Aquaculture - farming seafood — Seafish

Aquaculture - farming seafood

Aquaculture production is growing in the UK. We’ve collated information on responsible seafood farming and resources for aquaculture businesses.

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic species - animals and plants - that live in water. This includes:

  • Finfish – animals with gills and fins.
  • Shellfish – those with shells, for example crustaceans like shrimps, or bivalve molluscs such as mussels.
  • Plants – such as seaweeds which are large or ‘macro’ types of algae.

An aquaculture farmer owns the fish or seaweed they are growing, referring to it as their ‘stock’. They need to make sure this stock is kept healthy, grows to the right size and can be harvested at the right time for those who wish to buy it.

Through aquaculture, our oceans, seas, and inland freshwaters hold huge potential to provide us with increased amounts of healthy and nutritious food. This is needed to feed an ever growing human population.

Choosing the correct species and sites are the most crucial decisions to make. We can offer advice and resources to help culturists make informed decisions.

Find out more about the value of aquaculture in the insight and research section of our website:

Responsible and sustainable aquaculture

As with other types of farming, aquaculture is reliant upon the environment and needs to help look after it. There is a strong emphasis within the industry to continue reducing its impacts. This will allow the sector to secure its future as a sustainable source of seafood for generations to come.

Principles of responsible aquaculture

Careful planning and responsible operating of sites is essential to reach production targets that are both profitable and sustainable.

Aquaculture species profiles web tool

We’ve created an online tool with information on species of fish and shellfish which are commonly farmed. Find out more about the tool and access the species profiles from the links below.

Aquaculture and Climate Change

Climate change is recognised as one of the major challenges facing humanity. Adapting to its impacts presents a strategic challenge for the seafood industry, including farmed seafood cultivated both here in the UK, and internationally. Our latest review focuses on understanding and responding to climate change in aquaculture sourced seafood.

Seafood and Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the many resources and benefits provided by nature to humans. Our work on public goods and benefits from commercial seafood species shows how seafood production, particularly low trophic aquaculture such as farmed shellfish, can maintain and enhance ecosystem services.

Aquaculture engagement and outreach

We’re involved in a number of strategic aquaculture-related groups and initiatives to help support aquaculture activities in the UK.

We facilitate the Aquaculture Common Issues Group. It provides a valuable, regular forum to exchange knowledge and a valuable networking opportunity.

We’re also facilitating a project looking at issues around water quality on behalf of the Shellfish Stakeholder Working Group. It seeks to develop an approach which enables the production of high-quality shellfish that fully meets consumer safety and regulatory requirements.

Choosing the correct species and sites are the most crucial decisions to make when starting a business. We offer advice and resources to help culturists make informed decisions when choosing species and sites.

Resources for aquaculture businesses

Not every species has proven easy to farm here in the UK. Suitabilty can depend on a number of factors, these include: market price; cost of production; site location; access to a cheap and reliable source of seed; species selection, as well as the animal's growth rate, robustness and resistance to disease.

Growth and health of your chosen fish and shellfish depends heavily on the site you choose, and it is vital to understand that the UK coastal zone is a busy one, with many different industries and users. A range of physical and biological factors, including sea water temperature, salinity, exposure and pollutants will all affect the stock.

As all culture operations in the UK have to conform to strict controls, there are a number of legal and regulatory issues to consider.

Regulatory information

We have compiled information on the regulations covering aquaculture. It is designed for those looking to start up in seafood farming or for those who need some additional support. 

Bivalve molluscs

Bivalve molluscs are a popular species with UK culturists: both pacific and native oysters; mussels grown on the seabed or on ropes; clams and scallops. Visit our bivalve Aquaculture Profiles for more details.

Bivalve shellfish purification

We have produced guidance to assist the development and operation of bivalve mollusc purification systems.

Sourcing fishmeal and fish oil

The need to provide fishmeal and fish oil as feed is seen as a challenge to the growth of the sector. We have created a short guide on this for aquaculture businesses.

Aquaculture careers and training

Further information on careers and training for the sector is available in the safety and training section of our website.

Further sources of information