Certain species of whitefish that are better adapted for aquaculture environments, like tilapia andpangasius, will knock tuna and salmon down the list, especially as those fish become more expensive as stocks tank.
Aquaculture gets a bad reputation, mainly for environmental reasons, but it isn’t bad if it’s done right, says Greenberg.
That means moving away from large-scale aquaculture systems that pollute the open ocean and instead farming animals and plants that do well in small plots of ocean. That includes bivalves like clams, mussels, and oysters and edible seaweeds like kelp.
“If aquaculture were organized around this principle, then it would be good for the country,” says Greenberg.
Smith has pioneered an aquaculture system that “restores rather than depletes the ocean.” Smith raises seaweed and shellfish together on a 20-acre underwater farm in Long Island Sound. Kelp and mussels are grown on floating lines that are attached to the sea floor by anchors. Below that are cages of oysters and clams.
This method requires very little gear (no trawls or pens) so it isn’t environmentally destructive. The system is also self-sustaining because the kelp and shellfish feed themselves by straining food particles from the water. They also help the ocean by removing nitrogen – a nutrient that can lead to harmful algae blooms – from the water.
Smith is trying to change America’s taste preferences by teaming up with restaurants in New York City to work kelp into foods that are already popular, including kelp butter and kelp fettuccine.
Tilapia andpangasius,already the fifth- and sixth most-consumed fish in America, respectively, will assume a greater portion of the market since bothare nearly 100% farmed today.”I could see them going up a notch or two,” says Greenberg.
The air-breathing pangasius, marketed as basa, swai, or tra in the U.S., is a particularly good choice for aquaculture because it can tolerate crowding by sticking its mouth above the water to get oxygen.
But the fast-growing fish are still a hard sell in America. For one thing, carp is very bony, making it tough to filet and eat. Americans seem to struggle more with gnawing their way around bones than the Chinese do, says Greenberg. Maybe we’ll “come up with some giant, horrible machine called a carp-masher,” he jokes.
The seafood we eat in the future will ultimately be influenced by a combination of what’s left in the ocean and the ethical decisions we make about what’s good for the environment. “If we don’t have a choice, we’ll naturally gravitate toward cheaper and more efficient foodslike carp and seaweed,” says Greenberg.