Can aquaculture adapt to saltwater intrusion?

During an era when more and more freshwater bodies are being affected by saltwater intrusion, should aquaculture operators consider diversifying into species that have a greater tolerance for saline conditions?

The increase in damming of large and important rivers such as the Nile in Africa and the Mekong in Asia have caused increased awareness of the negative effects of saltwater intrusion into parts of rivers that normally remain unaffected by salinity. In addition, due to rising sea levels and the increase in unusual weather events, such as tsunamis and hurricanes, saltwater inundation of coastal land is becoming more frequent and widespread. Brackish water shrimp aquaculture in countries such as Vietnam has been reported to be reduced by 50 percent, with salinities increasing to over 30 parts per thousand (ppt), close to the 35 ppt in standard seawater.

Maintaining a specific salt concentration in the blood is a necessity for normal growth and metabolism of aquaculture species. Growing fish or shrimp outside their preferred salinity range generally means reduced levels of growth and survival, contributing to a decrease in the potential profit of an aquaculture operation. A better option may be to choose species and strains that are better adapted to living in brackish water. Identifying freshwater species that are amenable to brackish water culture and seawater species able to grow in hypersaline environments may help to expand aquaculture areas that are negatively affected by saltwater intrusion.

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