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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.