Aquaculture, or farming the water, produces a variety of finfish and shellfish: hybrid striped bass, tilapia, catfish, crawfish, trout, oysters, and soft crabs. Black sea bass, yellow perch, and eels also are under consideration for aquafarming. For laboratory research, aquaculture supplies ornamental aquatic plants and fish, game fish, bait, and some specimens. Aquaculturally produced fish are exempt from laws and regulations that pertain to wild harvested species, including endangered species provisions.
Maryland's first aquaculture legislation passed in 1988. Since then, most aquafarmed products have been grown in ponds. A new intensive aquaculture, however, now uses recirculating tanks, making farm-raised fish available year-round.
In 1998, the wholesale value of aquafarm-raised products in the State totaled $17,095,581. Reported sales for 1998 indicate that Maryland aquafarmers grew 297,144 pounds of hybrid striped bass; 105,275 pounds of catfish; 2,335,020 pounds of tilapia; and 30,960 pounds of trout. Also harvested were 13,926,506 individual ornamental fish and 4,490,000 oysters. Wholesale sales dominated the market in 1998, followed by retail and direct-to-consumer sales, while government sales and fee fishing declined. Tilapia, catfish and ornamental fish sales grew most rapidly as trout, oyster and soft crab sales declined. Estimated harvests for 1999 include 242,000 pounds of hybrid bass, 86,000 pounds of catfish, and 2,424,000 pounds of tilapia.
Aquaculture is assisted and promoted by Aquaculture Development and Seafood Marketing in the Department of Agriculture.
November 5, 2002
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