By Greg LutzThe urgent need for more protein, arable land and drinking water will continue to grow – almost certainly for every day of our lives. The protein connection is obvious, but the relationship to arable land and drinking water is a bit more complex. Nonetheless, these factors and many others will definitely translate into a need for more aquaculture production.
In the coming decades there will be more economic and ecological pressure to use available feedstuffs for growing fish rather than beef, pork or even turkey, but new sources of feed will also be needed for aquatic species, and some are being developed as we speak. Examples include single-cell protein cultured using forestry residues. Some other possibilities are discussed in our Aquafeeds column.
Within the industry as a whole there is a continued, if not accelerating, push to improve sustainability and responsibility. Many producers, in many different industries, have recognized the importance of not only certification programs but also the underlying values they are founded on. One example, featured in this issue, is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and its CEO Chris Ninnes. The ASC recently shared highlights of certification work with producers of Salmon, oysters, and both black tiger and vannamei shrimp.
Sustainability also has economic components, and efforts are continually underway in various industries to produce more harvests, or more value, in relation to inputs. A great example involves the investigation of aeration methods to increase production in Mediterranean fish culture. While the equipment being evaluated has been around for years, the applications are innovative. Producers here in North America and throughout the world should take note, as this is what will be required for many aquaculture industries to survive, let alone grow, while inputs become scarcer and more expensive.
On the other hand, apart from utilizing whatever is already available to us, we must continue to look for novel approaches to meeting the basic requirements for success. The use of lumpfish for salmon lice control shows how imagination and diligent science can produce solutions – while using available infrastructure and human capital. And native species. Another example that will REALLY get you thinking is highlighted in our Product to Watch feature.
Aquaculture, as a discipline and a means to feed people, continues to demonstrate its flexibility. As competition for land and water resources increases, production systems are moving to less utilized habitats like the deserts. And the open ocean. There are numerous possibilities for those who are looking for a challenge – and a payoff. But when we consider the topics of excessive regulation, be it in the turtle hatchling industry or the EEZ, or in contrast what some might consider excessive government spending on industry initiatives, it becomes clear that politics is still a limiting (or essential) factor for aquaculture producers in the U.S. and elsewhere.
FAO officials tell us that “there is ample room for catching up with more productive technologies, especially in Asia, where many fish farmers are small and unable to foot the hefty capital outlays the industry requires to expand output without running into resource constraints.” But will all these innovations and all this honorable dedication to finding solutions really matter? Is modern civilization a one-way ticket to global disaster? Is the deck stacked against us no matter what we accomplish as an industry? Our guest columnist for tilapia, John Reid of Waterfield Farms in Schenectady, New York, provides some very sobering perspective (and potential solutions) while filling in for Mike Picchietti (who has been diligently working to get a tilapia project up and running in Haiti).
There are a number of disturbing trends that could have potentially devastating impacts on modern society in our children’s lifetimes, and even those of us who consider ourselves “informed” may never have realized just how serious things may get in the coming decades. Climate change and population growth are just part of the picture… and the other factors may be even more difficult to deal with. We all should be aware of the very real threats society will be facing in the coming decades, and potential solutions that may not seem obvious at first glance.
In the shorter term, producers and other industry participants need to be aware of issues in the global marketplace. Factors such as the Russian embargo on imported seafood (purely political) to Thailand’s loss of developing country status in the EU’s tariff systems (again, a political issue) to trade structure and regulation between Vietnam, China and Taiwan (again, politics). It seems that international relations can have as much or more impact on our markets than diseases or feed costs.
Speaking of payoffs, and economic sustainability, in the “on the ground” perspective of an aquaculture producer the primary concern is usually profit. And simply keeping the business afloat (no pun intended…. well, maybe….). Our columnist Carole Engle provides some useful views of just what profitability is and how it should be evaluated on a farm by farm basis. And our other columnists address everything from new farming operations in other parts of the world to pond chemistry to the use of probiotics in shrimp culture. And the Fishmonger brings our attention to the weakest link in most of our marketing chains.
We hope you enjoy this issue, the good, the bad and the serious aspects. Feel free to contact us with feedback, ideas, questions, or suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you. email@example.com
Dr. C. Greg Lutz has a B.A. in Biology and Spanish by the Earlham College at Richmond, Indiana, a M.S. in Fisheries and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science by the Louisiana State University. His interests include recirculating system technology and population dynamics, quantitative genetics and multivariate analyses and the use of web based technology for result-demonstration methods.