Progress must be better conveyed
From simple earth ponds to offshore net enclosures and computer-controlled RAS: no other area of food production has changed so rapidly in such a short time as aquaculture. The pace of development is overwhelming for many consumers and outside the industry there are enormous gaps in knowledge which often leads to misunderstandings and even raises fears. More explanation and elucidation will be necessary to enable a constructive dialogue.
The term aquaculture has had some quite different meanings throughout history. It first appeared in 1855 in a newspaper article in connection with the storage of ice for cooling purposes in the summer months, and later on it was also used for irrigation practices in agriculture. Since the end of the 19th century (around 1890), however, it has increasingly been understood as a collective term for the methods used for the cultivation of aquatic plants and the rearing of various aquatic animal species. These mainly include fish, molluscs and crustaceans, but also aquatic reptiles, amphibians and some invertebrates, including echinoderms such as sea cucumbers or sea urchins. To be successful, aquaculture requires precise knowledge about the biology of the organisms produced, their food requirements, and their daily needs. In contrast to capture fisheries, which exploit fish stocks as a common pool resource, the plants and animals produced in aquaculture are the property of the producer or company.
This article was featured in the EUROFISH Magazine 6/2019.
FIAP profiwork fish stunner
When slaughtering fish in the EU, farmers or processors must apply the basic principle that governs the slaughter of terrestrial species, according to a report by the Aquaculture Advisory Council from 2017. This principle states that animals shall be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations. Fish should therefore be slaughtered using humane methods as far as possible. The report goes on to list systems with the potential to deliver humane slaughter, one of which is electrical stunning followed, if necessary, by a separate killing method.
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6/2019.
Objective evaluation criteria still lacking for many fish species
People keep animals for various reasons. Pets can be companions, they can play a part in hobbies or pastimes, or they can serve as test organisms in the laboratory. And of course – as farm animals – they are used for food purposes. In affluent countries, a change in values is currently taking place that is fundamentally questioning the right to use and exploit animals. Animal welfare is an increasingly significant aspect of successful marketing.
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 5/2019.
Aquaculture continues to grow faster than other major food production sectors reports the FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 (SOFIA). In the last few years this statement has become a motto for the European aquaculture sector to persuade local, regional, national and European regulators to develop consistent strategies and programmes to replicate global growth in the sector at the European level.
In 1956 only 1.2 million tonnes of farmed fish and seafood products were produced globally, a figure that climbed to 3.73m tonnes in 1976 (about 300%), and to 26.54 million tonnes (about 700%) over the next 20 years. Between 1996 and 2016 global aquaculture reached a peak of 80 million tonnes (about 300%) and is still growing, while growth in the European Union lags far behind. In this context the International Organisation for the Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Europe (EUROFISH) in collaboration with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the Italian Ministry for Agriculture, Food, Forestry Policies and Tourism, and the Italian Fish Farmers Association (API), organised an event to discuss the future of European aquaculture as seen by a wide range of stakeholders. The international conference “Aquaculture Today & Tomorrow. Unlock the Potential” was attended by more than 100 participants from 28 countries.
Omega-3 fatty acids from microalgae instead of fish oil
Fish oil is not available in sufficient quantities to meet the growing needs of the aquaculture and nutraceutical industries. Although essential omega-3 fatty acids are also to be found in microalgae, production capacity has so far been low. That is now changing, however, and developments in this field are making rapid progress. The first feeds for aquaculture with omega-3 fatty acids from algae are now available on the market.
Human beings – like fish – have to consume a certain amount of essential, long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids with their food every day in order to stay healthy and develop "normally". The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are particularly important. These are not produced in the body but must be obtained from food. Hundreds of scientific studies have revealed that EPA and DHA are of huge importance for the development and health of the brain, eyes and cardiovascular system.
With regard to their use in animal and aquaculture feed both of these fatty acids have up to now been obtained almost exclusively from marine fish oil sources. However, fish oil supply is limited because the available wild fish catches cannot be increased at will and they are also used more for direct human consumption. Global fish oil production is currently stagnant at around one million tonnes a year and is indeed tending to decline. This situation is already endangering the growth of aquaculture which uses almost three-quarters of worldwide fish oil production. Significant increases are not to be expected for the time being despite the fact that fish oil producers now also gain raw materials from previously unused reserves such as slaughterhouse waste and by-catches from the fishing sector which were previously discarded at sea immediately after the catch. It is estimated that 15 to 20 million tonnes more raw material could be taken from these sources each year. Hopes now also rest on the stocks of mesopelagic fish species which live in the oceans at depths of between 200 and 1,000 metres. Scientists have estimated their biomass at 10,000 million tonnes. If this is correct it would be by far the largest known fish resource. Access to these fish, however (they live at the upper limit of the deep sea) poses enormous risks to oceanic ecosystems because we still know far too little about the mesopelagic fish world to be able to use it sustainably.
Quality and food safety distinguish trout products
The Republic of Karelia is known as the principle region for cold-water fish farming, and especially for rainbow trout. Karelia differs from other regions of the North-Western district of Russia by its natural conditions which include a large number of deep-water reservoirs with high-quality water at the right temperature.
In 2018, aquaculture companies in Karelia produced a total of 27 200 tonnes of farmed products (up 10% compared to 2017), including 18 200 tonnes of commercial fish (up by 1% to 2017). Rainbow trout represents nearly the entire volumes of farmed fish (99.98%), while the rest is represented by European whitefish and sturgeon. In addition, over 13 tonnes of mussels were farmed in the White Sea.
Processing fish improves competitiveness
Processing of aquaculture products is a very dynamic part of the fish farming industry of Karelia. Large fish farms with significant production volume inevitably come to the idea of building their own processing facilities. The expansion of processing lines and a focus on products with high added value can significantly improve the competitive edge of enterprises during times of volatile market conditions and enable funds for further investment. At present, there are 63 fish farming companies in Karelia, of which 14 have processing plants. The product range includes fresh gutted trout, frozen trout, smoked trout, salted trout, marinated trout, salted trout roe, preserves and other products.
Fish farm Kala i Maryapuyta has been farming rainbow trout in the waters of the two largest lakes of northern Karelia, Upper Kuyto and Nyuk, for nearly twenty years. The enterprise’s production is about 2 000 tonnes per year, and the production cycle is based on the traditions and practices of Finnish trout farmers. Focus is kept on the proper feeding of rainbow trout, control of its growth, and timely sorting. Trout processing is carried out in facilities with modern equipment, where product safety and control is ensured by a HACCP system. The company is constantly working to expand the range of its products: in addition to the traditional salted trout roe, and smoked and salted trout, the company has started to produce trout in various sauces and ready-to-cook products.
This article featured in Eurofish Magazine 6 2018.
Demand for fish and seafood products is growing throughout the world. Although catches from the fishing sector have stagnated since the 1990s per capita supply worldwide has increased. This is mainly due to global aquaculture which is growing year by year at impressive rates of between 6 and 8 per cent. In spite of this, fish farming is still criticised and its image is in many places far from good.
Without aquaculture it would not be possible to maintain today’s level of fish and seafood supply to mankind. Despite improved sustainability the quantity of fish landed cannot be increased at will, especially since the effects of regional overfishing, natural stock fluctuations, and climate change are difficult to calculate. With the targeted production of fish and seafood humanity has found a way out of this dilemma rendering aquaculture a logical step that has long been common and "normal" in other areas of food production such as fruit, vegetables and meat. We are all well aware of the fact that these products are not collected from the wild but are systematically grown or bred and produced by mankind according to his needs. Although agricultural production has a “head start” of hundreds of years, aquaculture is rapidly catching up, with its production capacity growing worldwide by 3 to 4 million tonnes a year. In the last decade alone it almost doubled. If this growth continues aquaculture could be on a level with traditional fishing by the beginning of the next decade.
There is a lot to be said for aquaculture. For example the fact that most of the production and spectacular growth rates are achieved in Asia and South America, thereby strengthening the economies of developing countries. Aquaculture has become an important source of income, providing welcome – and valuable – export goods. Low resource and feed requirements also clearly speak in favour of aquaculture. In the case of salmon only 1.3 kg of feed is needed for the fish to grow by one kilogram, whereas poultry need 2 kg and pigs 2.9 kg of feed. And measured in terms of land use per kilogram of protein produced, aquaculture performs better, too. Depending on farming intensity, 160 to 2,100 square metres of land area per kilogram of protein produced are required for cattle farming, whereas fish in aquaculture are presumed to require less than 25 square metres. And even when we look at nutrient emissions that contribute to the eutrophication of water bodies, aquaculture often scores better than people think, as the following table shows.
This article featured in Eurofish Magazine 6 2018.
St. Petersburg, the “Venice of the North”, hosted the second edition of the Global Fishery Forum and Seafood Expo Russia on 13-15 September 2018. The event centered on what to expect from the global fisheries industry and markets in the coming decades.
The forum brought together more than 1 100 business leaders, members of international food and fisheries organizations, specialized ministries, international seafood companies and fisheries representatives from 42 countries, including Canada, China, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Norway, and Turkey.
Asia strongly represented at aquaculture session
The session “Aquaculture production and development forecast by 2050” focused on the discussions of the state of the global aquaculture sector, its future growth, and environmental control and safety. Moderated by Ekaterina Tribilustova, Eurofish International Organisation, the session hosted experts from specialized agencies, ministries, sectorial organisations and unions from 8 countries, including the Federal Agency for Fisheries of Russia, the Union of Sturgeon Breeders of Russia, China’s Union of Seafood Processing Enterprises, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey, the Ministry of Agricultural Development of Islamic Republic of Iran and Shilat Organization for Fisheries and Fish Farming of Iran, and the National Institute of Research and Development of fisheries sector in the Republic of Korea.
At present, the aquaculture industry produces over 45% of fish and seafood products consumed globally, while the share of fish products is 53%, according to the FAO. At the same time, the global population has never consumed as much fish as now. Since 1961, the growth rates of fish consumption in the world have been two times higher than the population growth, while the production growth rates have been declining. It is expected that even growing at a slower rate the aquaculture sector can eliminate the gap between growing demand and declining resources playing a major role in providing the world population with the proteins they need. The aquaculture sector in particular has an especially important role in improving food nutrition and fighting hunger.
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.