Blue Frontiers: Managing the environmental costs of aquaculture (Hall et al., 2011), from the World Fish Center is an incredibly data rich report. It is a must read for anyone interesting in the promise of aquaculture and the challenges involved in moving towards more sustainable practices.
Environmental impacts of aquaculture vary depending on the type of organisms grown and the technologies used to grow them. In the 2007 paper Indicators of Resource Use Efficiency and Environmental Performance in Fish and Crustacean Aquaculture, Boyd et al. propose a set of indicators to compare different production techniques.
This passage from the newly released State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report for 2012 really brings home the point that China dominates global aquaculture production:
Asia accounted for 89 percent of world aquaculture production by volume in 2010, and this was dominated by the contribution of China, which accounted for more than 60 percent of global aquaculture production volume in 2010.
By volume, China accounts for almost two thirds of global aquaculture production.
- reproduce readily in captivity.
- Have dietary requirements that are easy to meet.
- Grow fast.
- Thrive under sub-optimal culture conditions.
It is common to begin articles about aquaculture with a mention of its long history. Evidence of its long history is often supported by citing mentions of aquaculture in writing in China from the 400 BC and depictions of aquaculture on Egyptian hieroglyphics. The focus is usually on the well documented history of aquaculture in Asia. I have not see as much written about the history of fish culture in Europe. A recent essay by Whit Richardson addresses this gap. It is filled with literary and popular references to Eurpoean aquaculture from ~100 AD through the mid 1800’s.
The article is well researched and includes hyperlinks to the references that are available online. The information provided reenforces the fact that aquaculture is not new. It has been present in Europe in one form or another over the entire span of written history. References include the Canterbury Tales the harnessing of castle moats for fish production.
It is a very Eurocentric treatment of the subject, as a result, some of the generalizations need to be read with caution. For example, in his treatment of carp, Richardson suggests that carp were once popular but have fallen out of favor. It is true that in Europe, carp production is mostly limited to goldfish and koi. However, carp is still widely cultivated as a food fish in Asia. In fact, carp is still the dominant fish cultured in China. Since China dominates worldwide fish production, today, carp remains the single most widley cultured fish in the world.
When I read articles like this, I often find myself searching the web to locate the references mentioned. The hyperlinks included in this article made that easy. I am looking forward to reading over the many great, historical references Richardson shares.
Photo source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/771243
Continuing with the focus on eye catching headlines. I love this one from Australia about barriers to expanding domestic prawn production.
“Green tape”. This is a great label for restrictive environmental regulations. I wonder why it is not more widely used. This example of restrictions on the growth of aquaculture:
In one example, Ms Jenkins said a prawn farmer had been waiting 13 years for an approval, held up by regulations preventing discharge of farm effluent, while a mining company was dumping 85,000 megalitres a day nearby.
If true, is an example of the double standard that exists between activities permitted by existing vs emerging users of resources.
*image modified from here
People say the darndest things. Take this alarmist article about AquaBounty GMO salmon:
…approval for its highly-allergenic AquAdvantage Frankenfish without so much as a shred of independent, legitimate scientific evidence proving that the imitation fish is safe for humans and the environment…
Approving AquAdvantage Salmon is controversial, but its risk as an allergen is not a major issues. The fish has been tested for its allergenic potential. For this anti-GMO site to call the salmon “highly-allergenic” in the same sentence where they bemoan lack of evidence for the safety of the fish is the height of hypocrisy.
If you oppose making this fish commercially available, state your case. But please don’t make stuff up. It ruins your credibility.