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Aquaculture | Farming

Difference Between Pisciculture and Aquaculture

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Technology has developed over time to make life easier and to benefit mankind. Similarly, the technology and methods of pisciculture and aquaculture have been developed in order to meet the market’s steadily increasing demand for seafood. Broadly, pisciculture is a method of artificially breeding and rearing fish. It is a form of the umbrella method of aquaculture, which is a way of harvesting, breeding, and rearing any form of fish and water organisms from various water environments. The terms for these practices vary, and include other jargon such as “fish farming” and “aquafarming.” All these terminologies are often used interchangeably and sometimes confused for each other. 

Pisciculture and aquaculture are closely related to each other and are considered to be similar in terms of process. However, the differences between them lie in the location of farming, the control over the farming environment, and the sustainability and ethics of farming.

Both of these fish-rearing technologies are used for commercial purposes to provide food. They, therefore, benefit the economy. Fish bred whether artificially or in the wild end up stocking the seafood section at your local grocery store. However, major businesses as well as other industries such as fashion, pharmaceuticals, and energy also benefit from fish culture. This can be seen in how Omega 3 from fish is found in different types of vitamins available at the drugstore. In order to make a distinction between aquaculture and pisciculture, let’s dive deeper into how each method works and what they provide for us.

What is pisciculture?

The term “pisciculture” may sound foreign and awkward. This because it is derived from the Latin word “pisces” which means relating to fish. Pisciculture is often referred to as fish farming because it involves the process of rearing and breeding fish in a manmade facility or in enclosures. 

Generally, the pisciculture technique involves collecting and hatching fish eggs. The hatched fish are then taken care of in separate facilities, where they are nursed, fed, and harvested and then distributed to other locations that needs them. 

This method of fish farming greatly depends on having an ideal environment for piscine activities. To do this, specific measures have to be taken to ensure that the tanks or ponds provide a safe habitat for the fish to develop and reproduce. 

Firstly, the depth of the pond needs to be exact. The volume of water where the fish dwell affects the way they grow and breed. Shallow ponds have been established to increase productivity. Therefore, distance between the enclosure’s surface and its floor does not normally surpass about 5 meters in length. Of course, this also varies depending on the kind of fish being bred.

Another element that affects the pisciculture process is the quality of water and its chemical condition. These factors will need to be regularly monitored to maintain a good environment for the fish. Alkaline water, as compared to acid water, is generally a more ideal chemical balance for the development of fishes. Fish farmers will also need to take note of water pollution and take measures to guard against this, as tainted water conditions will harm the fishes’ development.

A third physical factor that can impact pisciculture is water temperature. As fish are cold-blooded, the temperature of the water they are in needs to be consistent. Ideally, they shouldn’t be swimming in water that is too frigid, as this will significantly stagnate their productivity.

Pisciculture offers multiple benefits in addition to the economic and market benefits aforementioned. In rural areas of developing countries around the world, pisciculture has created employment opportunities for local workers. For example, India is one of the leading countries where pisciculture is practiced. In the Indian state of Kerala where there are large bodies of water, fish farmers culture several breeds of fishes such as carps, the gray mullet, and even shellfish. 

In addition to job benefits, pisciculture also gives the market access to a wide variety of fish that are normally not available year-round. An example of these seasonal fishes would be herring, which is usually best available in the summer, unlike mackerel which is commonly low in availability during that period. As another example, the wild seabass is best found at the start of the year, while plaice is in season in the middle of the year. 

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the more general form of pisciculture. It involves similar processes to that of  pisciculture, namely hatching, nursing, and breeding fish in a contained environment. Unlike pisciculture, aquaculture also refers to the farming of other sea creatures like shellfish and algae. Additionally, it is widely known to be more sustainable than pisciculture, its artificial counterpart.

Aquaculture breeds fish in open waters instead of artificial enclosures. Fish pens are commonly installed within a selected area of the ocean or a lake. They are moored and anchored into the seafloor so that the pen is properly submerged and safe from the event of a natural disaster. This way, the fish are raised in their natural habitat, which helps to reduce stress as they develop. This is a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethically responsible method to source fish for food and other commercial products because it produces a healthier habitat for the fish to dwell in until the time they are harvested.

Another argument for the sustainability of aquaculture is that aquaculture techniques implemented in some parts of the world helps to rebuild and nurture more species of fish in the wild, as well as the ecosystem it is a part of.

Despite the aforementioned methods being beneficial for the fish, aquaculture also has the potential to cause harm to the environment as a side-effect. According to PETA, fish farms that are directly set up in natural bodies of water often release waste from fish as well as other operational activities directly into the water. This eventually pollutes larger bodies of water and ruins the surrounding ecosystem. 

If some of you are familiar with views of open-water fish farming, you will know that these designated areas often have green slime on the surface. This gunk is usually a product of waste caused by too many fish being contained in one area. Too much of this can also be harmful for the fish or other aquatic animals being bred. 

Often, advanced aquaculture will take these possible environmental damages and adjust the hardware and methods accordingly. A common way to limit negative effects on adjacent waters is to implement an integrated aquaculture technique. This is when every fish cage is placed near another sea creature that can benefit from fish and their waste, which creates an individual microcosm of an ecosystem. 

As an example of an integrated aquaculture system, bottom-feeders such as sea urchins can be placed under a single fish cage. They benefit from any fish waste that floats to the bottom of the cage. Filter feeders such as scallops can be suspended by a fish cage, as they will be able to feed on any surrounding particles and ensure a clean environment around the fish that are being farmed. Finally, seaweed is also usually placed nearby. Their role in absorbing phosphorous and nitrogen from the water keeps the waters around the enclosures healthy for the fish. With this method, scallops and mussels are also able to be harvested along with the fish, making the aquaculture process effective. 

The difference between pisciculture and aquaculture

Having explored pisciculture and aquaculture individually, there are several noticeable differences. The first of these is the location of the fish farms themselves. Pisciculture rears and harvests fish from specific manmade farms. These host ponds, enclosures, and tanks that are specifically built and engineered for optimum breeding. Meanwhile, aquaculture is a more natural process, with its fish farms being placed in natural bodies of water.

While both methods nurture fish in contained environments, only pisciculture nurtures them in a controlled environment. As aforementioned, the water’s volume, chemical and alkaline levels, temperature, and pollution levels are consistently monitored and adjusted accordingly to bring about a favorable result. With aquaculture, the environment shifts from time to time depending on natural factors that cannot be predicted or controlled, such as weather or natural disasters. 

Finally, aquaculture and pisciculture differ in sustainability. Although each fish-breeding technique has its own impact on the environment, open-ocean aquaculture is a considerably more sustainable method of the two, considering its ethical treatment of the fish by letting them remain in their natural habitat.

These differences can be summed up in the below chart:

PiscicultureAquaculture
LocationManmade/indoorNature
Control over the environmentMore controlLess control
SustainabilityLess ethicalMore ethical

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