An aquaculturist is a scientist who studies and cares for freshwater and marine organisms. As an aquaculturist, your job is to produce fish and shellfish for human consumption, sport fishing and restocking bodies of water. You would work for fish farms, private laboratories, and government agencies, often in natural habitats. You are responsible for creating suitable living conditions for aquatic animals and plants, and assessing their functioning. Your roles will vary according to where you are hired.
Observing Water Organisms
As an aquaculturist, you must study the survival of water organisms by running experiments. You will analyze the way they breathe, how they live and their general functioning. You must keenly observe the impact of various water levels on the organisms’ survival and behavior. For example, when you are new in the field, you might work in an entry-level position in which you are responsible for maintaining the water levels above the aquatic organisms overnight. With adequate experience, you might become more involved in the investigation of results obtained from experiments on the water organisms.
Ensuring Food Safety
Aquaculturists ensure that fish and shellfish produced are safe for human consumption. Federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Fish and Wildlife Service preside over the production of aquatic organisms. Only a few drugs have been approved for aquatic animal use in the United States, and stern guidelines have been passed to ensure that no drug residues remain when the fish and shellfish are sold. Before administering any drug, an aquaculturist has to confirm that it will cause no harm to the environment and the public and has been approved for use in U.S. aquaculture.
Keeping Fish Records
Keeping fish records to help farmers know about their farms' performance and the resources spent is another vital task of aquaculturists. They record the fish population and how it varies, helping a farmer to evaluate how to develop ways to improve the farm's production. The expert keeps the daily and seasonal records that contain physical and financial details enabling the farmer to keep track of all outputs and inputs of the farm. For example, the daily records may reflect the amount of feed spent on every pond in the farm, while seasonal records may contain details on what is taken in and out of each pond.
Enhancing Wild Population
An aquaculturist is sometimes responsible for releasing fish raised in farms to enhance the wild population in a body of water. Practices have been established to manage the interactions between wild and farmed salmon, for instance, as the aquaculture sector must prosper without depleting the wild aquatic organisms’ population. Aquaculture experts help to enhance the wild aquatic population that has been reduced due to poaching and overfishing by releasing new generations of fish into the wild waters. With the large reduction in the wild salmon population, authorities have started stocking cultured fish for alleviation, restoration, and recovery.
- Purdue University College of Agriculture: USDA Living Science: Aquaculturist
- National Aquaculture Association: About U.S. Aquaculture
- USAID: Aquaculture Record Keeping
- Oxford Journals: Interactions Between Aquaculture and Wild Stocks of Atlantic Salmon and Other Diadromous Fish Species: Science and Management, Challenges and Solutions
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