Monday, September 7, 2015

07/09/2015: Aquaculture takes centre stage at Monaco Blue Initiative 2015 6th Edition

We must understand that aquaculture is already bigger than any other land based farming, so it is important to work with it through a shared stewardship, rather than campaign against it  

First published in International Aquafeed, July-August 2015

The last edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative (MBI) in Chile in 2014 questioned the status and feedback from aquaculture in America, towards a sustainable approach to its development.

The 2015 edition held in Monaco at the Monaco Royal Yacht Club, on June 25-26 2015, pursued these discussions with experts and decision-makers worldwide on the theme: Feeding and fueling the world through sustainable aquaculture.

Whilst it is acknowledged that seafood is now a source of food and income for one quarter of the world’s population there is always pressure on the industry from the conservation NGOs.

Today, fisheries catch remains stable but the production of aquaculture continues to rise. World production of seafood from aquaculture has more than doubled in 12 years, from 32 million to 67 million tonnes in 2012. With no stopping the global population increases there is continuous pressure being applied to ensure sustainable food production.

The MBI program covered the subjects of: Aquaculture to feed the world?; New frontiers for aquaculture; The struggle between quantity and quality – the path to sustainable aquaculture and MPAs and Blue Carbon - Towards Ocean & Climate. The program was aiming to get the delegates to consider the implications of the ocean becoming an area for large-scale cultivation in terms of environmental protection, regulation and collaboration. Indeed, these new challenges once again highlight the importance of involving scientists, industrialists, NGOs, etc, to the establishment of a sustainable production system and make the best rather than the most of these new resources.

The day started with H.E.M. Bernard Fautrier, Plenipotentiary Minister and CEO of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Robert Calcagno, CEO of the Oceanographic Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation, introducing the program.

Moderated by François Simard (Polar and Marine Program, International Union for the Conservation of Nature) the first session included panelists Roy Palmer (Association of International Seafood Professionals); Doris Soto (FAO - FIRA); Fabio Massa (GFCM) the discussion focused on the fact that aquaculture is happening, is the fastest growing primary industry and that the demand for fish products has increased vastly in the last few years.
Noting that more than one billion people in developing countries depend on fish to survive and 16.5 percent of global protein consumption is from fish with that likely to improve in the future. In order to get an understanding about the difference between the East and the West in respect of aquaculture Mr Palmer quoted Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918-2002), founder of the International Oceans Institute. This highlights, he said, the importance of the industry to the Asian countries and the failure of the West to come to grips with production.

"That aquaculture has a philosophical base in the East and a scientific base in the West has far-reaching implications.

"In the East, it is culture, it is life: culture to improve life by providing food and employment. It is embedded in the social and economic infrastructure. All that science can and must do is to make this culture more effective.

"In the West, aquaculture is science and technology, embodied in industry and providing profits: money. It has no social infrastructure. In this, the West has much to learn from the East." - Elizabeth Mann Borgese (1918- 2002), Seafarm, The Story of Aquaculture, 1980
Insufficient thought to governance
The importance of food security and nutrition was seemingly lost in North America, EU and Australia with consistent demand on developing countries to supply the majority of seafood for those countries. In fact many countries have not given sufficient thought to governance and really understood the difference between wild fishing and aquaculture. This is a failure which clearly is holding many countries back from getting involved in aquaculture.

Getting an understanding that the majority of aquaculture was not about feeding ‘fish-to-fish,’ was an important issue and was emphasised by Mr Palmer highlighting that world production of Tilapia was now 4,500,000 tonnes per annum which was the equivalent of 143kg every second of every day. He pointed out that Tilapia is one of the oldest species aquacultured yet, as mature as it is, as a freshwater white flesh species it is still very much in its infancy on its genetic potential in comparison to salmon and all terrestrial proteins. The question will be how much the industry will move forward once such knowledge has been obtained bearing in mind the volumes that are already being harvested. Surely, this will be ‘chicken’ of the 2050s, if not earlier, he asked.
Key element in food security and nutrition
Fish and plants grown in water are a key element in food security and nutrition and need to be linked more to their contribution to reducing hunger and malnutrition and to supporting livelihoods. The bio-availability of fish protein is approximately five-to-15 percent higher than that from land plant sources. Fish contain several amino acids essential for human health, especially lysine and methionine. The lipid composition of fish is unique, having longchain polyunsaturated fatty acids with many actual and potential benefits for adult health and child development. Adding to this aquaculture for the poor is such a compelling story that must not be confused with the important but actually smaller activity of farming fish like salmon.

Size is not everything
It was stated that small fish are more important in poorer countries for their nutrients/ micro-nutrients. Size is not everything when it comes to fish. In fact small fish consumed whole with bones are massive for vitamins D, A + B, minerals (calcium, phosphorous, iodine, zinc, iron and selenium).

There was an interchange with the audience with the panelists about feed and feeding ‘fish-to-fish’ and it was highlighted that carnivorous fish are not carnivorous in captivity but also in the wild where such fish have a 10:1 feed ratio where as in aquaculture this was vastly improved. Additionally, it was mentioned that fish, carnivorous or otherwise, in the world have limited chance of survival which is greatly enhanced through aquaculture techniques.

Plastic a major challenge for oceans
A suggestion was that there could be even greater attention paid to stopping pollution from land entering the oceans and plastic was highlighted. Noting that some 3.5 million pieces of new plastic enter the world’s oceans daily and that six million tonnes of rubbish every year is dumped into the world’s oceans of which 80 percent is plastic, with an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean, we should all make a conscious effort to change our ways!
Put effort into creating more renewable bio-degradable packaging (especially use of algae) and promoting their use instead of the toxic, non-biodegradable plastics that are currently in use. Aquaculture needs good, clean quality water – it is land that pollutes the oceans not the other way around!

The future is a shared stewardship but all of us must understand that aquaculture is already bigger than any other land based farming so it is important to work with it, rather than campaign against it. It was mentioned that ‘escapes’ are often used as a deterrent about aquaculture but it seems to be forgotten by those that use that issue against aquaculture that one of the great things about aquaculture is the opportunity for stock enhancement for various species around the world. Enhancing stocks for the wild using the example of 40 percent of Alaskan ‘wild’ salmon actually coming from the aquaculture hatcheries and rainbow trout being grown by various government hatcheries in Australia and then released specifically for recreational fishermen – many of whom are paying a licence fee for the privilege to fish the ‘escaped’ fish.

In fact the breeding of endangered species and ensuring the future of all species is one of the major advantages of aquaculture. This along with genetic improvements - as with all animals - by taking the best and improving product quality and fish performance is actually where the future of the world’s food is more likely to come from. Reducing poverty, improving health and increasing sustainability at the community as well as at a national level needs attention from capacity building.
A need to build capacity from within, a systems approach based on world’s best practice. Progress may well be assisted by new technologies but it is really an innovation in a systems approach which engages the farmer directly which will have the most effect. The need to promote healthy diets from sustainable food systems is essential. Ending poverty and hunger is not possible unless we place agri-food systems near the top of the priority list where research is the backbone but development and transparency the keys to success.

Microalgae to energy
The second panel moderated by Pierre Erwes, B.I.C.A with panellists: Roger Gilbert publisher of International Aquafeed at Perendale Publishers; Marc Metian at IAEA; Raphaela Le Gouvello of SterMor; Roberto Cesari from the European Commission and Ricardo Haroun from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria aimed to discuss issues from microalgae to energy production to medicinal derivatives, and new and exciting uses of aquaculture which are coming to light in the modern age of scientific discovery and technology.

In respect of key developments for feed Mr Gilbert stated that much time, effort and research was going into limiting the amount of fishmeal and fish oil needed for feed production and concepts utilising insects, worms, algae, hemp, soybeans, and other protein sources we well advanced. Identifying food insecurity and where to focus our food production focus, including fish farming, in Africa and Asia was an important element. There’s a relationship - a benchmark if you will - between the production of scientifically-formulated compound feed and the food security (or insecurity) of a country, he told his audience.

That figure was 133.5kg of compound feed per head of population – which fed all livestock including aquaculture. Many countries had not yet sorted out their governance arrangements for offshore farming, but in countries like Panama companies like Open Blue Cobia were farming. Their farm is located in the Costa Arriba region of Panama with the site located over the horizon in Panama’s Atlantic Ocean, more than seven miles offshore in the deep, blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Who would have thought we would be growing a species like Cobia and doing that far offshore?

There is much we can expect from aquaculture in future - in terms of food, products and energy. The enormous opportunity of marine ingredients is slowly awakening yet it already stated the global market for the Blue Economy is over US$176 billion – this includes biotechnology, bio-plastic, bio-energy, marine cosmetics and nutraceuticals. We are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved with renewable and sustainable products from the oceans/waters of the world. Wind farms in the ocean, which are ‘no go’ zones and pushing fishing away from those areas, could be used for grow-outs and therefore not wasting the space, water or heat. Aquaculture can work arm-in-arm with energy. Anything in the water can work with aquaculture - not wasting space or energy.

Increase in demand for aquaculture
The third panel was moderated by Oystein Lie of MarLife and the panel consisted: John White of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council; Giuseppe Di Carlo, WWF Mediterranean; Olivier Fourcadet, ESSEC Business School and Tiago Pitta e Cunha a senior advisor for Marine and Maritime Policy to the President of Portugal. The discussions were focused about the increase in demand for aquaculture and the issue of not sacrificing quality for quantity. WWF and ASC dominated discussions about standards highlighting that farmers needed to meet the standards and pay the costs in order to engage in global business, but failed to discuss issues relating to the subsistence farmers that relate to many poor countries and how trade barriers may be created with standards. Mr White said that ASC had a vision regarding systems and processes needing to be in place to aspire all farmers to become certified.

Mr Fourcadet expressed a view that consumer associations needed to be closer engaged, however, there was some discussion away from the panel that few consumers are actually members of such associations. It was discussed that in the EU young people were interested in what they eat but that they had limited time to make choices in their busy lives and there has been poor education on seafood, both fisheries and aquaculture. The panel expressed a view that people were prepared to pay more for quality and environmental sustainability.

Conservation and protected areas
The last session was moderated by Sebastien Troeng of Conservation International and consisted a panel of: Dan Laffoley, World Commission on Protected Areas & International Union for the Conservation of Nature; Christophe LeFebvre from the French Marine Protected Areas Agency and Alasdair Harris of Blue Venture). This session started with a speech from Tony Burke, Member of Parliament in Australia. Mr Burke was the former Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and during his time he had created the largest MPA in the world only to see it thrown out when his political party lost the last election.

Clearly many in the audience were disappointed with the news of the demise of the MPA activity but likely few of them are Australian tax payers or fishers/aquaculture farmers so would not be aware of the costs such activities have cost the Australian public. Mr Burke said that the good news was that the ocean is the greatest sink, but, alas, the bad news was also that the ocean was the greatest sink!  In words that only a politician could utter, he said he was determined to get the MPA model back in Australia and that ‘science must never be the whole story in environmental decisions.’

Blue carbon
The panel discussed Blue Carbon as an interesting answer to some of the questions of using marine resources towards climate, testing the true resilience of marine ecosystems, and improving our understanding of the link between ocean and climate. There were concerns with the onset of the COP21 in Paris at the end of 2015, on how to prepare for a better tomorrow in harmony with the oceans and the path to follow for governments and private sectors in an efficient management of this “Blue Capital”.

Sadly, Mr Troeng highlighted incorrect information on the carbon footprint of shrimp farms relating to impacts on mangrove areas (the correct information can be found at http:// usa-gaa-counters-scientists-calculationof- shrimp-farmings-carbon-footprint). Mr Laffoley stressed his concerns about COP21 and the need for urgent actions but with such meetings being very well orchestrate months out to meet various government protocols it would seem that major changes are unlikely. Mr Harris showed an inspirational video of the work that his organisation has been involved in Madagascar which highlighted the importance of mangrove areas and the need to enhance them.

Following another video connection Geraldo Alckmin, Governor of Sao Paulo, it was confirmed that following negotiations MBI 2016 would be held in July 2016 in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo. 

The event was finalised with an address by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Read the magazine HERE.

The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the
magazine International Aquafeed which is published by
Perendale Publishers Ltd

For additional daily news from aquaculture around the world: aquaculture-news

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