By: Antonio Garza de Yta, Ph.D.*
In the last edition, we discussed the three key issues for the development of open water aquaculture: technology, investment and operating costs, as well as the market. Today, we will discuss some factors to consider and/or strategies we can adopt to boost mariculture globally.
There is a need to work hard on governance issues that concern all aquaculture, especially mariculture. In all countries, institutions need to be strengthened and work needs to be done at the government, industry and market levels.
The consolidation of mariculture will be further delayed until the necessary legal frameworks are in place, and the backbone of aquaculture, which is made up of strong programs in research, capacity building and aquaculture health, as well as a wide supply of hatcheries and feed, supported by technology and business incubators, is in place.
The interrelationship between mariculture and clean energy is increasingly evident. Travel between farming and processing areas generates a considerable environmental footprint, which can be reduced through the use of barges that do not require fossil fuels to perform all farm operations and feed the crops or the installation of recirculation systems close to markets that do not rely on fossil fuels either.
“The use of automatic feeders, which deserves a separate analysis, is a key point in reducing the environmental footprint of aquaculture. It is imperative to focus on solving these problems as soon as possible.”
One issue that worries many, including myself, is that practically all species produced in mariculture, at a commercial level, are at the top of the food pyramid. This means that, by their nature, the feed requires a high protein content, which often comes from fishmeal.
Finding the “tilapia” of mariculture is a challenge, but one that must be met day by day until it is overcome. Research into a line of macroalgae that is a good source of quality, highly digestible protein is another hurdle to overcome.
There are many concerns, most of them unjustified, about open-water aquaculture production, such as heavy metals, microplastics and environmental degradation. It is crucial to not only promote and disseminate best management practices that avoid environmental degradation but also to promote mariculture production as a safe product that minimizes risk to the consumer.
“Consumer perception is probably the issue on which we should focus the most, even before the significantly important development of markets for the various species that come from this type of farming.”
Assessments of aquaculture projects must be based on solid due diligence, which not only includes financial and legal aspects but also a thorough techno-commercial analysis that filters out the many fantasy projects that have caused so much damage to the perception of investors.
It is worth dreaming but not at the expense of other people’s capital. We must also look for new schemes that do not depend on million-dollar investments from a single source. Small and medium-scale fundraising can be a great tool, as long as we generate enough success stories to support it.
Finally, I know I sound like a broken record, but political will is crucial. Mariculture, like all aquaculture, must be a priority at national, regional and global levels. Without this, no matter how hard we fight, there will be no future.
Senior Fisheries and Aquaculture Advisor for AWJ Innovation, Vice President of the International Center for Strategic Studies in Aquaculture (CIDEEA), President of Aquaculture Without Frontiers (AwF), Past President of the World Aquaculture Society (WAS), Former Secretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and Creator of the Certification for Aquaculture Professionals (CAP) Program with Auburn University.