One of every two fish sold on the world’s markets already comes from aquaculture and this share will continue to grow in the coming years. New farming projects are added almost every day. Not all of them succeed at the first attempt for aquaculture is very susceptible to disturbances and damages. So far, however, only very few companies are insured against losses. Too expensive, too complicated, or simply not interested?
Insurance companies don’t have a very good image. They are sometimes scorned for lending out umbrellas but immediately reclaiming them when the first drops of rain fall. Nearly everyone can relate examples of how skilfully insurance companies will evade their obligations when things get really tight for the insured party. Nevertheless, interest in insuring aquaculture projects has never been greater than it is today. The gap between this increase in demand and the available offers of aquaculture insurance is getting wider and wider. More than ten years ago FAO experts estimated the number of insurance policies taken out at around 8,000, and even if this number is likely to have increased by a few thousand since then it is still negligible compared to the total number of large and small aquaculture companies which amounts to several hundred thousand! It is striking that a large share of existing insurance policies is concluded in western industrialised countries while other regions, such as large parts of Asia, which accounts for around 80 per cent of global aquaculture production, are much less represented. What are the causes of this unsatisfactory situation? Do insurance companies simply shy away from the eff ort and cost of auditing farms or, in general, from the risks of fish farming? Or is it because fish farmers fear the costs of insurance and underestimate the benefits of insurance cover? Another noticeable feature of aquaculture insurance is that many insurers only offer products for a few species and production methods: mainly for salmon and shrimps. It is much more difficult to find useful offers for new species and innovative methods. This is understandable, because insurers need a broad database and industry-specific standards in order to realistically assess the risks of aquaculture production and calculate the resulting premiums. What has long been routine in car insurance, because there are detailed time series on the type, frequency and severity of possible damage that can even be grouped regionally and for specific car types, is still very difficult in aquaculture. The diversity of species and methods can hardly be forced into uniform, universally applicable standards.
Mainstreaming IMTA calls for regulatory change
Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), growing multiple species from different trophic levels in a system that reduces the impact of the cultivation on the environment, is potentially a way of rethinking aquaculture as it is known in the west.
Feeding a human population that is not only growing, but is also seeking greater food and nutrition security and dietary diversity will soon be a major challenge. Marine organisms constitute a much-coveted resource for seafood and many other derived products; however, there is a need to reduce the pressure on remaining fish stocks. Aquaculture, which has been growing rapidly to the point of now delivering approximately half the world’s seafood, has developed a controversial reputation in some parts of the world, due to high density operations, environmental degradation, algal blooms, and the increased risk of disease. Consequently, a major rethinking is needed regarding the functioning of an “aquaculture farm”, and innovative practices need to be developed if we want this sector to become the most efficient and responsible food production system of the future.
The EU Commission has adopted the implementing rules of organic aquaculture in the new EU Organic Regulation. The rules are geared to what is practicable and constitute only the smallest common denominator upon which all participants could agree after lengthy discussions. As was to be expected, their publication was soon followed by criticism…
For years there have been predictions that the fast-growing marine aquaculture species, cobia (Rachycentron canadum), is about to take off, but so far it has been hard to spot on the market. If you want cobia, it seems you either have to catch it yourself (it is a great game fish in Australia and southern USA), or you have to go to Asia
Modern feeds are high-tech products. They offer fishes and crustaceans in aquaculture everything they need for their existence and ensure that the organisms grow fast, remain healthy and develop normally. But who knows exactly what such feeds contain? There is probably no area of aquaculture where so many rumours are rampant, or where so much is assumed, speculated and alleged as in the feed sector.
Recirculation aquaculture is essentially a technology for farming fish or other aquatic organisms by re-using the water in the production. The technology is based on the use of mechanical and biological filters, and the method can in principle be used for any species grown in aquaculture such as fish, shrimps, clams etc. Recirculation technology is however primarily used in fish farming, and this guide is aimed at people working in this field of aquaculture.
Chapter 2: The recirculation system step by step
In a recirculation system it is necessary to treat the water continuously to remove the waste products excreted by the fish, and to add oxygen to keep the fish alive and well. A recirculation system is in fact quite simple. From the outlet of the fish tanks the water flows to a mechanical filter and further on to a biological filter before it is aerated and stripped of carbon dioxide and returned to the fish tanks. This is the basic principle of recirculation.
Sturgeon stocks are threatened worldwide by extinction. Various factors have led to a dramatic drop in populations during the last two decades. Since aquaculture can make a considerable contribution towards saving wild sturgeon and satisfying demand for “black caviar”, Aquatir Ltd decided in 2005 to build a modern recirculation system for farming sturgeon.
Chapter Two: The recirculation system step by step (continued)
Mechanical filtration of the outlet water from the fish tanks has proven to be the only practical solution for removal of the organic waste products. Today almost all recirculated fish farms filter the outlet water from the tanks in a so called microscreen fitted with a filter cloth of typically 40 to 100 microns. The drumfilter is by far the most commonly used type of microscreen, and the design ensures the gentle removal of particles.
The vision for the future of European freshwater aquaculture – and the research and innovation needed to supports its key strategies - will be the focus of the first of a series of thematic workshops organised by the EU Aquainnova initiative. The workshop will be held in Warsaw, Poland at Sofitel hotel, from June 15-16, 2011.