Fish are the primary source of animal protein in the diets of over 3 billion people. As the world’s population grows and incomes increase in developing countries, demand for fish and other seafood products is expected to double by 2030.
To meet this demand, aquaculture production — the farming of aquatic organisms — must also double by 2030. However, the industry faces challenges, including how to sustainably grow more fish without overtaxing our resources or harming the environment. How do we feed the fish that will feed the world?
This is the overarching theme of the 17th International Symposium on Fish Nutrition and Feeding, hosted by the University of Idaho at the Sun Valley Resort from June 6u through June 10. Over 400 participants from 35 countries are expected to attend.
The presentations and discussions that will occur at this symposium are important to the world and to Idaho.
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People have farmed fish for thousands of years, but it is only in the past half century that effective commercial fish feeds were developed, allowing production to increase and the amount of fish produced per volume of water to intensify by a factor of 20 or more.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service researchers did much of the work supporting development of modern fish feeds in Hagerman. This laboratory is now owned and operated by the UI’s Aquaculture Research Institute and is the top fish nutrition laboratory in the country.
The institute also leads the world in developing strains of fish that flourish when fed all plant-protein feeds, a major step toward transitioning the global aquaculture industry to the “feeds of the future” formulated using sustainably produced ingredients.
Aquaculture is a big business in Idaho — we produce 72 percent of the trout reared for food in the United States, almost all in the Magic Valley where spring water is the perfect temperature and quality for trout. The Idaho aquaculture industry also produces catfish, tilapia, freshwater ornamental fish for hobbyists and even frogs for high school science classes.
Although aquaculture has a century-long history in Idaho, this pales in comparison with aquaculture in China, where the first written record of aquaculture dates from the fifth century B.C. China’s aquaculture industry leads the world, producing 10 times more than the second-place country. Chinese scientists will be well represented at the symposium, with more than 100 in attendance.
By hosting this symposium and bringing world aquaculture leaders together in Idaho, UI and the Aquaculture Research Institute demonstrate our commitment to globally significant research and training tomorrow’s leaders. Together, we can help ensure a growing and environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry that will provide consumers safe, healthful and high-quality seafood well into the future.
Ron Hardy is the director of the University of Idaho Aquaculture Research Institute and chair of the International Symposium on Fish Nutrition and Feeding.