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Author: Etienne Hinrichsen MD AquaEco and Chairperson of theAquaculture Association of Southern Africa

( Article Type: Opinion )

Aquaculture is defined as the propagation, improvement, trade or rearing of aquatic organisms (plant and animal) in controlled or selected aquatic environments (fresh, sea or brackish waters) for any commercial, subsistence, recreational or other public or private purpose.
 Aquaculture now accounts for half of all global seafood related products and is set to increase as natural fish and other seafood resources become ever more overexploited and as oceans suffer from pollution, overfishing, poor management and global warming.

The South African (and African) aquaculture sector is very small compared to the scale thereof in other countries. Both in developed and undeveloped countries aquaculture has risen to become a major food production sector and is currently recognised as the fastest growing food sector in the world.

The small size of the sector in South Africa can be attributed to many factors that include; a limited number of candidate species with which to farm; a variable climate; a high energy coastline and more. Yet, the shortages of available marine fish stocks and the growing demand for fish in the market is reason to believe that South African aquaculture will expand.
The South African aquaculture sector is led by a globally significant abalone farming industry that exports its product to the Far East. Inland the sector involves the farming of trout and various other species such as crocodiles, tilapia, catfish and ornamental species. Significant new investments are being made around the coast in the farming of marine finfish. Aquaculture can pose potential negative environmental impacts through aspects such as: adding nutrients to water resources, the introduction of foreign species, the depletion of fish meal resources for feed, disease and more. The South African aquaculture sector is however well geared to manage and mitigate these negative impacts in a responsible and sustainable manner through various best management practices and guidelines within Government and the private sector. With much potential and with increasing Government support, aquaculture is set to grow in South Africa. In addition to this, the global aquaculture community recognises Africa’s resources and potential for the expansion of this food production sector.