WFC report – managing environmental costs of aquaculture

Blue Frontiers: managing the environmental costs of aquaculture

Report by World Fish Center available here

The article below is from CNN

Are fish farms eco-friendly?

Consumers of seafood may have an idea if their fish is wild-caught or farmed, but how many know aquaculture’s impact on the environment?

A new report entitled “Blue Frontiers” complied by the World Fish Center and Conservation International sets out to address that question and help steer the aquaculture industry towards greater sustainability.

Aquaculture can reduce the pressure on wild fisheries, although small fish used as fishmeal for carnivorous, farm-bred species like salmon are caught in the wild, as are young fish (fingerling) for tuna and reef fish before being grown in captivity.

Already more than 50% of the world’s seafood comes from aquaculture, including 73% of all salmon and over half of the global supply of crabs and lobsters.

Aquaculture production (estimated to be worth over $100 billion each year) is expected to grow from 65.8 million tons in 2008 to over 100 million tons by 2030.

“Current trends indicate that the majority of the increase in global production will come from South and Southeast Asia, with a continued drive by major producer counties such as China and Vietnam towards export to European and North American markets,” said Mike Phillips, a co-author of the report.

Ensuring that growth in the market doesn’t take its toll on the environment is the main concern of Dr. Sebastian Troeng, vice president for marine conservation for Conservation International.

“There are a number of well-founded concerns about aquaculture, in terms of its impacts on marine ecosystems and wild fisheries,” said Troeng.

Innovation and the sharing of best practices are key to protecting the environment as aquaculture increases, Troeng believes.

The biggest threats to the environment come from the areas with the most production, namely Asia; the continent accounts for 91% of the world’s aquaculture, with China alone proving 64%.

“China is certainly a place where there are opportunities to improve efficiency and best practice with better motioning and compliance,” said Troeng.

“Something that is a particular concern to a marine conservation group is the reliance on wild captured fish; the amount of fish needed to feed aquaculture. Any efficiency in that regard would be very beneficial.”

The report studied 13 different species and 75 different production techniques grading them against six environmental effects, from acidification and contribution to climate change, land-use and reliance on wild fish for feed.

Photo © Loni Hensler