How Technology Can Improve Sustainable Aquaculture

How Technology Can Improve Sustainable Aquaculture

Brighton Shang, CEO of Aquabyte .

There is currently a bill in Congress to add basic standards, rules, and safeguards to offshore aquaculture in the United States called the AQUAA Act. (Aquaculture means raising fish and aquatic life, not hunting.) By "mostly" I mean. just this. The United States lags far behind other countries that already have a central agency and strict policies to regulate the health and growth of seafood.

There are enough crises in the world that sustainably farmed fish may seem unimportant. As long as the fish gets into your stores and restaurants, does it matter where it came from and how it got there? matter.

The US imports about 80% of its seafood, resulting in a trade deficit of $17 billion in 2020. This is not sustainable. Health, work, standards, the climate, as well as the economic balance and food availability are at risk.

Not so long ago, farmed fish has acquired a dubious reputation. unhealthy fish in unhealthy water of questionable quality, with the risk of introducing parasites that can threaten wild fish populations. At the same time, reckless mass net fishing has been catching endangered populations along with their projected catch, destroying fragile underwater ecosystems and destroying fish breeding grounds so that wild populations cannot replenish their numbers.

The wild fish industry has picked up on their marketing ploy and has done a great job of educating the public that line-caught fish is the best choice for consumers and the environment. Which was mostly true, except for one big problem. there is no way wild fish can maintain their vital place in the ecosystems of our planet and at the same time feed the rapidly growing human population.

In fact, in 2021, the United Nations published the SOFIA (State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture) report, which states: “More than 800 million people currently suffer from hunger, and 2.4 billion people have limited access to adequate nutrition. …Food for a growing population continues to grow without depleting our natural resources.”

Eating more food than being full is simple arithmetic that ends badly and doesn't take into account the damage that climate change has done to native species and our interconnected food chains. Hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires, and growing season disruptions aren't critical, but they do change what food you get, how you get it, and how much it costs.

How technology can affect sustainable aquaculture

When we think about global food solutions, sustainable aquaculture should fill this gap. It is the most efficient source of protein and has been declared essential by the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

By "sustainable aquaculture" I mean fish raised in large enclosures (about 98% water and 2% fish), controlled and capable of producing the healthiest possible fish with attention to the environment and climate, minimizing cleanup, litter and their quantity. contamination of wild fish stocks; Healthier fish sell for a higher price, so farmers have a strong incentive to produce higher quality fish because they earn a higher profit.

What has changed to make this old industry better and more sustainable? Technologies.

The same mindset that led us to use tractors instead of manual labor or meteorological satellites instead of just looking up at the sky can make aquaculture more efficient and healthier. Today's best fish farms follow the adage "Out of control, out of control" and technology can help revolutionize the industry by enabling farmers to:

• See and control everything that happens below the surface

• Get rid of the microplastics that pollute our oceans and destroy the ecosystems that fish and people depend on.

• Use artificial intelligence, drones and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to monitor and improve all aquaculture practices for health and sustainability.

Farm fish. social imperative

Much of the world depends on fish as their main source of food. If we rely on the depletion of wild fish stocks (without farming better fish), fish will be kept for export only to those who can afford it. This means global food shortages and rising prices, forcing many people to eat lower quality proteins that have not been processed for minimal health and environmental impact.

Moreover, mass hunting is the last form of industrial hunting; We banned large-scale hunting of other species long ago to prevent extinction or disruption of the food chain.

Farmed fish are limited by the carrying capacity of local waters and the ability of people to get to the farms to manage them. If we allow fish farming (with precautions) on the high seas or on land, we will increase the area in which fish can be grown to feed the world.

The fish farming and technology industries need to work together and showcase the improvements made in recent years with a proper supply chain and greater economies of scale than we have now. (It's worth looking at some great examples of sustainable seafood partnerships: MOWI's Blue Revolution program and The Nature Conservancy's work with marine communities around the world and in the US.)

Meanwhile, the United States needs to rethink how it farms fish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released its first five-year aquaculture strategic plan, which details a comprehensive aquaculture development plan that reflects best practices in safety, sustainability, policy, technology and diversity.

In short, we can protect our food systems by protecting our marine ecosystems and the communities (and economies) that depend on them. This is not a fish farmed 20 or even five years ago. We can make it work. The whole world can be better and better fed when we do this.


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The future of aquaculture. New technologies for growing fish.

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