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Copyright © 2014 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

May '14, Fish Farming News--Food security is a primary goal of aquaculture

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

As a consultant, in a real sense I am plugged into the heartbeat of the world with regard to the demand for aquaculture.  It has, of course, become (or soon will become) a primary way for nations to secure their food supplies for the future. 

The oceans have reached their limits—about 92 million metric tons per year—in a world that demands about 160 million metric tons per year, and rising rapidly. 

There is no sign of a top in world population.  Some predict a brief pause at about 9 billion people (we are at 7 billion), and then the upward move will continue. 

If we have any hope of meeting the current and predicted demand for finfish and shellfish, aquaculture must be there in a big way! 

There are few things we need more than food.  I suppose oxygen comes first and then water is second.  Food and shelter vie for third place. 

When food supplies become an issue, people become desperate.  We have seen it before.  The rule of law and civilized behavior get thrown out the window. 

Disputes and wars over food and water do and will occur.  When supply pressures diminish, tensions diminish as well. 

World leaders are becoming more and more aware of this direct relationship.  This means that domestic food security is becoming an increasingly higher priority in nations all over the world, particularly those with limited domestic resources and burgeoning populations. 

Increasingly, I am contacted by those in both the private and public sectors with food security as a primary reason for their interest in aquaculture and aquaponics.  Rather than relying on imports from a nation that is potentially an enemy, or holds national interests that do not necessarily align with their own, they seek to internalize their production and develop a renewed sense of independence.  Here are some other highlights. 

1. Domestic production of food retains wealth within the country, promotes self-reliance and internal food security, and leads to social, political, and economic stability. 

2. An integrated approach to agriculture is a proven method and a powerful tool to reverse desertification and increase amounts of arable land for row-crop production. 

3. Integrated agriculture creates significant numbers of meaningful and productive jobs. 

4. Development of infrastructure to support the production and distribution of food supports the development of ancillary and complementary activities and related businesses. 

5. Export of surplus production to contiguous and regional nations develops domestic wealth, preserves the balance of trade, and elevates the status of the producing nation as a supplier of valuable agricultural commodities. 

6. Integrated agriculture creates educational opportunities in science, engineering, and business in real-world facilities for students of all ages, and promotes a renewed sense of purpose and value to society at large. 

7. Educated people with a sense of daily purpose, income, full stomachs, and a stake in the success of the nation do not incite unrest and instead encourage stability, peace, and harmony. 

Regardless of the cause (natural climatic cycles or people or both), the world is undeniably becoming warmer.  This means that the tropics are expanding north and south.  What was once temperate is becoming sub-tropical.  We can lament this fact, or we can use it to our advantage. 

Unquestionably, there is a numbers bias in aquaculture (i.e., numbers of species) toward warmwater species.  I won’t try to analyze here the reasons why, but just know that it exists.  With increasing regularity, more and more warmwater species are found to be candidates for aquaculture. 

There seems to be here a strong complementary crossing of two roads headed in the same basic direction. 

Warmwater aquaculture is on the rise and it appears there will be more opportunities geographically and resource-wise as we move into the future.

Aquaculture deniers and naysayers take note.  You can complain about aquaculture all you want.  You have that right.  But if you must oppose it, then be sure to clamor even more loudly about much more inefficient forms of agriculture such as cattle and swine production, which use much more feed and water and other resources. 

There is no going back to a hunting-and-gathering culture and society, on land or in the sea.  Those flights of fancy may be romantic and quaint.  But quite literally, the future and security of civilization depends in large part on aquaculture.

 

Copyright © 2014 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

February '14, Fish Farming News--New numbers will likely conclude, the song remains the same

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

As we gather in Seattle for Aquaculture America 2014, I patiently and eagerly await publication of the latest set of world fishery and aquaculture production statistics developed annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

For a consultant like me, these data are invaluable, as they provide me with global and regional perspective and allow me to couch recommendations to clients based on what is happening around us. 

What has been very clear for at least the past 15 to 20 years is that supplies of fish and shellfish from the wild have reached a maximum.  Sure, there is some annual variability up or down, but the numbers always revert to a mean of about 90 million metric tons per year.  We have reached what is referred to as maximum sustainable yield—the tipping point which cannot be exceeded without adversely affecting the ability of the overall fish population to fully reproduce itself. 

Government fisheries scientists understand this reality all too well, and set quotas for fisheries (TAC, or total allowable catch) that fall on the low side of maximum sustainable yield. 

Fortunately, the vast majority of companies and other participants in capture fisheries understand the importance of adherence to quotas if they wish to have a long-term future as fishermen.  Violations and piracy do occur, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule. 

In stark contrast to production in wild fisheries, aquaculture production goes nowhere but up.  Annual world production over the past decade or so has grown at a rate of about 6.5 percent, with total production in 2010 (the latest year until we see the new numbers) at about 60 million metric tons. 

So, with total world production of fish and shellfish from all sources at about 150 million metric tons, we are fast approaching a time when aquaculture production will outstrip production from the wild. 

Actually, when we compare fish and shellfish from the wild that are directly consumed by people, and fish and shellfish from aquaculture, the scales have already tipped in favor of aquaculture (indirect consumption comes, for example, when wild-caught fishmeal is fed to livestock). 

As world human population growth moves toward 8 billion, aquaculture will be hard pressed to maintain the pace.  Certainly, we cannot count on increases in production from the wild.  Quite the contrary, production in the wild may fall below the annual average because of pollution, habitat loss, global warming, or combinations of them all. 

In a scenario where wild production begins to fall, aquaculture will be asked to make up the difference, and grow even beyond its already-robust 6.5 percent annual rate.  Short of that, prices will rise, shortages will be inevitable, and malnutrition and hunger will surely follow. 

But for now, the song remains the same—steady supply from the wild and healthy growth in supply from farms. 

The aquaculture community continues to accept the challenges and overcome barriers.  We see challenges from disease, from increasing demands placed on increasingly scarce aquatic resources, from production costs, and from people who, for whatever reason, view cultured fish—even third-party certified fish—as somehow sub-standard (of course, untrue). 

Challenges be damned!  If you like “green,” (both environmentally and economically speaking), then you like aquaculture.  Fish are by far the most efficient converters of feed into protein of any livestock, and are likely to be one of the best societal investments we will ever make, reaping returns as far as we can see into the future. 

I have no doubt that aquaculture will lead humanity’s nutritional way forward.

 

Copyright © 2013 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

December '13, Fish Farming News--Another installment of "What is the world coming to?"

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

Two conservation organizations, Mundo Azul and BlueVoice, recently uncovered what I consider one of the most heinous and indefensible activities ever brought to light. 

Thousands of dolphins off the coast of Peru are being slaughtered and used as bait for the commercial capture of sharks.  See if you can wrap your brain around that—dolphin bait for sharks! 

“What is the world coming to” doesn’t begin to capture my outrage! 

The conservation groups, after learning of these atrocities, immediately contacted the Peruvian government.  Fortunately, the government is taking these revelations seriously and is instigating steps to develop an action plan to end this illegal activity. 

Under the Peruvian justice system, multiple laws are being violated.  Certainly, dolphins cannot be killed for this purpose.  And second, the shark population is being decimated by overfishing.  The vast majority of captured sharks in Peru are juveniles, when only 10 percent of shark catch below a size limit is allowed. 

In addition to totally lacking any moral compass, these illegal fishermen are, at best shooting themselves in the foot.  Learning from our past mistakes apparently is not in sight here. 

One of the most valuable fisheries in the world is the Peruvian anchovy fishery.  I can say without hesitation, if illegal dolphin and shark fishing continue off the coast of Peru, an ecological disaster of monumental proportions will befall the coveted anchovy fishery. 

I’m no genius to make this claim.  All I have to do is look to the past and our stupidity in other parts of the world.  Peruvian fisheries will become biological deserts as greedy pirates dismantle a fragile ecosystem and cause a cascade of destruction with a tipping point that could be near. 

Wild fisheries are already under threat from pollution, global warming, acidification, and other countless hazards.  Can they tolerate brutal insult on top of injury?  The answer is no. 

At this point, we can only hope that Mundo Azul and BlueVoice sounded the alarm loud enough to jolt the Peruvian government into action.  This is not a trivial matter, and one that begs for a sane and immediate resolution. 

This atrocious behavior is spurred by worldwide demand for high-quality protein.  As quickly as possible, aquaculture must provide and satisfy a larger percentage of the total demand—demand that now exceeds 150 million metric tons per year, and is growing at a brisk pace.  Aquaculture’s contribution, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, is still less than half. 

Additionally, for reasons that could become painfully obvious if Peruvian fishery mismanagement continues, we are wise to continue to reduce our dependence on fishmeal (specifically, anchovy meal from Peru) as a protein source for aquaculture feeds.  Those scientific efforts are bearing fruit, and signify just one of our contributions to the stabilization and sustainability of wild fish populations. 

Social networks have already latched onto the issue of dolphin and shark butchery in Peru at the hands of soulless vandals.  Do not hesitate to add your voice.

 

Copyright © 2013 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

September '13, Fish Farming News--Fish oil takes a hit in new prostate cancer study

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

By most accounts, fish oil, and its increased consumption, has been a huge success in maintaining good health in the lives of people all over the world.  That stellar reputation was tarnished recently when an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute was recently published. 

Dr. Theodore Brasky of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center found that men with high (yes, high) blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly found in fish oil have a significantly higher risk of contracting high-grade prostate cancer. 

This is particularly troubling for us in aquaculture given the benefits of fish oil consumption that have been touted for decades.

Interestingly, the study does not explain the high blood concentrations found in Japanese men (twice as high as men in the Brasky study) and their low rates of prostate cancer (one-sixth of American men).

While I noted the results of the study and have no basis for disputing them per se (the science seems, on the surface, to be reasonably sound, with more follow-up studies required), I can say this is not an “all or nothing” proposition. 

As with many things in life, moderation is the best policy.  But it is human nature to think, “If some is good, then more is better.”  In this case, our human nature may fail us, as some people over-consume fish oil and develop high blood concentrations. 

Over the past several decades, human nutritionists have been able to parse our intake of fats.  They used to say, “To increase your health, reduce your consumption of fats.”  We now know, of course, there are relatively good fats and relatively bad fats, and blanket statements may in fact be counterproductive. 

Indeed, there are three primary groups of fats based on their chemistry: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.  It’s been drilled into us that we need to cut down or avoid consumption of saturated fats (and the similar hydrogenated or trans fats). 

As it turns out, all saturated fats are not created equal.  Saturated fats based on, for example, the fatty acid stearic acid (and other medium-chain triglycerides) are not nearly as deadly as other types of saturated fats.  So some saturated fat consumption, depending on the type, is all right. 

The second group of fats—monounsaturated fats—are relatively good for us.  You will find them in avocados, nuts, olive oil, and many other foods that we know are nutritious and good for us. 

The third group—polyunsaturated fats—is where we thought we had the tiger by the tail.  Among others, polyunsaturated fats include the so-called long-chain omega-6 and omega-3 fats.  This naming system refers to the position of carbon double-bonds within the lipid portion of the molecules. 

In the proper proportions within the foods we eat, this system of fats serves us well.  But, in a world that provides us with a plethora of food choices and nutritional supplements, you sometimes need a Ph.D. in nutrition to keep on the straight and narrow. 

Before agriculture, we relied on the foods that were available within our environment to provide us with the right nutritional balance.  Hunting and gathering by its nature (challenging and requiring skill even in good times) limited certain foods and forced us to eat a highly varied diet.  It was almost impossible to overindulge in any one particular item, at least for long or indefinite periods of time. 

Agriculture changed all of that, and we have begun to stray from nutrient proportions that served us well for millennia. 

Credible scientists and nutritionists generally agree on the proportions of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats that promote optimum human wellness.  A ratio of 1 saturated : 2 monounsaturated : 1 polyunsaturated is accepted as close to ideal. 

Additionally, within the polyunsaturated group, a ratio of 2 omega-6 : 1 omega-3 is also considered ideal.  To our detriment, omega-6 : omega-3 ratios in recent decades have strayed to 5 : 1 and 10 : 1 and higher.  Hence, we received the urging by our doctors to consume more omega-3 in the form of fish and fish oil to restore the proper nutritional balance. 

To complicate things further, omega-3s come in short-chain and long-chain versions.  Fish and fish oil offer the long-chain type (plants such as flax can provide short-chain omega-3s).  A ratio of 1 short-chain omega-3 : 1 long-chain omega-3 is best. 

So, where does all of this leave us?  Let’s look at the math.  Let’s say you consume 100 grams of fats—of all types. 

Based on the ideal ratios above, you should consume 25 grams of saturated fats (with at least half from stearic acid or other “neutral” fatty acids), 50 grams of monounsaturated fats, and 25 grams of polyunsaturated fats. 

To achieve an ideal ratio with the polyunsaturated fats group, we should consume 14 grams of omega-6 and 7 grams of omega-3 (with the remainder as other polyunsaturated fats such as omega-9).

Finally, within the omega-3 group, 3-4 grams should be long-chain omega-3s from fish or fish oil and other long-chain omega-3s, and 3-4 grams short-chain omega-3s. 

As I said earlier, this all can be very confusing, and, given all of our food choices, difficult to balance and achieve.  Fortunately, there is an easy solution. 

As the math above points out, it takes very small amounts of long-chain omega-3s (3 percent or so of your total fat intake) to satisfy your requirements.  The prostate cancer study suggests loudly that we should resist the urge to take more when just some will serve us very nicely. 

On the other hand, let’s not conclude the sky is falling if we eat any fish.  The science strongly suggests otherwise.  Fish are so good for us in so many ways.  It’s a huge mistake to cut out fish and shellfish from your diet. 

The easy solution is to eat a well-balanced diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, true nuts (not peanuts, by the way, which are legumes) and fish and shellfish.  If you do not eat fish and you supplement with fish oil, take only the amount your doctor prescribes.  Here’s where “less is more.” 

Following this formula will give you the ideal fat balance you need and deserve for optimum health and wellness.

 

Copyright © 2013 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

May '13, Fish Farming News--New naming standards apply to aquaculture, all fisheries sciences

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

The other day, I was casually thumbing through my April copy of Fisheries (the magazine of the American Fisheries Society [AFS])—a duty I look forward to every month when it comes through the door. 

For me, one of the highlights is seeing what new books and other publications might be available for purchase.  As a consultant, one of my primary jobs is to stay up to date on the scientific and so-called gray literature, and expanding my electronic and hardcopy library is a never-ending task. 

When I got to page 188, an interesting article by Lawrence M. Page and his colleagues caught my attention.  Among other things, it announced the publication of the latest edition of “Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico” (available from AFS, if you are interested). 

This is the seventh edition (2013), with the previous update coming in 2004.  So, it was time to refresh. 

As always, I plan to buy a copy as soon as possible. 

All of that seemed rather customary and routine until I began to read Page’s article. 

The American Fisheries Society has decided to accept a recommendation by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists to capitalize the common names of fishes. 

I will say that again…capitalize the common names of fishes.  Wow! 

This hits me like a ton of bricks!  For my entire career I have clung to the standard of using lower case for common names.  Maybe I’m being overly dramatic about this, but my brain is screaming bloody murder! 

As the article explained, “…capitalization helps to eliminate the ambiguity that accompanies names like blue catfish, lake trout, black brotula, and deepsea sole and that common names in English should be treated as proper nouns.” 

The authors go on to say, “This change moves the practice for North American fishes into agreement with that for several other vertebrate groups, where capitalization of English names is standard.  The capitalization of English names of fishes applies only to individual species such as the Bluebarred Pygmy Sunfish and Bumphead Parrotfish, not to groups of related species such as pygmy sunfishes, parrotfishes, and bony fishes.” 

The article went on to explain some other more minor changes in usage and presentation, particularly anglicized Spanish names.  All of these details will be clear in the updated version of the book. 

As a loyal and longtime member of AFS, I plan to comply with the changes, and I encourage all of you to do the same. 

My change in thinking and action, however, will not come without substantial practice.  The previous standard is so engrained in my psyche that I will undoubtedly correct many capitalization errors before it becomes routine. 

The changes announced in Page’s article continue a long tradition of change within fisheries science and science in general.  The naming system within science—taxonomy—is littered with change (understatement of the year!).  Indeed, it’s like an ever-evolving organism, with new species and changes announced (like capitalization for common names of fishes) almost at a dizzying pace. 

I guess that’s appropriate given the nature of what we do and our chosen field.  Changes in aquaculture, particularly technology, seem to be accelerating.  Apparently so too must the science and conventions we use to report those changes. 

To one degree or another, change can be difficult for us, because we are human, to accept.  I cling to the present and the familiar probably more than the average person, or that I care to admit. 

But change is OK.  It keeps life interesting.  In aquaculture, when those changes are for the better, we improve our condition and our society.  That’s why we do what we do. 

So, we will see, most certainly, more changes in the future.  Until then, accept and cling tightly (but not too tightly) to the new standards.

 

Copyright © 2013 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

February '13, Fish Farming News--Connecting investment money with viable aquaculture projects—a real challenge

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

When my office telephone rings, it can be either someone looking for help to solve a problem (e.g., “help me fix this” or “I want to start raising fish but don’t know how”), or it can be someone with investment money looking to diversify into fish production. 

If you think about it, these two situations can be complementary.  Quite often, the “fix this” caller and the “I want to raise fish” caller need money.  Well, the investment guy seems like just the ticket.  But there’s a catch. 

Connecting reliable investment money with viable projects is a bit of a Catch 22.  Many existing and would-be aquaculturists need funds to get their project back on track or off the ground.  The investor, however, almost always wants to see substantial operating history before they seriously consider an investment. 

The “fix this” grower has operating history, but usually very little.  That tends to be one reason why they are having short-term problems.  All of the “bugs” have not been worked out of the system. 

The “I want to raise fish” person clearly has no operating history.  So, they are virtually excluded from consideration right from the start. 

This dilemma is ongoing and persistent.  You can’t blame the investor.  They simply want to ensure, to the best of their ability, that they will at least get their money back and hopefully will be rewarded with an appropriate return on their investment. 

Here is where state and federal government agencies often step in and begin to accept risk that is too onerous and large for private-sector investors.  Often, they are willing to take that chance in an effort to spur development and create that bridge between operators and dollars that is often-times lacking. 

But, even with input from government agencies and other public sources, a gap still exists.  Even these sources will not provide funding without a valid and compelling feasibility study and business plan—and that itself costs money. 

Anyone who seriously considers entering the aquaculture arena, either to expand or become a producer for the first time, must understand this predicament very clearly.  As the saying goes, you must have skin in the game to have any chance of success. 

No one, not even a government agency, will lend you 100 percent of the money you need to get into aquaculture production. 

Indeed, you must first have that feasibility study/business plan in hand (essentially a proposal) before they consider you for funding.  In only a few cases will these agencies fund studies and planning, and once again your financial participation is most assuredly required—probably at least 50 percent of the cost. 

Here is the process that will get you to a working facility. 

1. Phase 1: Feasibility analysis and business planning—A study of the technical and financial “what ifs” including species, facility scale, markets, water and land resources, infrastructure, profitability, and other important factors. 

2. Phase 2: Detailed design—The development of construction-ready drawings and specifications, created and stamped of course by registered engineers and architects. 

3. Phase 3: Construction—The construction of the facility and development of management plans. 

4. Phase 4: Start-up and implementation—The operation of the facility with adequate funding to bring you through the production of your first group of fish, including an expectation for “bugs” and other typical problems as the facility reaches maximum production. 

Surprisingly, most people underestimate how much that first phase—the phase you most certainly will be required to fund yourself—will cost. 

For larger facilities, those costs are smaller on a percentage basis (3-5%) and larger for smaller facilities (can be 8% or higher). 

If you have no operating history and are looking for a financial helping hand, be prepared to turn over a substantial portion of your ownership.  From the investor’s point of view, they are the ones taking the most risk—great risk at that.  You can argue “sweat equity” all you want, but that rarely is a persuasive argument.  Your time and passion carry only a little weight in the investor’s eyes. 

For those with operating history, you are in a much better position to negotiate with an investor.  You have, by definition, already made it past all four development phases and, in one fashion or another, have handled those costs.  You also have a working business structure in place, which is a solid basis for expansion or other changes.  Simply, the business risk is much lower. 

If you are considering entering the aquaculture industry, you must do so as you would any other business.  Be prepared to capitalize as much of the business as you can.  And certainly spend your development dollars wisely on a feasibility study and business plan that are compelling and are written from their point of view and with your investor’s best interests in mind. 

Ultimately, they are the ones who hold sway over your financial future.

 

Copyright © 2013 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

January '13, Fish Farming News--Integrated aquaculture is our sustainable and profitable path forward

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

We are all concerned about the current status and future of our environment.  I consider myself a fervent environmentalist.  While I have always considered aquaculture our best alternative to capture fisheries and a way to preserve those capture fisheries, some prefer to focus on aquaculture’s negatives, and have tried to paint aquaculture as antithetical to an environmentally sensitive and sustainable approach to the production of human food. 

Long-time readers of my column understand very clearly my view of aquaculture and its pros and cons.  I have no doubt that the list of positives is much longer and by far outweighs the list of negatives.  I, however, always add the proviso that aquaculture is not perfect and that the industry always strives to improve. 

Evidence is mounting that aquaculture is not only keeping my promise to constantly improve, but also, as a result, the detractors appear to be softening their harsh criticism. 

These less threatening and less vitriolic comments by some opponents come within a context that relates to the integration of aquaculture with other types of complementary production.  These approaches reduce or utilize aquaculture wastes, or succeed to reduce the demand by aquaculture for unsustainable raw materials such as fishmeal and fish oil. 

While I have written about some of these accomplishments before, these relatively new approaches to production deserve some additional comments under the umbrella of a more all-encompassing future vision for aquaculture, and one that puts sustainability and environmental sensitivity in the forefront of an overarching strategy for aquaculture. 

1. IMTA—Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture 

IMTA has been around and looked at experimentally for a number of years now.  However, more recently, people within practical aquaculture (and with a goal of profitability) have begun to embrace IMTA as a business model that can be universally accepted. 

In short, IMTA (in its most familiar iteration) is a coastal-ocean, multi-layering strategy whereby finfish are produced in conventional net pens.  Adjacent to the net pens and surrounding them are located filter-feeding, bivalve production systems (often scallops, mussels, or oysters) which filter the water—including wastewater and solids generated by the production of the finfish.  Finally, another surrounding layer includes systems for the production of marine macroalgae, which aggressively absorb and remove dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen compounds—waste products of the production of finfish—from the nearby water. 

This elegant approach to aquaculture kills several birds with one stone.  It diversifies a production operation’s end products, and does so in a manner that dramatically reduces the operation’s environmental impact—and depending on the circumstances, at a profit. 

2. Closed-containment Aquaculture 

This strategy takes the raceway or tank from land and puts it into the ocean.  By substituting an impermeable vessel for a net pen, the discharge from the vessel is much more easily managed and controlled—again, with the sustainability of the nearby environment in mind. 

Coupling of closed-containment systems with IMTA is currently under scrutiny in both academic and private circles. 

3. Aquaponics and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems 

Without a doubt, the indoor, land-based integration of recirculating aquaculture systems with the production of plants is taking the world by storm, particularly here in the U.S.  With some previously proclaiming the demise of U.S. aquaculture, aquaponics is without a doubt the fastest-growing segment of aquaculture in the U.S.  To coin a phrase, the king is most assuredly not dead! 

Almost counter-intuitively, most of the growth in aquaponics is coming in the form of small, closely held operations.  This growth is driven by the desire to grow and sell locally.  Customers literally eat it up when they hear the fish and vegetables were raised just a few short miles away, and they pay premium prices for the privilege. 

4. Fishmeal and Fish Oil Alternatives 

In a purposeful and intentional move away from expensive and increasingly scarce and less reliable fishmeal and fish oil, the aquaculture community is successfully finding and embracing alternatives. 

This is not a pipe dream.  These less-expensive alternatives are available to us today in the form of marine algae extracts (proteins and omega-3 fats), soybean meals and concentrates, dried distillers’ grains with solubles, palm extracts, more exotic candidates such as soldier fly larvae, and many others. 

In related news, a watershed event occurred when the Democrat governor of California, Jerry Brown, recently signed legislation to promote clean and sustainable aquaculture development within the state.  Certainly no bastion of uncontrolled business activity, California’s willingness to further embrace integrated aquaculture marks a turning point in attitudes toward our field. 

Regardless of their domestic or foreign locations, aquaculture facilities everywhere will be required to come to grips with the consequences of their activities.  In doing so, isn’t it in their best interests, and doesn’t it make the most sense to make money at the same time? 

Producing fish and doing it sustainably no longer must be a zero-sum gain.  Instead, let’s be smarter and reap the rewards on both ends.

 

Copyright © 2012 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

June '12, Fish Farming News--U.S. seafood trade deficit continues to rise, no thanks to NIMBY regulations

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

It is not often that I invoke the name of a colleague in my column.  But I am compelled to mention someone who, for the past several years, has inspired me through his relentless efforts to right a wrong. 

Like many of us still do, I used to think that the U.S. seafood trade deficit was so large that only petroleum surpassed it on a top-ten list.  I stood up at a conference meeting and posed a question that included a comment about what I thought at the time was the very lofty position of seafood in the trade deficit list. 

After the meeting concluded, Joe Myers, Aquaculture Development Specialist with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, caught up to me, took me to the side, and very diplomatically enlightened me of my error regarding the U.S. seafood trade deficit. 

Joe is a very credible guy and, while I was mildly embarrassed about my gaffe, I knew I was fortunate that he took the time to point me to the truth. 

I think our encounter was in 2007, so at the time, the seafood deficit did not rank second.  In fact, it ranked twenty-third.  In 2011, the rank climbed to seventeenth, with a value of $10.9 billion. 

Just like Joe, I continue to hear people say that the U.S. seafood trade deficit is second only to petroleum.  This is one of the unfortunate fictions of our day and continues to be reinforced when anyone speaks it or writes it.  I am now one of Joe’s disciples and I correct people whenever I am able.  Thanks, Joe. 

Embedded in what I just described is a disturbing fact.  The seafood trade deficit continues to rise, both in terms of value and rank.  It’s far from being ranked second, but we certainly don’t want to get close. 

For a long time, we have all heard that “factory fish farming” is a scourge and must be shunned and avoided, both by would-be producers and by consumers.  Instead, we are encouraged to consume wild fish.  We are told that wild fish are healthier for us (which is another falsehood).  In the same breath, we are fed news reports about the oceans being emptied of their previously infinite bounty. 

We can’t have it both ways! 

Environmental hypocrisy must be exposed wherever it is found.  Some of the same people who eat beef cattle or hogs—some of the least efficient converters of feed and water into consumable protein—scream and complain that raising resource-stingy fish in aquaculture systems is akin to environmental Armageddon. 

The truth is quite the opposite.  Aquaculture is how we will save the remaining wild fish in our lakes and oceans. 

The real answer, some say, is to avoid eating animal protein of any kind.  Whether or not vegetarians and vegans want to admit it, the vast majority of people will continue to eat animal protein, including finfish and shellfish. 

By the way, strict vegetarians and vegans are committing nutritional suicide, but that’s another column.  So, avoiding fish in your diet—wild or aquacultured—is not an option. 

Reversing the seafood trade deficit trend in the U.S. must become a priority.  As standards of living and wages elevate in nations that have traditionally been our seafood suppliers, the products they offer will become increasingly less affordable. 

This means we must necessarily become more self-sufficient and self-reliant.  Quite simply, we must develop aquaculture here in the U.S.  This will, however, require a change in some people’s not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitude, and the regulatory structure that governs aquaculture development. 

That kind of change will only come from the bottom up.  In our democratic society, people have influence over their elected officials.  The regulatory climate will change only when we convince enough people that energy-efficient and water-efficient aquaculture is a reasonable way for us to solve our trade deficit predicament. 

The recent explosion of interest in aquaponics (integrated aquaculture and hydroponics) indicates to me that reasonable people—indeed, people who consider themselves environmentalists—are ready for aquaculture development to move forward in this country. 

Let’s hope so.

 

Copyright © 2012 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

April '12, Fish Farming News--Wild fish face an uncertain future, pollution by plastics is the only certainty

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

I watched with great interest as David Pogue, a frequent contributor to CBS Sunday Morning, presented a story about plastics in the oceans—specifically the Pacific Ocean and an area called the North Pacific Gyre which stretches from Asia to North America.

Actually, there are five similar areas in the world’s oceans—two in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean.

The North Pacific Gyre has another name: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  This clockwise surface flow in the northern half of the Pacific Ocean catches everything deposited into it, including anything that floats such as wood and plastic.

Most recently, we have watched the news and heard about all of the debris from the Japanese tsunami and its voyage from Japan to North America, courtesy of the North Pacific Gyre. 

Pogue interviewed a man named Charles J. Moore.  Moore is an oceanographer and racing-boat captain.  During his travels in the North Pacific, Moore found garbage—mostly plastic—in a place he never expected to see it. 

He found it far from land, and in quantities that shocked him.  As a result, he decided to study the situation further. 

In a landmark 1999 study, Moore determined there was six times more plastic in this part of the ocean than the zooplankton that feed fish. 

Now, understand, we’re not talking about large pieces of plastic, although there certainly is a lot of that too.  Instead, he found large quantities of bits and small pieces that measure only a few millimeters in length—pieces that are easily confused as food and consumed by wild fish. 

In a 2002 follow-up study just off the coast of California (the eastern edge of the North Pacific Gyre), he found that plastic outweighed zooplankton by a ratio of 5:2.  His colleagues were shocked, as am I! 

Moore carried his research further, captured fish, and examined their stomach contents.  Fully 30 percent of the fish stomachs contained plastic.  As a fish biologist and a sometimes-consumer of wild fish, I find that frightening. 

Plastics are designed to last, and far too little is recycled.  As they persist in our environment (and they will for a very long time) and as their use continues to grow along with population, there is no doubt that greater and greater quantities of plastic will accumulate in our oceans. 

While I do not claim to fully appreciate the toxicological and physiological impacts of plastics on wild fish, I cannot imagine that the effects of plastics on wild fish are benign. 

When you heap plastics on all of the other physical, chemical, and biological challenges to wild fish—namely heavy metals, pathogens, overfishing, rogue and abandoned fishing gear, pesticides, and other organic compounds—it’s a wonder that wild fish populations perform as well as they do. 

I don’t often mince words, so I won’t now.  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a disgrace.  The Atlantic and Indian Oceans are no doubt in a similar state. 

I am generally an optimistic person.  But quite frankly, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the things that make me sometimes say in frustration, “We aren’t going to make it.” 

If we are to survive, we must change our paradoxical attitude about oceans, and for that matter all aquatic environments. 

On one hand we rely on them for food.  On the other, we treat them as our dumping grounds.  We all know what happens to the bird that—shall we say, “evacuates”—in its own nest. 

Plastics are just one more insult to injury, and another reason why aquaculture can and must step to the forefront of fish supply for human consumption.  The danger to wild fish from plastics and subsequent human health is uncertain.  But let’s not tempt fate.

 

Copyright © 2012 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

January '12, Fish Farming News--Predictions do come true, aquaculture can come to the rescue

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

About one year ago, I wrote a column about U.S. aquaculture’s current state of affairs. 

The U.S. was running a huge trade deficit in seafood, and we still do.  But some important shifts have occurred over the past twelve months. 

From my perspective we have reached a tipping point of sorts.  One that could—could—mean the world for U.S. aquaculture. 

A December, 2011, news report decried the supply of seafood in China relative to demand. 

“It is becoming more and more difficult to procure seafood,” says a Chinese wholesaler. 

The report goes on to say, “In China, it has been said that fish spring from the sea, but now depletion of fishery resources because of overfishing is taking on a touch of real possibility…The prices of seafood have been soaring wildly due to the mounting difficulty in obtaining fish in the seafood market.” 

In last year’s column, I talked about a fundamental shift in world economics.  We were experiencing then, and still are, an economic slowdown in the U.S. that put a lid on wages and many prices. 

On the other hand, places like China and India are still booming—leading to increasing wages, standards of living, and prices. 

What does that mean for us? 

As I predicted, the playing field is leveling.  In other words, cheap labor abroad, relative to the U.S., is becoming harder and harder to find. 

Globalization of markets is a great equalizer.  Low production costs in one part of the world inevitably will give way (if markets are not fiddled with, open and free, and left to their own devices) to higher wages and costs at that location, which provides opportunity for everyone else to compete more effectively for the same business and sales. 

The rest of the world is “catching up” to the U.S. in terms of wages and costs.  This move is not complete, but the handwriting is on the wall. 

Who would have even contemplated five or ten years ago that, for example, textile manufacturing might return to North Carolina?  It is now a real possibility (so say pundits on CNBC), as is the opportunity for U.S. aquaculture producers to seriously consider selling products to the seafood-starved Chinese. 

In all likelihood, the higher-priced and higher-value items will find their way to China first.  Cobia, amberjack, yellowtail, barramundi, grouper, trout, salmon, hybrid striped bass, and many others are all good candidates. 

Two Hong Kong-based businessmen are setting up shop in Maine to export at least 1 million pounds of lobster to China every year.  These are all wild-caught, of course.  But it gives you a sense of the possible. 

Another prediction:  The future demand for seafood from China will be so great, that U.S. producers will finally be in a position to justify larger investments of capital and operating costs in off-shore cage systems, and freshwater recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). 

In a real sense, our economic woes are making this possible.  It is now time to seize the opportunity and turn the tables on, what has been, a Chinese-export juggernaut. 

Those days are ending, and hopefully we can see clear from a regulatory perspective to finally unleash the potential for aquaculture here in America (hello all politicians!).  We are on the brink of an economic opportunity that we must not miss.

 

Copyright © 2011 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

September '11, Fish Farming News--Romantic notion of eating wild fish must end

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

I read the recent article in Time magazine (18 July 2011) by Bryan Walsh about aquaculture and its relationship to human nutrition and wild fish populations.  Aquaculture was, AGAIN, inaccurately painted in an awkward light—as sort of a necessary evil. 

The author waxed poetic about people setting out into the wild and braving the elements, and about how fish are the last wild food. 

I certainly do not begrudge commercial fishermen their living.  This romantic view of fishing is quaint and appealing.  Let’s face it.  As people, we have been hunting and gathering for as long as we have been around.  In a real sense, it’s part of our DNA.  So, I easily understand the sentiment. 

Now, let’s fast-forward to today, and today’s reality. 

Our world contains 7 billion people.  We insist on making more.  When Paul Erlich wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, his timing was a little off (only regional starvation during the 1970’s and ‘80’s) and we have managed the situation a bit better than he predicted (not much).  But as a visionary, he didn’t do too bad a job. 

I have no problem with fishing as a recreational pastime.  In most cases, this is a once-in-awhile event that results in incidental fish consumption.  Indeed, catch-and-release fishing is becoming an increasingly popular way for us to satisfy our passion for hunting, and at the same time return the quarry relatively unharmed to the water for us to pursue another day. 

But I am sick to death of hearing how much better wild fish are than aquacultured fish.  The facts do not support this notion and it’s simply not true. 

As an analogy, we are all told by health officials to be careful who we associate with as a partner.  Use precautions, or even exercise abstinence. 

Given this context, I am amazed at people’s attitudes about fish that we hunt.  In the same breath, we are told to eat more wild fish.  Where have these fish been?!  What have they been exposed too?!  Pesticides?  Heavy metals?  Medical waste and other pollution?  We simply do not know, or we find through analysis that these fish are indeed tainted. 

The romantic notion that we must eat wild fish must end.  We do not know the quality of these fish, and the oceans simply cannot satisfy the large and growing demand.  Fishing for the purposes of feeding the human population is unsustainable.  End of story! 

According to most recent UNFAO statistics, total world annual consumption of all fish and shellfish is 142 million metric tons.  The wild supply amounts to 90 million metric tons, with no sign of increasing anytime soon.  The contribution from aquaculture is 52 million metric tons and growing rapidly. 

This is why aquaculture was invented—just like terrestrial agriculture.  We no longer have to scour the oceans for sustenance, nor should we.  We cannot afford to capture and consume every fish in the ocean simply because we can.  In the end, we will still be hungry and the oceans will be empty.  Eating wild fish can be dangerous, and I can cite hundreds of examples. 

When fish are raised in aquaculture systems, we are in much more control of the situation.  We can provide feeds that are free of toxins and pollutants.  In many cases, we can control the quality of the water in which the fish reside.  The result is a product that is traceable, and its producers are accountable. 

Leave the wild fish for our child and their child to enjoy, and to continue their part as important links in our ecological continuum.

 

Copyright © 2011 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

July '11, Fish Farming News--Aquaculture receives good news about environmental impact

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

I received some very good news recently—news that really did not surprise me, but news that provided a sense of satisfaction that I have sought for a long time. 

Those of us in aquaculture have always understood the many ways in which aquaculture can help us bridge the gap between food demand and availability.  We are also aware of the production efficiencies and environmental benefits that aquaculture offers over other types of agricultural production, and the role aquaculture plays in saving and preserving wild populations of fish. 

A new report by WorldFish Center and Conservation International confirms what we all have known for many decades. 

While the report, entitled “Blue Frontiers: Managing the Environmental Costs of Aquaculture,” addresses a multitude of issues related to aquaculture, three overriding themes emerge: (1) the environmental impact of aquaculture varies greatly between region or country of production, species, and production system, (2) aquaculture is more efficient and less damaging to the environment than terrestrial agriculture such as beef and pork production, and (3) fish and shellfish are and will be some of the most important sources of protein for growing urban populations in many parts of the world, particularly China and India. 

The growth in demand for fish and seafood is the key issue here.  We now derive the majority of our fisheries products from aquaculture, which on average has grown at a rate of 8.4 percent since 1970.  Without aquaculture, we would have stripped the oceans bare long ago, and the need for even more supply grows by the day. 

Recommendations within the report include: (1) a research focus on carp production in Asia, which is least efficient and disproportionately contributes negatively to the environment, (2) an educational focus on production systems in developing nations to improve efficiencies, (3) continuing efforts to reduce dependence on fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture diets, (4) urge governments to promote aquaculture over other types of livestock production, (5) urge governments to promote aquaculture as a form of food security, (6) minimize energy consumption in aquaculture production, (7) locate production facilities away from mangroves, seagrass, and wooded forests and other ecosystems that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide, and (8) encourage regulatory frameworks that support technological innovation, support the capture of environmental costs within aquaculture processes, and support monitoring and compliance. 

These are all important and worthwhile recommendations.  They also imply that aquaculture development is a governmental responsibility.  I suppose it is.  But I prefer to think of it as a willingness on the part of governments to partner with the private sector.  Rather than standing in the way with punitive and often overreaching regulations, governments must appreciate more fully the value of aquaculture and the imperative to encourage aquaculture development within the private sector. 

Certainly, aquaculture should not be left to grow in a haphazard fashion.  Instead, regulatory frameworks should be transformed into a structure that takes into account environmental considerations, rational societal sensibilities (not hype or sensationalism), and reasoned and thoughtful planning for our future needs. 

The maturation of aquaculture over the decades is self-evident.  Certification of production facilities and their products by third parties is now the norm.  The aquaculture industry fully understands its role and responsibilities, and has taken adequate steps to ensure environmental sustainability as a punch list item in its siting and production protocols. 

Maybe the pot shots taken at us by groups purporting to be advocates for the environment will finally stop.  That’s my eternal optimism shining through, but the reality is that changes in attitude toward aquaculture by naysayers will come only over a period of time.  However, the report presented by WorldFish Center goes a long way to vindication for aquaculture.

 

Copyright © 2011 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

Aquaculture Blog--Water monitoring systems gain acceptance, manufacturers improve reliability

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

Fish farming is like no other form of agriculture.

By law across the U.S., aquaculture falls under the same umbrella as dirt farming and ranching.  But the aquaculture environment could not be more different than all terrestrial forms of agriculture. 

When do corn farmers ever worry about oxygen concentrations around their plants?  Never. 

When do ranchers ponder carbon dioxide levels around their cattle or sheep?  Never.   

When does a 10-degree swing in temperature change the growth profile of their animals or row crops?  Relatively rarely. 

When do all of these environmental factors come into play for fish farmers?  Every single day. 

The production environment is a major reason why aquaculture can be so challenging.  From minute to minute, dissolved oxygen concentration can play an enormous role in the well-being of fish and shellfish, and in more severe circumstances can be the difference between life and death. 

Over the years, fish farmers have come to appreciate the importance of the production environment and its sometimes tenuous nature.  Depending on the circumstances, water quality can turn on a dime. 

A focus of any fish farm manager or employee must be water quality.  This job can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, particularly if large numbers of ponds, tanks, or pens are involved. 

Managing all of the data collected during the regular course of a production cycle can be challenging as well, not to mention how those data are used to make informed decisions on a timely basis. 

For many years—indeed decades in most cases—a group of companies has recognized the importance of water quality testing and monitoring, and has made it their goal to streamline the process and deliver accurate and reliable results in a cost-effective manner. 

With other smaller players in tow, a group of seven companies stands out as the worldwide leaders in water testing and monitoring for aquaculture and other similar applications.  They are OxyGuard International (Denmark), YSI (Yellow Springs, OH), Aanderaa Data Instruments (Norway), In-Situ (Fort Collins, CO), Hanna Instruments (Woonsocket, RI), Hach Company (Loveland, CO), and Reliant Water Technologies (New Orleans, LA). 

Almost without exception, each of these companies had their beginnings in other water testing fields such as domestic water supply and wastewater treatment, oil and gas, or some other related field. 

As aquaculture grew in size and scope, each company understood where aquaculture was headed, and began to develop solutions to the problems encountered by aquaculture producers. 

Direct testing of water quality factors such as temperature, oxygen, and pH with single, manually operated probes or sondes (multi-sensor probes) spearheaded the development process.  Results when using these instruments were available in seconds. 

This was a significant advancement beyond chemical test kits that were tedious and often required more than 5 minutes to develop results, not to mention the cost of reagent chemicals that were consumed in the process. 

The first few generations of oxygen probes were based on polarographic membrane technology.  Again, the advancements were significant, but not without some drawbacks, including a requirement for water to move past the probe during testing, sometimes unstable calibration, and membrane replacement on a relatively regular basis within harsh aquaculture environments. 

Another leap forward in oxygen probe technology was achieved when some developers moved to galvanic electrochemical probes and optical probes.  The optical approach eliminated the requirement for water to move past the end of the probe and, in many cases, improved stability of measurements over time.  Galvanic electrochemical probes continue to require water movement past the probe for accurate and reliable results, but are very rugged and stable over time and tend to require less maintenance. 

Today, in the minds of many, optical probes and galvanic electrochemical probes represent state-of-the-art in oxygen measurement.  Both hold prominent positions within the industry.  Polarographic technology is still in wide use as well, particularly with hand-held devices used for spot checking. 

For many fish farmers, accurate, reliable, and worry-free automated water quality monitoring—collecting good data over long periods of time, not just spot checks by people—is the Holy Grail of aquaculture, and this was the next challenge for equipment manufacturers. 

Large aquaculture facilities in particular, or facilities that grow fish at high densities, must monitor and control oxygen on a 24/7 basis, or during key times of the day (e.g., at night in outdoor ponds).  Accomplishing this task manually can require personnel dedicated to that task, or large numbers of people with multiple tasks, or both.  In either case, employing people can be expensive. 

Here is where water monitoring systems come into play. 

When you mate oxygen probes and sondes and other water quality measurement devices with controllers that collect and manage data and automatically activate aeration equipment or alarms at appropriate times, you have a system that, on paper, is a dream come true. 

Let’s briefly look at what each of the seven leading companies has to offer: 

OxyGuard International

At their founding in Denmark in 1987, catering to the aquaculture industry was a primary objective of this company.  OxyGuard offers a line of hand-held measurement instruments for manual data collection, as well as monitoring, controlling, and data logging devices for automated data collection, aerator control, and data storage. 

The Commander (unlimited number of probes), OxyGuard 8 (8 probes), and OxyGuard Multilog (data logging and display) fill the needs for a wide range of facilities. 

According to company spokesperson Charlotte Ravnsborg, “The company philosophy is to provide no-nonsense measuring and monitoring equipment—equipment that does exactly what is needed with a minimum of maintenance and bother.” 

YSI

Yellow Springs, Ohio, is the home of YSI and has been for the past 63 years.  During that time YSI has played a major role in the water and wastewater industries as well as aquaculture. 

According to Tim Grooms, Product Manager for YSI, company growth in aquaculture is at or above overall growth of the industry.  YSI has a line of hand-held and automated instruments for measurement of oxygen (featuring their optical probe), conductivity, temperature, pH, ORP, salinity and others. 

The 5200A system is specifically designed to handle all of these parameters and control aerators, feeders, and other equipment such as alarms.  The 5400 system expands on that capability to handle up to four sets of probes and other inputs. 

Aanderaa Data Instruments (AADI)

This Norwegian company began catering to the oil and gas and environmental research markets 40 years ago.  More recently, they recognized the growth of aquaculture, particularly in Norway, and developed systems specifically designed for those environments. 

AADI instruments measure and monitor oxygen, water current speed and direction, temperature, and conductivity/salinity.  They feature the Oxygen Optode optical sensor for use with their Oxyview Program to measure and record data within multiple aquaculture systems. 

In-Situ

In-Situ is a Colorado company with roots in water and wastewater management since 1976. 

They entered the aquaculture realm more recently with an innovative product called the Wireless Aquaculture System.  This floating buoy device monitors and controls oxygen and aeration equipment, is based on their RDO PRO optical probe oxygen sensor, and wirelessly relays oxygen and temperature data back to a central receiver and aeration controller. 

The wireless buoy approach is relatively unique in the marketplace, is conceptually elegant, and popular with customers. 

Hanna Instruments

Hanna Instruments is an Italian company with a 25-year operating history in the U.S.  They do a lot of business in Europe and focus on the mariculture sector. 

According to Market Manager Jessica Hoagland, the company offers the rugged and easy-to-use HI8410 Dissolved Oxygen Controller.  This device uses a galvanic electrochemical probe, and can be used to activate and deactivate aeration equipment. 

They also offer their very new HI9829 system, which measures and records (no control capability) a wide variety of data including dissolved oxygen, pH, ORP, salinity, turbidity, temperature, and many others for up to 30 days. 

Hoagland stressed that their prices are very competitive and, as a privately owned company, take great pride in their customer service. 

Hach Company

Another Colorado company, Hach, has been in the process instrumentation business for more than 60 years.  Within the past 10 years, the Hach aquaculture business segment has grown very rapidly—at a rate of 20-30 percent per year or more—as they have moved into aquaculture environmental monitoring and control, and claims to be acquiring market share from some of the competition. 

According to Jeff Allen, Regional Sales Manager within the U.S. Pacific Northwest, their fourth generation optical oxygen probe is “rock solid,” with no accuracy or reliability issues.  Mated to their sc200 and sc1000 controllers and other probes, oxygen as well as other water quality parameters can be measured and monitored. 

Reliant Water Technologies

The Royce 9300 Pond Monitoring System is the flagship aquaculture product of this company.  It is based on a galvanic electrochemical oxygen probe and can be used to control aeration equipment or send alarms to computers or cell phones. 

The company caters primarily to the U.S. catfish industry, but also sells to striped bass facilities, and to shrimp and eel production facilities in Asia, Europe, and South America. 

Company president Jim Dartez is adamant about his product’s accuracy and reliability, stating his probe sensors will last up to 5 years with proper maintenance, and require calibration as little as once per year. 

Monitoring and control systems are not for everyone—particularly small operations with already manageable data collection requirements.  Larger facilities with mounting labor costs should take a closer look. 

While claims of accurate and reliable operation by manufacturers are encouraging, only time can convince many aquaculture facility managers and owners that these monitoring systems can deliver their promises. 

“How do I sleep at night and rely on and trust machines when so many fish and so much money are at stake?” is a question expressed by many facility managers. 

Most assuredly, these monitoring systems must be maintained according to the manufactures recommended protocols and procedures.  No one is saying otherwise. 

Anyone lulled into thinking these systems will function indefinitely without maintenance or attention will be sadly mistaken.  The aquaculture environment is harsh and unforgiving. 

However, under appropriate and diligent maintenance, a strategy of “supervised automation” (i.e., manpower efficiency, always with an eye to stock safety) can go a long way to substantially reducing labor costs, and increasing economic competitiveness and profitability. 

As the technology continues to improve, as well as experience by management with the technology, comfort levels and trust will continue to rise. 

Without a doubt, we will see more of this equipment in place as we move into the future.

 

Copyright © 2005 Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Copying and distributing or reprinting for purposes of resale without expressed permission of the author is prohibited.

Aquaculture Blog--Worried about eating salmon?  Think again

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

With all the dire warnings about PCBs and other toxins in farmed and wild salmon, you’d think people would be dropping dead right and left.  Instead, people are heeding the message that salmon tastes good and is good for you—especially your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system. 

Last year a researcher named Ron Hites and his colleagues published an article in the prestigious journal Science.  His research was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This article created a media sensation, claiming that farmed-raised salmon contained higher levels of PCBs than their wild counterparts.  Indeed, wild salmon are regularly cited as containing high levels of PCBs and other toxins as well. 

While this entire furor makes for great headlines, the reality of the situation is quite different.  Ron Hardy, a Professor at the University of Idaho took a close look at the claims presented in the Hite study and drew some very different conclusions. 

In a recent article of his own, Hardy noted the following: “My opinion of the study was similar to that of many of its critics.  The consensus was that (there) were a number of points that seemed flawed…While there was little concern over the analytical accuracy of the contaminant values…a great deal of concern was expressed over the selection of samples…At the time the samples were purchased, there was no country-of-origin labeling requirement.  Purchases were identified by origin based on what the buyer was told by the seller.” 

Hardy went on to say, “A second, more serious concern was the relatively small sample of wild salmon and the species of wild salmon that constituted the sample.”  In other words, all wild salmon are not created equal.  They have different food preferences and, as a result, may expose themselves to varying levels of contamination, based on where they eat along the so-called food chain.  Additionally, contamination in wild salmon can vary by region.  Near-shore salmon, for example those found in Puget Sound, are more contaminated than those in the Pacific Ocean or Gulf of Alaska. 

The final nail in the coffin of the Hites study comes when we examine our contaminant exposure not only from salmon, but from other food sources as well.  Hardy notes, “For example, intake of beef in 2002 was 144 pounds per person in the U.S., compared to 15.6 pounds of fish and shellfish.  Salmon intake in 2003 was 2.22 pounds per person…When total annual PCB intake is calculated based upon average consumption of various foods, the comparisons are stunning.  Per capita PCB intake from beef is 2401 ppb, compared to 30 ppb for farmed salmon.  Milk contributes 716 ppb per capita…if one uses Hite’s values for (farmed) Chilean salmon, for example, per capita PCB intake drops by 50% for farmed salmon.  If American doubled their intake of farmed salmon, the contribution of consumption on total yearly PCB intake would still be 40-80 times less than the amount for beef.” 

Hardy concludes, “No matter how the data are calculated and no matter who’s PCB values for salmon are used, the amount of PCBs contributed to the diet from farmed or most wild salmon is truly insignificant in the context of overall PCB intake of the average American.” 

Where are the headlines about contaminated and deadly beef or milk?  We don’t see them.  Clearly, salmon (specifically farmed salmon) have been, quite unfairly, singled out by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This kind of biased and jaundiced approach to science serves no useful purpose, and only undermines public confidence in the scientific method of investigation. 

The bottom line here is simple: the benefits of eating salmon, farmed or wild, and their beneficial omega-3 fats far outweigh the risks to your health if you don’t consume generous amounts on a regular basis.  Those individuals with marginal health (i.e., diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc.) actually stand to gain the most. 

You may view Dr. Hardy’s complete article by navigating to: http://www.ftai.com/articles/Farmed%20Salmon%20Contam%20Hardy.pdf

 

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Aquaculture Blog--Aquacultured versus wild fish in a healthy diet

by Bill Manci
Senior Biologist and Certified Fisheries Professional
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

Aquaculture, the production and husbandry of aquatic plants and animals in controlled environments, also called fish farming, is coming of age.  First applied by the Chinese over 2,000 years ago, aquaculture has enjoyed an enormous increase in its practice and acceptance.  Since the 1960s when aquaculture was a cottage industry, this agricultural pursuit has grown worldwide from 10 million metric tons of production in 1984 to 38 million metric tons in 1998 (1).  During the same time period because of overfishing, many wild fish populations crashed and have few, if any, prospects for full recovery (2).  By the year 2030, aquaculture will account for more than 50% of all fisheries products consumed in the world (1).

By other agricultural standards such as terrestrial crop production or ranching, commercial aquaculture is still developing.  The aquaculture industry has not fully achieved its stated goals to provide products that make the best use of available resources and are as wholesome and nutritionally appropriate for the consumer as possible, but has made great strides toward them (1).  

As a consumer there are at least five nutritional issues that should be considered before choosing between farmed and wild fish: 1) omega-3 fatty acid content, 2) organic residues such as PCBs and others, 3) heavy metal contamination, 4) synthetic carotenoids, and 5) residual antibiotics.  Clearly cost is an important factor for all consumers, and environmental considerations may come into play for others.

To date, virtually all studies of farmed versus wild species show a slight reduction in the ratio (which is different than amount per serving) of omega-3 fatty acids to other fatty acids present within fisheries products (3, 4).  With that in mind, there is no doubt that farmed fisheries products of all kinds contain generous amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.  Indeed, for example, because farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout contain a higher percentage of total fatty acids than their wild counterparts, the farmed varieties actually contain more grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving (3, 4).

Today steps are being taken by shrimp feed and fish feed manufacturers to rectify any perceived or actual disparity between omega-3 levels in farm-raised and wild fish and shellfish.  Recent research has shown that late-stage feeding with feeds containing high concentrations of omega-3 or linseed oil allows the receiving muscle tissues to quickly "catch up" (5, 6).  The result is a farmed product that, overall, requires less omega-3 in its diet over its lifetime, and an omega-3 concentration in the tissue at harvest that is on par with or higher than wild product (6).  This strategy will help to minimize the amount of expensive fish meals and fish oils used by the aquaculture industry, will still provide us with abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet, and spare valuable wild populations of fish and shellfish from unnecessary and destructive over-harvest.  Many within the aquaculture industry understand and appreciate this issue, and are taking steps now to correct real and perceived disparities.

When sited properly on land or at sea, aquaculture operations provide the kind of relative isolation from contaminants that is often not possible in the wild.  However, some salmon net-pen operations are exceptions, and may have experienced contamination from an unlikely source—fish feed.  Supposedly, in Europe and to a lesser extent in the Americas, feed contaminated with PCBs and other organic compounds was fed to aquacultured salmon and produced unacceptable residues in fish (7)—an issue that has commanded attention.  While some express concern, others view the data with skepticism or interpret them much differently (8, 9).  In fact, one analysis reexamined the data and determined that the PCB threat is low, and the threat from beef is actually 40-80 times higher than salmon (9).

Heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium have been discovered in both aquacultured and wild salmon, with higher or lower concentrations found in aquacultured or wild fish by some researchers than others (10, 11, 12).  As a result of the ecological process of bioaccumulation, other large “top-predator” fishes such as wild tuna also tend to harbor elevated levels of mercury (13, 14).

Some people wonder about the new labeling seen at fish counters proclaiming “Color Added,” the purpose of this labeling, and the potential effects on human health.  While these labels seem to imply that colors or dyes are somehow injected or added directly to fish, this is not the case.  Natural carotenoid pigments (astaxanthin and canthaxanthin; similar to vitamin A) are added to fish feeds which impart color to fish flesh.  These pigments are extracted from algae, yeast, plants, crustaceans, or synthesized from beta-carotene precursors.  Indeed, astaxanthin is the primary carotenoid pigment found in wild salmon.  Contrary to some reports designed to cast aquacultured fish as unsafe and unhealthy, uncolored fish flesh is white, not gray, and these pigments are extremely safe at levels normally consumed by people (15).

Pollution or other environmental damage is an often-heard complaint about aquaculture (16)—in particular, ocean-based salmon production facilities that discharge metabolic wastes to the environment.  These claims are controversial and disputed by others (17).  Large salmon net pens systems are arrayed at the surface or anchored below the surface and confine stocks to a defined space.  In the past, producers relied solely on currents and dilution to carry fish wastes from the vicinity.  Today’s new net-pen technologies incorporate waste recovery, including land application and composting of dewatered, solid wastes.  Turning liabilities into assets and “Best Environmental Practice” management strategy are the new philosophies.  The same is true for land-based, freshwater operations, where wastewater from fish tanks is directed into plant-producing greenhouses—a process now dubbed aquaponics.

Other issues include the use of antibiotics to preserve fish health.  Unlike terrestrial cattle production, antibiotics are used only to treat disease outbreaks.  Only approved antibiotics are used, and fish stocks are withdrawn from their treatment for specified periods of time before slaughter.  Despite withdrawal, some antibiotics may persist in fish tissues (18), or may spill over to nearby environments during the treatment process (19).  For these reasons aquaculturists are developing and currently using relatively benign substances that stimulate fish immune systems such as beta-glucans, stabilized forms of vitamin C, probiotic bacteria, and refined management strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics (20).

Aquaculture was born out of a desire to stem the tide of overfishing and gain more control over our collective health and nutritional future.  Regardless of your choice to eat aquacultured fish or wild fish, your decision involves some associated risk and implications for our world and its environments, particularly with regard to salmon and other predatory species that are widely produced and consumed.  If you are concerned about pesticides, heavy metals, or antibiotic residues in your diet, salmon (farmed or wild) may not be the choice for you.  There are many alternatives (farmed or wild) that may suit you better.  You may avoid large predatory fishes such as salmon and tuna, and opt for herbivorous species or those lower on the so-called ecological food chain such as shrimp, tilapia, and catfish, or top predators produced in land-based systems such as hybrid striped bass and rainbow trout.

By most accounts, fish are our best sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that we require in our diets.  Totally eliminating fish from your diet could lead to health consequences that far outweigh the alternatives.

References

1.         Tidwell JH, Allan GL. Fish as food: aquaculture's contribution. Ecological and economic impacts and contributions of fish farming and capture fisheries. EMBO Rep. 2001 Nov;2(11):958-63.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11713181

2.         United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  The state of world fisheries and aquaculture.  2004.
http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/DOCREP/007/y5600e/y5600e00.htm

3.         Hardy RW.  Farmed fish and omega-3 fatty acids.  Aquaculture Magazine.  2003; 29(2):63-65.

4.         Cahu C, Salen P, de Lorgeril M. Farmed and wild fish in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases: assessing possible differences in lipid nutritional values. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2004 Feb;14(1):34-41.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15053162

5.         Bell JG, Henderson RJ, Tocher DR, Sargent JR. Replacement of dietary fish oil with increasing levels of linseed oil: modification of flesh fatty acid compositions in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) using a fish oil finishing diet. Lipids. 2004 Mar;39(3):223-32.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15233400

6.         Hardy RW.  Conflict ahead; can we reduce fish oil use?  Aquaculture Magazine.  2003; 29(6):44-48.

7.         Hites RA, Foran JA, Carpenter DO, Hamilton MC, Knuth BA, Schwager SJ.Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon. Science. 2004 Jan 9;303(5655):226-9.

8.         BC Salmon Farmers Association.  Medical, health and food safety experts advise reading past the headlines in the new news about farmed salmon.  2004.
http://www.salmonfarmers.org/media/01_09_04.htm

9.         Hardy RW.  Contaminants in salmon: a follow-up.  Aquaculture Magazine.  2005; 31(2):43-45. http://www.ftai.com/articles/Farmed%20Salmon%20Contam%20Hardy.pdf

10.       Easton MD, Luszniak D, Von der GE.  Preliminary examination of contaminant loadings in farmed salmon, wild salmon and commercial salmon feed. Chemosphere. 2002 Feb;46(7):1053-74.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11999769

11.       Knowles TG, Farrington D, Kestin SC. Mercury in UK imported fish and shellfish and UK-farmed fish and their products. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Sep;20(9):813-8.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=13129776

12.       Foran JA, Hites RA, Carpenter DO, Hamilton MC, Mathews-Amos A, Schwager SJ. A survey of metals in tissues of farmed Atlantic and wild Pacific salmon. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2004 Sep;23(9):2108-10.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15378985

13.       Bender M. Canned tuna riskier than previously suspected. Mercury Policy Project. 2003.
http://www.mercurypolicy.org/new/documents/CanTheTunaReleaseFinal061903.pdf

14.       U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fish and wildlife advisory news. 2003.
http://map1.epa.gov/html/newsaugust03.htm

15.       Hardy RW.  “Color added” labeling and carotenoid pigments in salmon feed.  Aquaculture Magazine.  2005; 31(1):25-30.

16.       Naylor RL, Goldburg RJ, Primavera JH, Kautsky N, Beveridge MC, Clay J, Folke C, Lubchenco J, Mooney H, Troell M. Effect of aquaculture on world fish supplies. Nature. 2000 Jun 29;405(6790):1017-24.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=10890435

17.       Tidwell JH, Allan GL. Fish as food: aquaculture's contribution. Ecological and economic impacts and contributions of fish farming and capture fisheries. EMBO Rep. 2001 Nov;2(11):958-63.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11713181

18.       Lucchetti D, Fabrizi L, Guandalini E, Podesta E, Marvasi L, Zaghini A, Coni E. Long depletion time of enrofloxacin in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 Oct;48(10):3912-7.
http://aac.asm.org/cgi/content/full/48/10/3912?view=long&pmid=15388452

19.       Rigos G, Nengas I, Alexis M, Troisi GM. Potential drug (oxytetracycline and oxolinic acid) pollution from Mediterranean sparid fish farms. Aquat Toxicol. 2004 Aug 25;69(3):281-8.

20.       Gannam AL.  Immunostimulants in fish diets.  Journal of Applied Aquaculture.  1999; 9(4):53-89.

For more information, contact:
Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.
Telephone: 970-225-0150
E-mail: info@ftai.com

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