Food security to feed future generations as the world population grows


Chinese aquaculture


CHINA: Cultivating emergent aquatic plants in floating containers. Apart from fish and shrimp, some aquaculture undertakings, such as seaweed and filter-feeding bivalve mollusks like oysters, clams, mussels and scallops, are relatively benign and even environmentally restorative. Filter-feeders filter pollutants as well as nutrients from the water, improving water quality. Seaweeds extract nutrients such as inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus directly from the water, and filter-feeding mollusks can extract nutrients as they feed on particulates, such as phytoplankton and detritus.

Some profitable aquaculture cooperatives promote sustainable practices. New methods lessen the risk of biological and chemical pollution through minimizing fish stress, fallowing netpens, and applying Integrated Pest Management. Vaccines are being used more and more to reduce antibiotic use for disease control.



One of the most pressing concerns at the moment the world over is the growing plastic content in our oceans that is getting into the farmed and wild fish food chain, including ocean based fish farming operations. A report in March of 2015 from the NCEAS in California, puts waste levels as high as 12 million tons, with a mean of 8 million tons. The real issue is that this is not being tackled by anyone on an urgent basis, save for a robotic ocean plastic recovery project in the United Kingdom, that is at an early stage in development and constantly on the look out for funding to go from a feasibility study to the build of a fully functional prototype SeaVax. To date (14-1-17) the company developing the technology is licensed to work on the concept, but may have to pass the IP torch to a charity with similar objectives that is more grant friendly, where their present funding comes to an end in April 2017 and the company has sustained research losses that they cannot afford to escalate. We will report on this further as we hear any news. We know that a European consortium is looking to utilize SeaVax for eventual clean up operations in the Mediterranean.



The world's largest vacuum cleaner feasibility model takes to the water


ROBOCULTURE: Robotic boats and ships such as the RiverVax and SeaVax concepts as developed by Bluebird Marine Systems, now supported by the Cleaner Oceans Foundation, may be technology coming to the rescue, where man had been steadily fouling his own doorstep.


Onshore recirculating aquaculture systems, facilities using polyculture techniques, and properly sited facilities (for example, offshore areas with strong currents) are examples of ways to manage negative environmental effects. Banning plastic for packaging that wild and farmed fish ingest would have an immediate and beneficial effect on fish health, but this is not going to happen.





Aquaculture, also known as aqua-farming, is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants, algae, and other aquatic organisms. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments and in underwater habitats.

According to the FAO, aquaculture "Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated." The reported output from global aquaculture operations in 2014 supplied over one half of the fish and shellfish that is directly consumed by humans; however, there are issues about the reliability of the reported figures. Further, in current aquaculture practice, products from several pounds of wild fish are used to produce one pound of a piscivorous fish like salmon.

Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture (such as seaweed farming), and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which integrate fish farming and plant farming.





Some carnivorous and omnivorous farmed fish species are fed wild forage fish. Although carnivorous farmed fish represented only 13 percent of aquaculture production by weight in 2000, they represented 34 percent of aquaculture production by value.

Farming of carnivorous species like salmon and shrimp leads to a high demand for forage fish to match the nutrition they get in the wild. Fish do not actually produce omega-3 fatty acids, but instead accumulate them from either consuming microalgae that produce these fatty acids, as is the case with forage fish like herring and sardines, or, as is the case with fatty predatory fish, like salmon, by eating prey fish that have accumulated omega-3 fatty acids from microalgae. To satisfy this requirement, more than 50 percent of the world fish oil production is fed to farmed salmon.

Farmed salmon consume more wild fish than they generate as a final product, although the efficiency of production is improving. To produce one pound of farmed salmon, products from several pounds of wild fish are fed to them - this can be described as the "fish-in-fish-out" (FIFO) ratio. In 1995, salmon had a FIFO ratio of 7.5 (meaning 7.5 pounds of wild fish feed were required to produce 1 pound of salmon); by 2006 the ratio had fallen to 4.9. Additionally, a growing share of fish oil and fishmeal come from residues (byproducts of fish processing), rather than dedicated whole fish. In 2012, 34 percent of fish oil and 28 percent of fishmeal came from residues. However, fishmeal and oil from residues instead of whole fish have a different composition with more ash and less protein, which may limit its potential use for aquaculture.

As the salmon farming industry expands, it requires more wild forage fish for feed, at a time when seventy five percent of the worlds monitored fisheries are already near to or have exceeded their maximum sustainable yield. The industrial scale extraction of wild forage fish for salmon farming then impacts the survivability of the wild predator fish who rely on them for food. An important step in reducing the impact of aquaculture on wild fish is shifting carnivorous species to plant-based feeds. Salmon feeds, for example, have gone from containing only fishmeal and oil to containing 40 percent plant protein. The USDA has also experimented with using grain-based feeds for farmed trout. When properly formulated (and often mixed with fishmeal or oil), plant-based feeds can provide proper nutrition and similar growth rates in carnivorous farmed fish.

Another impact aquaculture production can have on wild fish is the risk of fish escaping from coastal pens, where they can interbreed with their wild counterparts, diluting wild genetic stocks. Escaped fish can become invasive, out-competing native species.




HONG KONG: Mariculture off High Island, Hong Kong. Global wild fisheries are in decline, with valuable habitat such as estuaries in critical condition. The aquaculture or farming of piscivorous fish, like salmon, does not help the problem because they need to eat products from other fish, such as fish meal and fish oil. Studies have shown that salmon farming has major negative impacts on wild salmon, as well as the forage fish that need to be caught to feed them. Fish that are higher on the food chain are less efficient sources of food energy.


Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) recycle water by circulating it through filters to remove fish waste and food and then recirculating it back into the tanks. This saves water and the waste gathered can be used in compost or, in some cases, could even be treated and used on land. While RAS was developed with freshwater fish in mind, scientist associated with the Agricultural Research Service have found a way to rear saltwater fish using RAS in low-salinity waters. Although saltwater fish are raised in off-shore cages or caught with nets in water that typically has a salinity of 35 parts per thousand (ppt), scientists were able to produce healthy pompano, a saltwater fish, in tanks with a salinity of only 5 ppt. Commercializing low-salinity RAS are predicted to have positive environmental and economical effects. Unwanted nutrients from the fish food would not be added to the ocean and the risk of transmitting diseases between wild and farm-raised fish would greatly be reduced. The price of expensive saltwater fish, such as the pompano and combia used in the experiments, would be reduced. However, before any of this can be done researchers must study every aspect of the fish's lifecycle, including the amount of ammonia and nitrate the fish will tolerate in the water, what to feed the fish during each stage of its lifecycle, the stocking rate that will produce the healthiest fish, etc.




Harvest stagnation in wild fisheries and overexploitation of popular marine species, combined with a growing demand for high-quality protein, encouraged aquaculturists to domesticate other marine species. At the outset of modern aquaculture, many were optimistic that a "Blue Revolution" could take place in aquaculture, just as the Green Revolution of the 20th century had revolutionized agriculture. Although land animals had long been domesticated, most seafood species were still caught from the wild. Concerned about the impact of growing demand for seafood on the world's oceans, prominent ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau wrote in 1973: "With earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed, we must turn to the sea with new understanding and new technology.”

About 430 (97%) of the species cultured as of 2007 were domesticated during the 20th and 21st centuries, of which an estimated 106 came in the decade to 2007. Given the long-term importance of agriculture, to date, only 0.08% of known land plant species and 0.0002% of known land animal species have been domesticated, compared with 0.17% of known marine plant species and 0.13% of known marine animal species. Domestication typically involves about a decade of scientific research. Domesticating aquatic species involves fewer risks to humans than do land animals, which took a large toll in human lives. Most major human diseases originated in domesticated animals, including diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria, that like most infectious diseases, move to humans from animals. No human pathogens of comparable virulence have yet emerged from marine species.

Biological control methods to manage parasites are already being used, such as cleaner fish (e.g. lumpsuckers and wrasse) to control sea lice populations in salmon farming. Models are being used to help with spatial planning and siting of fish farms in order to minimize impact.

The decline in wild fish stocks has increased the demand for farmed fish. However, finding alternative sources of protein and oil for fish feed is necessary so the aquaculture industry can grow sustainably; otherwise, it represents a great risk for the over-exploitation of forage fish.

Another recent issue following the banning in 2008 of organotins by the International Maritime Organization is the need to find environmentally friendly, but still effective, compounds with antifouling effects.

Many new natural compounds are discovered every year, but producing them on a large enough scale for commercial purposes is almost impossible.

It is highly probable that future developments in this field will rely on microorganisms, but greater funding and further research is needed to overcome the lack of knowledge in this field.



Graph showing tonnes of fish produced by aquaculture


Global aquaculture production in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as reported by the FAO





The farming of fish is the most common form of aquaculture. It involves raising fish commercially in tanks, ponds, or ocean enclosures, usually for food. A facility that releases juvenile fish into the wild for recreational fishing or to supplement a species' natural numbers is generally referred to as a fish hatchery. Worldwide, the most important fish species used in fish farming are, in order, carp, salmon, tilapia, and catfish.

In the Mediterranean, young bluefin tuna are netted at sea and towed slowly towards the shore. They are then interned in offshore pens where they are further grown for the market. In 2009, researchers in Australia managed for the first time to coax southern bluefin tuna to breed in landlocked tanks. Southern bluefin tuna are also caught in the wild and fattened in grow-out sea cages in southern Spencer Gulf, South Australia.

A similar process is used in the salmon-farming section of this industry; juveniles are taken from hatcheries and a variety of methods are used to aid them in their maturation. For example, as stated above, some of the most important fish species in the industry, salmon, can be grown using a cage system. This is done by having netted cages, preferably in open water that has a strong flow, and feeding the salmon a special food mixture that aids their growth. This process allows for year-round growth of the fish, thus a higher harvest during the correct seasons. An additional method, known sometimes as sea ranching, has also been used within the industry. Sea ranching involves raising fish in a hatchery for a brief time and then releasing them into marine waters for further development, whereupon the fish are recaptured when they have matured.


Some 16 countries now use geothermal energy for aquaculture, including China, Israel, and the United States. In California, for example, 15 fish farms produce tilapia, bass, and catfish with warm water from underground. This warmer water enables fish to grow all year round and mature more quickly. Collectively these California farms produce 4.5 million kilograms of fish each year.



ROBOCULTURE: Robotic boa




Manuel Maqueda, the co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition is quoted as saying that we're stuck. We understand plastic pollution issues, but we don't have the solutions. The voice of the Earth is not being heard. He was driven to seek plastic pollution justice after a conversation with oceanographer Captain Charles Moore, who is also the founder of the Algita Marine Research Foundation. Moore shared with him what appeared to be a bag of sand which, Maqueda realized, was a bag of minute pieces of plastic. Moore told Maqueda, "that's the beaches of the future…. It's the global warming 30 years ago coming to us now.” Maqueda wanted to take action, to solve environmental issues that were being ignored. After research and collaboration with Google Earth, he gathered a group of individuals with a shared interest and passion for plastic pollution justice to meet at the Google Headquarters. Together they addressed "what this problem is, what the solutions are, and what the solutions are not." One practical solution is to adapt a fleet of solar powered drones to clean up the oceans. The NOC were approached in 2013 with such a suggestion and got no reply. The Technology Strategy Board rejected an application for funding in May of 2013. Bluebird Marine Systems has a published patent that covers a system for such a clean up, but needs financial support for the research needed to make it happen. 









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