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Organic Aquaculture

Updated on April 24, 2011
The spiny lobster or crayfish is usually caught wild in New Zealand, but like many other species, is decreasing under the voracious appetites of the nation.
The spiny lobster or crayfish is usually caught wild in New Zealand, but like many other species, is decreasing under the voracious appetites of the nation. | Source

Is there such a thing as organic aquaculture? If so, how important is it?

Intensive aquaculture can have a range of negative ecological effects, such as genetic contamination, disease, habitat modification and release of toxins and chemicals. Organic practices can potentially mitigate these negative effects.

  • Slowly growing since the 1990s and becoming more mainstream (e.g. in UK, Europe), and is a high value product
  • ~ 0.4 million ha of certified organic aquaculture globally
  • Estimated US$46.1 billion internationally (2007)

There are issues with labelling regimes, and this currently presents an international barrier (for example, are wild caught fish ‘organic’?, what are the requirements to be organic?)

Becoming organic tends to conflict with large-scale, intensive (economically viable) practices/goals and the aquaculture industries in general are still figuring out how to be sustainable, what best practices are and what ecological considerations is can or should be implemented. Current standards are often quite strict and some people argue they are unattainable (and therefore should be relaxed).

There is a definite opportunity and market, and organic aquaculture may become a significant management option. Currently integrated aquaculture systems look like they will form the base of approved organic farming practice.

Examples of existing organic aquaculture

Some countries have created standards and certifying bodies (e.g. Hungary, Biokontrol Hungaria) and a number of ‘self-labelling’ organisations exist on local scales.

Recent new rules since 7th July in the EU to define the organic aquaculture industry

There are existing organic farms, but they tend to be small-scale and only sell locally (within the country) e.g. NZ Salmon sold in markets, and rarely in some supermarkets

Aquaponics (an outgrowth of aquaculture in many places) : USDA Organic certified and Food Safety Certified

Indonesian Shrimp farms are certified as organic but are in fact, not.

Some organic fish feeds becoming available, and/or the option of integrated multi-species systems (e.g. growing plants using aquaponics, as well as larvae or other fish)

Interest in farming salmon and Atlantic Cod

Land based tanks (closed containment systems) have fewer impacts (e.g. disease, escapes) but may not be economically viable for all species (e.g. turbot versus cod)


The Snapper (Pagurus auratus) is the best known food fish in NZ.
The Snapper (Pagurus auratus) is the best known food fish in NZ. | Source

Some Useful Sustainable Aquaculture Textbooks

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