Tuesday, August 4, 2015

04/08/2015: Aquaculture for healthy, plant and profit

by Roy Palmer, writing in IAF July-August 2015

For World Aquaculture Society (WAS) events WA2015 Jeju, Korea from May 26-30th 2015 was an absorbing and noteworthy break from the norm. It was also regarded as successful with a total of over 2400 participants representing 66 countries.

Roy Palmer
The sun shone on Jeju and everyone who attended learned much about the history of Korea (especially unique cultural folk heritage of Jeju) and the advancements that the country and the area has made in many areas, not least of those being aquaculture.
The conference had 57 sessions and 510 oral presentations and attracted 280 poster presentations all housed with the Trade Show at the International Convention Centre (ICC) located in the Jungmun Tourist Complex with the cobalt-blue Northern Pacific stretching on the south and towering Mt. Hallasan in the north. The ICC spreads over an area of more than 5,000㎡, and is a 7-story building. Jeju Island is not only Korea’s most prestigious destination and top honeymoon spot, but it has been the venue for several political joint summit talks and other major international meetings.

There were 134 booths at the Trade Show covering both Korean and international organisations plying their trade to the delegates and many others who attended the trade show following the successful AquaForum event which aimed to attract farmers from the entire region.

Activities at AquaForum included specific topical industry sessions, facilitated workshops and round table discussions with simultaneous translations. The focus of the session was targeted towards the most important industry issues affecting key Asia Pacific aquaculture producing countries and a raft of world renowned experts were engaged.

It is a true Industry forum whereby timely topical and regionally relevant sessions are tailored to enhance industrial representation and participation. Session topics will include health, nutrition, and production systems of fish and shrimp in freshwater and marine environment.

Whilst travel to Jeju is a trifle complicated everyone arriving was blown away with how many tourists were attracted to the beautiful island. Its extinct volcano with its peak jutting skyward at the center and a broad, gentle littoral all the way around was considered by many delegates as a challenging walk!

Jeju is, of course, designated by UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites for its natural beauty and geographical value. There are bountiful forests and ravines, fantastic rock formations and volcanic craters, and caves and grasslands that together paint a natural scene of breathtaking beauty. Sparkling seas and tiny islets surround Jeju, with rocks scattering amidst sandy beaches to create a magnificent view everywhere you look.

Jeju is unique in many ways so it combines modern aquaculture with other important and relevant seafood history, education and entertainment. Importantly Jeju is well known as a centre in Korea for the flatfish species of Olive Flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) and Turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) and the history with Abalone with the infamous wild fish diving women through to current aquaculture farms. Jeju is actually much more than that as far as aquaculture is concerned with some two thousand plus people engaged in the industry on the island involved in all sectors including research, hatcheries, farms, feed mills, etc and covering a multitude of species covering eels, sea cucumbers, fish from parrot fish to rainbow trout and tuna and shellfish from shrimp to clams and oysters.

Additionally Jeju is home to a Future Aquaculture Research Centre and besides having its own provincial government research activities also houses important National Fisheries Research & Development Institute (NFRDI) activities as well as Jeju National University and home to ‘Aqua Planet Jeju’ which is the largest aquarium in all of Asia (Total Floor Area: 25,600m², 10,800 tons) reportedly approx. 11 times that of 63 Sea World. With approx. 48,000 animals and plants of around 500 species in exhibition.

There was an underplayed but special emphasis on women in aquaculture at the event which ensured there was a stronger than normal female presence in the event. With WAS having a stronger than usual female board there was an effort to link to the Jeju history of Haenyeo ("sea women", are female divers) and that saw a female plenary speaker and 26 female Session Chairs.

The Opening Ceremony which typically covered many of the important local protocols was followed by a generous and sumptuous buffet on the 5th floor of the ICC with lots of opportunities for networking and superb views over the ocean. Always a good start to a conference!

The Plenary introduced by Conference Co-Chairs Jay Parsons and S. K. (Albert) Choi saw Chung Yeong-Hoon presenting on ‘Status and Future of Korean Aquaculture’ followed by Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted speaking on ‘How can Aquaculture Contribute to Healthy Diets of the Poor?’ and concluded with Kangsen Mai presenting ‘Aquaculture is the only way to meet the Increasing Demand for Aquatic Products — the Example of China’. This was followed by the Student Spotlight.

Chung Yeong-Hoon is the Deputy Minister, Fisheries Policy Officer, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and he spoke of an impressive aquaculture program for Korea. The main emphasis was on transitioning from being production orientated to ecosystem aquaculture based on farm management systems being more concerned with environmental carrying capacities; integrated multi-trophic aquaculture(IMTA); expansion of Biofloc technology and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

The four issues would be integral in the Korean Governments program based on Space Innovation which would see these activities operate offshore, in tidal flat aquaculture and a hybrid aquaculture island. This connected with Technology Innovation with virtual aquaculture technology, fisheries seed and vaccine development along with what was termed, Aquatic Life materials industry, and research and development activities would deliver stable production, increase in seafood exports, job creation in aquaculture industry, securing intellectual property and loyalty and improved customer relationship management.

‘The important background to all these efforts’ emphasised Chung Yeong-Hoon ‘will be reliant on species information and Big Data and he set out a plan on how that will occur.’

 Senior Nutrition Scientist at WorldFish, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, based in Bangladesh and has a background with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her broad area of research and expertise is food-based strategies for improved food and nutrition security in low-income countries. She has carried out work in Bangladesh, Cambodia, West Bengal and Nepal, together with government institutions, universities and NGOs, focusing on the potential of nutrient-dense small fish in combating and preventing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, in particular, vitamin A, iron, zinc and calcium, especially in women and children. At the WorldFish Center, she has been developing and implementing the CGIAR Mega Program 4: Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health.

In her presentation Dr. Thilsted put a lot of emphasis on the aquaculture industry getting a greater understanding of the importance of the healthy nutritional products that they could create through aquaculture and the importance of the industry to the poor.

Shakuntala has long been an advocate of the importance of the education relating to the most important days of anyone’s life – the one thousand days from time of conception until the two year old birthday. During that time getting the right nutrition is so important that it shapes the future of each individual.

Explaining the underlying characteristics of a healthy diet for the poor, Shakuntala accentuated the importance of fish and other aquatic foods which are rich in several essential micronutrients. Highlighting work recently achieved in Bangladesh Dr. Thilsted spoke about a range of fish based products which included fish chutney, complementary food and fish powder as being successful in creating the ideal nutritional base to assist the poor.

Dr. Thilsted hoped that the delegates could take away the message that it should not all be about large scale aquaculture and monoculture but that small scale and a food systems approach was essential when dealing with improving the opportunities for the poor. Additionally she underlined the need to minimise waste and losses through the supply chains, the need for good preservation and innovation in processing to deliver desirable, affordable micronutrient rich fish based products.

Additionally Shakuntala was a keynote speaker for the Seafood & Health (GILLS) session at the event which primarily discussed the ‘Recommendations of the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition’ (see http://www.fao.org/3/a-mm215e.pdf). As a result of this session WAS has agreed to establish a Community of Practice (CoP) for ‘Aquaculture – Food Security & Nutrition’ as it was clear that there many missing pieces to the full Aquaculture nutrition story.  The session also included Jillian Fry (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), Madan Dey (University of Arkansas) and WAS Director, Roy Palmer.

The information relating to the CoP’s will be posted on the WAS website (www.was.org), and that will include information for anyone that is interested in engaging.

Dr. Kangsen Mai (麦康森), Ocean University of China, is a Professor of aquaculture nutrition based in Qingdao, China. He currently focuses on fish species native to China and as a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering plays a major role in shaping the country’s aquaculture policy. Additionally he is Vice chairman of the China Society of Fisheries and committee member of International Fish Nutrition and Feeding.

Kangsen’s current research topics are mainly on the nutritional physiology and nutrient quantitative requirements of the representative mariculture species in China, such as turbot, yellow croaker, sea-bass, and groupers. He is particularly interested in the comparative studies on the protein metabolism among carnivorous, omnivorous and herbivorous fish, and the replacement of fishmeal by alternative protein sources in their feeds.

In his presentation Dr. Mai was very centred on a recent news story which came from Science Journal (Jan 9th 2015) and a publication by Cao et al which announced a sensational conclusion “China’s aquaculture sector is destined to diminish wild fish stocks worldwide.”

He continued stressing that opponents of aquaculture generally argue that the industry threatens food safety, results in environmental pollution and depletes wild fishery stocks. He said they have the opinion that aquaculture should be stopped or only extensive farming should be allowed to continue. DR. Mai said “Obviously their views are extreme and they lack global vision and long term considerations and seem to forget about the increasing global population and income.”

From here Kangsen gave a powerful history of the move from hunter gatherer to domestication and farming – the inevitable choice for human society development. Additionally based on FAO 2014 figures he highlighted the fallacy of the Science Journal article by showing that China’s capture per capita is only 9.5kgs whereas world average is 11.3 kgs and China has the second lowest when compared with the world’s top 18 countries of fisheries.

Additionally he highlighted that in general China does not aquaculture carnivorous fish with at least 50% of the Chinese aquaculture industry not depending on Aquafeed as they use natural productivity. Even on the utilisation of fish meal Dr. Mai presented information showing that China had achieved over the last 15 years massive gains due to technology driven by the high prices required. He accentuated that China was actually an absolute net fish producer with a low ratio of fish in/fish out.

To add to his points he mentioned that one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Lester R. Brown, had recently said “The world may not realise how great China’s contribution to Aquaculture is at this time. Aquaculture is the most efficient technology of animal production, based on FCE in animal farming (2-7 times higher than land animals). “ 

“The rapid growth of aquaculture in China has not only contributed to improved food supply (1/3 food protein from fishes) but has also generated employment and income to the Chinese people. About 4.3 million rural workers are directly employed in aquaculture. In 2012 total seafood exports from China was US$18.98 billion accounting for 30% of the total agricultural exports. Aquaculture not only raised the fish consumption per capita in China from 9.5kgs (wild capture) to 36.6kgs in 2013, but also in the world, exporting 4 million MT more than importing, “said Dr.Mai.

All of these plenaries created a strong platform for the Conference which delivered on many facets for all engaged.

Read more HERE.

The Aquaculturists
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