Aquaculture Magazine

Octuber-Novembrer 2016

The magic word... Aquaculture

Through the website ‘LinkedIn’ I learned that 115 ‘ocean leaders’ recently sent a letter to the leading US presidential candidates and to date they have received only one reply – from Secretary Clinton, who released a two-page response.
We learned from this posting that ‘the ocean leaders’ who sent the letter include CEOs of seafood companies and other businesses, directors of major science labs, aquariums, diving organizations, well-known ocean explorers, authors, artists, ocean conservationists, members of Congress and former heads of the EPA and NOAA.

The letter was initiated by David Helvarg, Executive Director of the ocean conservation and policy group Blue Frontier.
Helvarg commented “Faced with a cascading series of disasters from overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate disruption, we’re heartened to see Secretary Clinton commit to restoring the blue in our red, white and blue. We hope her statement will spark a broader public discussion on the state of the ocean and what citizens can do to turn the tide. We also look forward to learning what Mr. Trump plans to do for our public seas and the communities, both human and wild, which depend on them.”
In the letter signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton on August 27 she lays out a range of ‘solutions’ and says she will act on these if elected especially including growing the “Blue Economy,” supporting coastal adaptation to climate change, ending international pirate fishing, expanding sustainable and transparent U.S. fishing and seafood practices and ratifying the Law of the Seas Convention that has been held up by the U.S. Senate for over 20 years.
Acknowledging that 40 % of the US population lives in coastal communities the future potential President mentioned the words sustainable 4 times; blue economy 3 times; innovative and ecosystem/s twice and strangely brought in the Great Barrier Reef for a mention when I was firmly of the opinion this was in Australia!
But very importantly one major word was missing from the letter – AQUACULTURE….
One does have to question how is it possible to write two pages about the future without mentioning ‘aquaculture’ and whilst aquaculture is part of the ‘blue economy’ to ignore the word seems very strange. And yet….
When attending and presenting at the ‘FishAdapt -Global Conference on Climate Change Adaptation for Fisheries and Aquaculture’ held in Bangkok 8-10 August 2016, questions were raised about (a) seafood and specifically aquaculture struggling to get a seat at the Climate Change table; (b) how the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) took 41 sessions to even mention the importance of nutrition from fish/seafood; (c) that it took until 2012 before FAO was able to get seafood in the OECD Food Price Index and (d) how right around the world seafood is left off specific Food Committees.
All this when Seafood is the most traded food commodity bar none and that globally there are more aquaculture farms than for any other protein.
Let there be no doubt that ‘Fish’ is the world’s most traded protein, and it’s twice the size of the coffee trade. Seafood had an estimated export value of US$ 136 billion in 2014, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Also by the end of this century we will need to produce the same amount of food as we produced in the past 10,000 years, so aquaculture will be pivotal to global food security.
One good thing noticeable from the letter was the lack of the word ‘conservation’ because that is not what we would want to see more of. Not that we are anti-conservationists but that we need to push the words ‘sustainable development to ensure food security and nutrition’ and ensure that our ‘leaders’ have aquaculture top of mind. Clearly there is much work to do.
Additionally we must continue to push how ‘fish is good for you.’ Just how good? Two years ago a report by the High Level Panel of Experts to the UN Committee on World Food Security highlighted that the case for obtaining essential Omega-3 fatty acids from fish just keeps getting stronger. At the same time, in light of increasing evidence of neurodevelopment benefits from eating fish, the US Food and Drug Administration has revised its dietary recommendations to encourage pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children to eat more of it — two to three servings a week — from choices low in mercury (aquaculture species!)
Modern humans became modern by eating lots of oysters, mussels and fish as pointed out in a Scientific American article, “When the Sea Saved Humanity” which revealed that when the number of breeding humans crashed to about 600 in five locations across Africa, it was seafood and root vegetables that helped us survive, not red meat.
We know that seafood can help tackle the global obesity crisis. My good friend, Martin Bowerman, author of Lean Forever: The Scientific Secrets of Permanent Weight Loss commented “Fish provides more protein for comparably lower calorie intake than other meat and this “calorie efficiency” is an important key to a high-protein weight-loss diet.”
In a report prepared for Canada’s aquaculture industry, How Higher Seafood Consumption Can Save Lives, the authors quote a study from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington that found older adults with high blood levels of fish-derived fatty acids lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels. “Increasing levels of fish consumption (to the recommended levels) could save about 7000 lives (in Canada) a year,” the report concluded.
Getting back to the most used word in the letter - ‘sustainability’ - whilst all farmed animals need to be fed, aquaculture represents the most efficient method by which to convert feed to edible protein. Many species, such as mollusks like oysters and mussels, do not need to be fed at all.
The US is very heavily reliant on imported seafood and there is a massive opportunity to educate whoever gets into power about the importance of aquaculture through the ‘blue economy’ to ensure food security and nutrition for the nation.
I will be at two sessions at the Aquaculture America 2017 event in San Antonio, Texas 19-22 February 2017, and I look forward to seeing you there. One of the sessions is ‘Promoting Seafood Consumption: A Tool for Improving Nutrition, Health and Regional Development – Public Policy and Producers effort (GILLS)’ and the other is ‘Forging New Frontiers with a Round Table of Associations.’  In the meantime, happy fishmongering.


The Fishmonger

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