Monthly Archives: August 2013

child in playground

Aquaculture Shifting towards Future Sustainability

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Several encouraging events have taken place recently to address environmental problems connected with aquaculture – otherwise known as fish farming. These advancements are increasing the aquaculture industry’s capacity to endure for future generations. Environmental problems often linked to aquaculture have been identified as pollution, animal welfare, alien introductions, escapees, sites in vulnerable habitats and fish feed requirements. Breaking the dependence of aquaculture feed on small, wild fish such as menhaden, anchovies and sardines taken from our oceans, recent advancements have resulted in the production of what could be more sustainable fish feeds.

For example, US researchers have developed a completely vegetarian fish feed. This feed is a blend of plant-based proteins, amino acids and fatty acids and has been shown to be effective for feeding cobia and gilt-head bream, two carnivorous fish that usually consume smaller fish, crabs and squid. Due to the vegetarian feed, the fish grew larger and also had much lower levels of mercury and PSCBs than fish on the normal fish oil diet.

Australian researchers have also developed a feed called Novacq for prawns that contains no fish products- unusual for prawn food. Novacq is formulated entirely from marine microbes. A study with this new innovative feed resulted in prawns that were both healthier and grew faster than prawns fed with pellets derived from fishmeal and fish oil. This is a milestone achievement in the journey towards sustainability.

In addition to the advancement of science, the industry is also coming together to take steps towards sustainability. For instance, the top 15 global industry leaders in salmon farming have recently formed a group to address aquaculture’s environmental impacts. This group in all represents around 70% of world’s aquaculture production. The Global Salmon Initiative are sharing and collaborating to move towards sustainability in aquaculture; they estimate that by 2050 sustainable salmon aquaculture could produce 500 million meals a day.

At the 4th Asian Fish Feed Roundtable held last month, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) presented their Responsible Feed project to the group and explained how this new standard will work to move the industry towards more sustainable practices. The Responsible Feed Standard will put in place requirements for the aquaculture feed industry to function more responsibly both socially and environmentally.  It will be ready by the end of 2015 allowing responsible producers to be recognized for their efforts. Already large businesses such as Asda Walmart, Marks & Spencers, Lyons, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Thai Union, Seachill Icelandic, Coop and Aldi are supporting this project.

According to the FAO’s 2012 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, in 2010 world aquaculture reached an all-time high. This burgeoning food industry produced around 60 million tonnes of product, excluding plants and non-food, that year with an estimated value of US$119 billion.

It is promising that many organizations and businesses are recognizing the importance of responsible aquaculture feed and that science has advanced more sustainable feed options.

Find out how the SSC are working on responsible aquaculture through the code of conduct for responsible seafood sourcing.

Article by Kendyl Crawford. Photo by Echoforsberg
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.

Catch Quota Trials in England (2010-2013)

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Following growing public awareness on the issue of discards, combined with progress in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform agreeing to reduce discards from 2015, there are important implications for fisheries management. Both fishing gears and methods may have to be adapted to address and implement these changes. Discards (unwanted fish and animals that are thrown back into the sea after they’ve been caught) are unpopular and present a huge waste of fish. There is a general consensus they must be stopped and this is being addressed in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

One scheme currently working towards a solution involves catch quota trials. These Quota trials have been conducted by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which is an executive non-departmental public body, since 2010 to assist in developing UK policy objectives on discard reduction for the CFP reform. This is collectively known as Catch Quota Management (CQM) or a Fully Documented Fishery (FDF). The main aim is to reduce discards by working twofold: to encourage more selective fishing and to land all fish caught. CQM is seen as a valuable tool addressing discards and is specifically intended to help cod stocks recover in the North Sea. This voluntary scheme has several key principles for participation, including:

•    all fish caught have to be recorded;
•    all cod and sole caught count against the quota and must be retained and landed; and
•    fishermen have responsibility to document and account for all fish caught.

Following a successful pilot from May to December 2010, the trial was increased from six vessels in 2010, to 19 vessels participating by 2012. This scheme has been trialled by several fleets in the south west of England and in the North Sea. Results show a reduction in discards, particularly through fishing gear changes such as using 100mm square mesh cod ends which allow smaller, juvenile cod to avoid being caught as bycatch then discarded, are helping stock levels.

The technology used in the trial involved fitting video cameras, sensory links to GPS, vessel hydraulics and analysis software to a participating vessel and their fishing gear. The video cameras confirmed that all fish caught was retained onboard. Vessel hydraulics and software helped to verify when the boat was fishing, with GPS detailing exact locations for the catches because the vessel’s position was recorded every ten seconds of the six day trip. The authorities could access all of the data collected, including CCTV footage; so once a fish was caught the footage could be analysed to track the process from sea to land, recording fish size.

Andrew Pillar, fleet manager for Interfish, based in Plymouth, saw that the catch quota system could work for their vessel, the Admiral Grenville due to the composition of their catch and their seasonal mixed fishery which aligned with the selective gear used in the trials; meaning the vessel could target high value fish throughout the year. He wanted to continue the trial in 2012 to see if there were any significant changes across seasonal variations, which affect both the size and catch composition of fish.

To date, the Admiral Grenville has no technical issues to report, and the CCTV cameras, sensors, winches and GPS only took a day to fit. According to the relief skipper and mate of the Admiral Grenville, the real test for the technology, particularly the camera positioned on the wheel house, will come during the winter when weather and sea conditions are more challenging. They say the work is more intensive with weighing catches and recording individual fish, but they have noticed a market opening up for fish such as dab and pouting.

The crew of the Admiral Grenville are happy to be recorded by CCTV during trips at sea, but this may not be true across other vessels. Relief skipper and mate, Dave Shimell, argues the scheme won’t work in all fisheries as he thinks it could force boats to stop fishing when they have reached their quota, putting them out of business. He also thinks that catch quotas may also be a threat – citing the need to learn from the Scottish fishing industry. The catch quota system can work as seen in these trials; however they do not provide a complete solution to fisheries management.

This trial demonstrates the success in working directly with fishing vessels, scientists and local gear manufacturers, who have all contributed to the trials with specific changes to their gear depending on where they fish and what their main target species is.

Article: Catherine Wright; Image: Dennis Jarvis
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.
ingredients on packaging

New EU Standards for Consumer Information

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On June 18, the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament took a major step and approved the final version of the new regulation on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products (CMO). With 20 votes in favour and only 1 vote against, the progressed CMO is a part of the Common Fisheries Policy reform package and aspires ‘to find the right balance between supply and demand in the interests of European fishers and consumers’. The CMO manages the EU-wide fisheries market which includes the responsibility of setting standards for the provision of consumer information. The text of the reformed CMO, which should be operational from 1 January 2014 following final sign off in the autumn by EU law makers, has many new positive consumer information requirements. Seafood products included in the scope of the regulation include fish, crustaceans, molluscs and seaweeds marketed in the EU sold to the final consumer or to a mass caterer.

If the CMO goes into effect as currently written, which is most likely, the following would apply:

  • The scientific name of the seafood species and the fishing gear category used to capture wild fish will become mandatory labelled information. This will be required in addition to the current requirements to list the seafood species’ commercial name, production method and area caught or farmed.
  • For those fish caught at sea within the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Black Seas, information on fishing area will have to extend further than the current requirements to just list the FAO area. The specific zone (as the sub-area or division of FAO area) from which the fish was caught must be stated, expressed in an understandable way for consumers or in the form of an easily comprehensible map depicting the particular area. However, only FAO areas (without the accompanying simple explanation) will need to be listed for fish caught outside of these areas.
  • As for commodities produced through aquaculture, products will have to list the country in which a seafood product grew to more than half its final weight, stayed for more than half its rearing period or, for shellfish, spent the last six months of the cultivating or rearing process.
  • Although gear categories will have to be labelled for fish caught at sea, an equivalent requirement relating to production methods is not there for farmed products.
  • Operators would be allowed to list more specific catch and production areas, but this is not a mandatory requirement.
  • The mandatory information (scientific name, commercial name, production or catch area, production method and gear type) for seafood products that are not pre-packaged may be provided on posters or billboards nearby the merchandise.
  • In the case of seafood products that are all one species, but caught with different fishing methods, the packaging will have to list all the methods used to catch them. However, if the fish included in a product come from different areas, each area will not have to be listed; only the location that is most representative is required. The product, though, still must indicate that it contains a batch of fish from different areas.
  • The CMO reform document asserts that voluntary information must be clear and unambiguous. More detailed information can be listed pertaining to fishing gears, environmental information, production techniques, ethical or social information and production practices. However, no voluntary information is allowed to be communicated that cannot be verified.
  • A labelling component that provides for the possible creation of an EU eco-labelling scheme is also included. This new EU eco-label would join the approximately 16 other standards/logos that are currently certifying seafood products in the UK. The EU commission will be conducting a feasibility study on this potential scheme after consultation with Member States and stakeholders.

If everything runs smoothly, the CMO reform document should be submitted to the EU Council by early October and come into effect at the beginning of next year. The SSC is currently developing a voluntary industry code of conduct to ensure that our consumers are not misled by self-declared environmental claims, and that any voluntary environmental information is harmonised; find out more on our SSC labelling code page.


Article: Kendyl Crawford; Image: European Parliament