Less Aquaculture, More Marine Agriculture?

Seafood provides essential brain nutrients, which can reverse the ongoing rise in mental ill health

Professor Michael Crawford

Photo by Joseph Barrientos via Unsplash
Photo by Joseph Barrientos via Unsplash

New Year is traditionally a time to look ahead – preferably with optimism and determination.

Marine conservationists Oceans Deeply, for example, kicked off the year with a look ahead to the anticipated trends of 2018. Their article The Big Ocean Issues and Trends to Watch (worth reading in full) speaks, amongst other things, on the vexed topic of sustainably supplying humanity with all the seafood it needs:

Demand for seafood as a healthy source of protein to feed a growing world population, is rising even as populations of wild fish in the sea decline. That’s why more investors, governments and environmentalists are looking to advanced sustainable aquaculture to feed the world.

To date aquaculture, while steadily growing in the last few decades so it now supplies more than half the world’s seafood, has been held back by a host of environmental and health challenges, including unsustainable feeds, antibiotic use and the risk of spreading disease to wild fish. Technologies and projects that directly address these challenges, reduce costs and improve and expand farm operations both offshore and especially on land, however, are making progress, according to Amy Novogratz, managing partner of the Netherlands-based investment firm, Aqua-Spark.

“If we are really going to have enough aquaculture to feed the world in 2050, we’ll need eight times the amount of feed we currently produce,” she said. “We would like to see really different feed formulations, and I think you’ll see a lot of progress in that in the next year.”

In one example, she noted that the cost of using insects as feed is dropping, and the E.U. and Canada, two relatively large aquaculture producers, recently approved their use in aquaculture facilities. Insects, along with microalgae, seaweed and microbe-produced proteins, are more sustainable alternatives than existing feeds, which are usually composed of fish oil or meal made from wild species. “You are starting to see the really big players investing more [in developing new feeds], companies like Cargill and Nutreco,” Novogratz said.’

What’s wrong with all that, you may ask?

The problem is, we have a seafood supply problem, but Aquaculture is not the answer.

Marine Agriculture, not Aquaculture

Seafood gap Photo by Julian Paul via Unsplash
Photo by Julian Paul via Unsplash

The Mother and Child Foundation’s Michael Crawford has spoken on this topic many times.

“Rather than expanding standard aquaculture, we need to agriculturalize the sea, just as our ancestors agriculturalized the land 10,000 years ago”, he says.

“This is not a new idea – I argued the case at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Tokyo way back in 1990. Japan now has an active farming system in Okayama between two islands. This has tripled the fish harvest, while yields are diminishing outside this zone.

“There’s no way out of this, other than moving forward with vision and ingenuity. The arable land available to us has reached its limit, but the population is still growing. Aquaculture cannot provide all the seafood we need, and is beset with its own nutritional and environmental issues. Farming in the sea is the only answer.”


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