Smoked salmon, garlic prawns, grilled seabass.
Our insatiable appetite for such delicacies has contributed to a sharp reduction in ocean fish populations. Throughout the world, a growing number of commercial boats are returning with empty nets - unable to find enough catch to keep pace with the international demand for seafood.
But while ocean fisheries are in decline, commercial fish farming - or aquaculture - is booming. Farmers now produce more than one-fourth of all the finfish and shellfish directly consumed by people worldwide.
This rapid rise in aquaculture production "is a mixed blessing, however, for the sustainability of ocean fisheries," according to a new study by economist Rosamond L. Naylor and biologist Harold A. Mooney.
Writing in the June 29 issue of the journal Nature, Naylor and Mooney point out that, "on balance, global aquaculture still adds to world fish supplies."
But, they warn, the growing demand for farm-raised salmon, shrimp and other commercially valuable species actually threatens the world's supply of fish.
The "underlying paradox," write the authors, is that "aquaculture is a possible solution - but also a contributing factor - to the collapse of fisheries stocks around the world."
"The industry is growing so rapidly that it's important that people start looking at the future," says Naylor, a senior research scholar at Stanford's Institute for International Studies and lead author of the Nature study.
She and Mooney write that "global production of farmed fish and shellfish has more than doubled during the past 15 years. While many people believe such growth relieves pressure on ocean fisheries, the opposite is true for some aquaculture practices."
Naylor says the greatest potential threat to the environment comes from farms that raise carnivorous species - fish that eat other fish. These include marine shrimp and popular finfish such as salmon, trout and sea
Contact: Mark Shwartz