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[photo, Department of Agriculture, Wayne A. Cawley, Jr. Building, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland] Aquaculture, or farming the water, produces a variety of finfish and shellfish: hybrid striped bass, tilapia, catfish, crawfish, trout, oysters, and soft crabs. Black sea bass, yellow perch, and eels also are under consideration for aquafarming. For laboratory research, aquaculture supplies ornamental aquatic plants and fish, game fish, bait, and some specimens. Aquaculturally produced fish are exempt from laws and regulations that pertain to wild harvested species, including endangered species provisions.

Department of Agriculture, Wayne A. Cawley, Jr. Building, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland, February 2009. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Aquaculture is assisted and promoted by the Seafood Marketing and Aquaculture Development Program in the Department of Agriculture.

Thirty-five commercial aquaculture producers operated in Maryland in 2007, along with eight licensed fee-fishing operations, and many individuals who grew fish and shellfish for their own use. Further, fifty schools, nature centers, government agencies, and private organizations raised fish, shellfish, or aquatic plants for educational or restoration purposes. Species produced for those purposes included American and hickory shad, bluegill, brown and rainbow trout, channel catfish, golden shiners, redear and hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, yellow perch, tiger muskie, tilapia, terrapins, Rosenbergii prawn, oysters, ornamental fish, and native grasses. The 2007 overall value of Maryland aquaculture remained relatively unchanged, with ornamental products contributing 85% of the total.

Maryland's first aquaculture legislation passed in 1988. Since then, most aquafarmed products have been grown in ponds. A new intensive aquaculture, however, now uses recirculating tanks, making farm-raised fish available year-round.

In 2001, the wholesale value of aquafarm-raised products in the State totaled $3,812,430. Ornamental species, such as goldfish and koi, are the backbone of Maryland aquaculture, accounting for 83% of sales. In 2001, aquafarms harvested 3,125,100 ornamental fish and 1,502,900 aquatic plants, worth approximately $3.16 million. Shellfish production and market value that year increased, with a reported harvest of 7 million market oysters and clams, seed oysters and clams, soft-shelled crabs, and crayfish. Production and market value of hybrid bass, catfish, trout, and tilapia, declined in 2001, and only 182,003 pounds were harvested compared with an estimated 2,768,399 pounds in 1998. The decline was attributed to a sharp drop in the market value of tilapia, which put many farmers out of business.

In 2003, the value of aquaculture production in Maryland neared $3.4 million; however, the market value of finfish continued to drop, as did the market value of ornamental fish. Ornamental species accounted for 88% of aquaculture production in Maryland for 2003, with ornamental fish valued at $740,600, and aquatic plants worth $2,262,100. The finfish harvest amounted to 140,100 pounds valued at $144,000, while 15,670,000 shellfish were harvested and sold for $241,500. Hybrid striped bass, trout, tilapia, largemouth bass, bluegills, and minnows were raised aquaculturally, as were market oysters, seed oysters and clams, soft-shelled crabs, and crayfish.

Maryland's overall aquaculture product sales totaled $7.29 million in 2005, according to the USDA's 2005 Census of Aquaculture, with farm gate value (the net value of the product, after subtraction of marketing costs) at $4.3 million. This increase was due in part to higher market prices for live tilapia as well as an increase in market value for aquatic plants, clams, and oysters. Over a third of sales were from crustaceans, contributing $2.78 million.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2011

August 9, 2011   
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