We don’t normally associate fish and the ocean with farming but soon will. Wild fish stocks are declining on a global level. And, with one in seven people obtaining their protein from fish, and more than half of that supplied by aquaculture, how/where those fish are raised is becoming increasingly important for our growing population and food security.
Aquaculture makes a substantial contribution to our food supplies, so it must be done in a way that is sustainable. Specifically, we are looking at various closed-system technologies, including re-circulating tanks, raceways, flow-through systems, and inland ponds. These systems are being used for numerous species of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Although the clear benefits (health and otherwise) of closed-system aquaculture systems have been recognized, we also support efforts to avoid the environmental and food safety flaws of open pen aquaculture. We hope to work toward international as well as domestic efforts that can effect positive change.
Our sustainable aquaculture fund provides grants to projects that focus on expanding and improving the way we farm fish, as well as providing food security and safer, cleaner food.
Learn more about Environmental Law Institute Ocean Program’s and The Ocean Foundation’s work on Offshore Aquaculture.
Our New Sustainable Aquaculture Program
The Ocean Foundation will also establish and launch a new International Sustainable Aquaculture Program. We at TOF propose to create and house this project and focus on:
There are four major approaches to aquaculture seen today: near shore open pens, experimental offshore open pens, and land-based “closed” systems and “ancient” open systems.
The near shore aquaculture systems have most often been used to raise shellfish, salmon and other carnivorous finfish and, except for shellfish mariculture, are typically seen as the least sustainable and the most environmentally detrimental type of aquaculture. The inherent “open to the ecosystem” design of these systems makes it extremely hard to address the problems of fecal waste, interactions with predators, introduction of non-native/exotic species, excess inputs (food, antibiotics), habitat destruction, and disease transfer. In addition, coastal waters cannot sustain the current practice of moving on down the shoreline following disabling disease outbreaks within the pens.
The newer experimental offshore pen aquaculture systems just move these same negative effects out of sight and also add other impacts on the environment, including the larger carbon footprint to manage facilities that are further offshore. If we grow mollusks near shore, or dramatically limit near shore open pens in scale and focus on raising herbivores, there is some improvement on sustainability of the aquaculture system. In our view it is worth exploring these limited alternatives.
Land based “closed” systems, commonly referred to as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), are receiving more and more attention as a viable long-term sustainable solution to aquaculture, both in the developed and developing world. Small, inexpensive closed systems are being modeled to be used in developing countries while larger, more commercially viable, and expensive options are being created in more developed countries. These systems are self-contained and often allow for effective polyculture approaches to raising animals and vegetables together. They are particularly considered sustainable when they are powered by renewable energy, they ensure nearly 100% reclamation of their water, and they are focused on raising omnivores and herbivores.
Here are some links from The Ocean Foundation blog as a follow up on fish and fisheries (sustainable and not):
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