Aquatic Biotechnology is now at the stage where practical applications are being identified and commercialized. Governments and the public are increasingly aware of the potential of aquatic biotechnology to product healthy, quality and pollution free aquatic products for consumption and medicinal purposes. The public expects that government will ensure biotechnology activities and products are safe for humans and environment. They also see a role for their government help in capitalizing on the potential of biotechnology to increase employment, economic and environmental securities.
Aquatic Biotechnology includes several components: aquaculture biotechnology (fish health and broodstock optimization); aquatic bioprocessing (obtaining valuable compounds from marine organisms); and aquatic bioremediation (use of microorganisms to degrade toxic chemicals in the aquatic environment)
Benefits of Aquatic Biotechnology
Aquaculture sector has benefited significantly from various enabling technologies that improve fish health and broodstocks. Biotechnology is emerging as an important subset of these enabling aquaculture technologies and its application promises important economic returns as well as health and environmental benefits.
Contributions of Aquatic Biotechnology to Mankind
Aquatic Biotechnology has also been instrumental in the design of new pharmaceuticals and medicines. The chemical properties of a pacific sponge species have been used to produce over 300 chemicals, many of which are used as anti-inflammatory drugs for cancer and arthritis. Dogfish sharks, horseshoe crabs, and nudibanchs (sea slugs) are a few of the many marine species used in medical research to better understand and address neurological disorders such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease. The adhesive responsible for barnacle attachment has been studied for mending broken bones.
World Aquaculture Markets
World Fisheries exports in 2004 is worth over US$ 63 Billion annually and growing. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) reported that by 2030, aquaculture will provide 50% of the total fish production worldwide. Worldwide, over a billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein and some island states depend on fish exclusively.
Currently, 70% of the total food fish supply is obtained from fishing in marine or inland waters; 30% is derived from aquaculture. The total food fish supply has been growing at a rate of 3.6% per annum since 1961, while the world’s population has been expanding at 1.8% per annum. The proteins derived from fish and other marine creatures account for between 13.8% and 16.5% of the animal protein intake of the human population.
According to the UNFAO, ocean fish resources have dramatically worsened. About 47% to 50% of wild stocks are fully exploited and are therefore close to maximum limits. Another 15% to 18% are over exploited and have no further potential. The remaining 9% to 10% of wild commercial fish stocks have been completely depleted. The current Australian CSIRO report on the future, released in November 2002, paints an even gloomier picture, with some commercial species facing imminent extinction.
The average consumption per capita increased from about 9kg per annum in the early 1960’s to 16 kg in 1997. This shows a doubling in consumption, outpacing the population growth.
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