of questions about aquaculture. NOAA has a long and rich tradition in aquaculture and has been working on aquaculture-related issues since its predecessor agency, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, engaged in experimental oyster farming five decades ago. NOAA’s Office of Aquaculture has developed a series of FAQs to answer questions, highlight NOAA activities, and dispel common myths about aquaculture. We answer the top 10 FAQs here. For the full list of questions, click here.