Aquaculture–the cultivation of aquatic animals for food consumption–is an important part of California agriculture, offering a local, reliable, easily accessible, protein-rich food source that can be produced in or near populated urban centers. As the world’s population grows and the demand for fish follows suit, there will be significant opportunity ahead for our fish farmers.
Unfortunately, aquaculture production in California has declined in recent years, spurring an effort by local government to reverse that trend. It started in the food policy office of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and was implemented by Paula Daniels, the mayor’s Senior Advisor on Food Policy, who received a Stanton Fellowship from the Durfee Foundation specifically to work on urban aquaculture. On behalf of the mayor, she recently coordinated an aquaculture resolution, titled “Support for Urban Aquaculture Development,” that was adopted unanimously at the 81st Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, of which Villaraigosa is immediate past president.
The resolution highlights the importance of fish as a nutritious food source, notes the growing demand for aquaculture products in the U.S., recognizes the limited availability of marine fish production, and states the need for federal, state, and local investment in urban aquaculture. This is an important first step in propelling California to become a world leader in the production of fish products in an environmentally sustainable manner.
We know that fish is a part of a balanced diet and provides numerous health benefits, including vitamins, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids that may contribute to heart health. California agriculture, which is already world-renowned for wholesome, healthy foods, has an opportunity to place itself in prime position to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead and make aquaculture a greater part of the food portfolio that contributes to the economic and social sectors of our state.