Technological Innovation in Aquaculture
We need more seafood to meet the demand for protein. It took over a generation to industrialize livestock processes, and the environmental and social consequences of that development are being brought into sharp focus. The aquaculture industry is much further back on that curve, with environmental concerns beginning to come to light. Whether it is ecologically damaging aquaculture practices in Southeast Asia or the environmental consequences of large fish escapes or managing problems like sea lice, many factors are driving innovation in the way we farm fish.
Currently there are five main environmental challenges for aquaculture occurring in nearshore farms and pens:
- Pollution – Fish farms release a lot of waste in the form of uneaten food (around 5% of total food in net-based fish farms), chemical treatments, and fish excrement, all of which can have significant impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
- Escaped fish – The risk of non-native fish entering a local gene pool has led to significant regulations and fines, as can be seen in Washington state (as outlined in an earlier blog) and as is occurring in Chile right now.
- Disease, parasites, and chemicals – Ocean fish farms can amplify and spread deadly disease and parasites into natural environments, sometimes leading to mass fish farm harvest destruction and a fear of disease entering wild populations. In recent years, controlling parasitic sea lice spread from farmed salmon to wild salmon has cost the industry $5 billion.
- Access to feed – Roughly 30% of all captured fish are reduced into fish meal and fish oil. Much of this (68% of meal and 88% of oil) is used in aquaculture. Up to 2kg of wild caught fish is used to produce 1kg of farm-raised fish.
- Predator impacts – If you fill a cage full of fish, its is going to attract bigger fish and other animals. There are often reports of sea lion deaths in Canadian fish farm cages, alongside the farmers’ own efforts to curtail predation of their stock.
Balancing these factors with the economic drivers for locating a fish farm is driving innovation across onshore and off-shore technologies. Onshore technologies have the advantage of an entirely closed system, negating environmental concerns. Alternatively, placing a large cage further out to sea has less immediate environmental impact on coastal ecosystems with a much cleaner and temperature-stable environment. Both have challenges and are developing to meet the growing needs of a hungry planet.
Read more HERE.