Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'No ISA in BC' Says Canadian Government

On November 8, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and the Province of British Columbia held a press conference to report that they had conducted a full investigation, reviewing both the samples and the initial reports, and that they found no consistent positive result indicating the presence of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in wild pacific salmon.

The best article I could have written wouldn't compare half as well to this article by John Fiorillo at


ISA in Pacific salmon: Just kidding - First in Seafood News -

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No Conclusive Evidence in ISA Scare

Today, IntraFish Media reported that there was no conclusive evidence to support the results of a previous test that found the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in wild BC salmon.  An ISA expert at the University of Bergen in Norway apparently retested the samples and was unable to reproduce the results of the original testing.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) is the lead agency on this situation and has been developing their own tests and conclusions to verify or reject the presence of this virus.  I firmly believe it is important that people in the general public do not jump to conclusions and allow all the facts in this case to surface before taking any action.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Virus Reported in Wild BC Salmon- Fact or Fiction?

A potentially lethal virus known as 'Infectious Salmon Amenia' (or 'ISA' for short) has been reported to be found in wild Pacific salmon on the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada.  Up until now, ISA has only been found in Atlantic salmon, which is a different species than any of the 5 species of fish that make up the group 'Pacific' salmon.  Therefore, if found to be accurate, this test would represent the first time this virus has been found in a new species of fish.

There are several factors to this scenario that demand pause and closer inspection before we run through the streets touting the end of salmon as we in BC know it.  First off, the test used to identify the virus is extremely sensitive and prone to results of false-positives.  Next, only 2 samples in 48 tested positive, which warrants further testing even in the best of circumstances.  However, the lab claims that the samples were all used up in the testing, and that repeating the testing is now not possible.  Any run-of-the-mill scientist will tell you that in order to preserve scientific accuracy, you never use all the sample for testing because the results of any test must be able to be reproduced- that is one of the fundamental principles of the Scientific Method!  And it is a requirement of all experiments in case EXACTLY this situation arises!

Next, this ISA virus has been linked to fish farms in other countries, yet not one case has been detected in the hundreds of salmon farms in BC.  The lab who found the virus is saying that they have identified it as the 'European strain': this implies that the virus came from Europe in farmed salmon eggs (which are rigorously tested by both the shipping and receiving nations), was incubated in a population of farmed salmon in BC (which are also tested under stringent Canadian federal regulations), was transferred to a completely new species, and then detected in that species.  Personally, that sounds like too many leaps of faith to accept before I join the growing masses heralding an "ISA-Salmon Doomsday".

So let's all sit back, take a breath, and let the facts unfold before we make any rash decisions...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Salmon Farming Companies Invest in Natural Solution to Sea Lice

Two of the largest salmon farming companies in Scotland are currently in negotiations to invest massive amounts on research into a natural way to combat sea lice infections at salmon farms.  Each company is planning to invest £450,000 ($710,000 USD) over the next three years to develop and research wrasse, a group of fish that naturally eat the external parasites off other fish in the ocean. Wrasse represent a completely organic method of removing sea lice from salmon, without the use of chemicals or medicinal feed additives.  Of course there are certain challenges associated with culturing another species in the same growing environment as the salmon, but by mimicking the natural ecosystem and creating food-web structures within the confines of the farm, these companies are taking steps towards the increased sustainability of the industry.

For more information on wrasse see my article "Cleaner Wrasse: Biological Pesticides to Combat Sea Lice" below (dated November 2010).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Completion of Aquaculture MSc. Program at the University of Stirling

As of today, I have officially completed the MSc. program in Sustainable Aquaculture Business Management at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling.  My dissertation manuscript on aquaculture stock mortality insurance was submitted several weeks ago, and just this week I gave a presentation and had my oral defense.  Everything went very smoothly, and now the program is officially over!

I have returned to Vancouver, British Columbia where I am currently seeking employment in the aquaculture sector.  As my adventures continue, and as new and interesting aquaculture technologies and developments come to light, I will update this blog accordingly.  Also, please feel free to comment on the articles and use this blog as a forum for the sharing of ideas and constructive discussion- only through increased communication, education, and awareness can we propagate changes towards sustainability in the global aquaculture industry.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Danish Company Launches Commercial Recirc Salmon Farm

Danish company 'Langsand Laks' has begun production at what they call the “world’s first commercial landbased Atlantic salmon farm”.  Growing Atlantic salmon in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) is known to be a veritable ‘Holy Grail’ within the aquaculture industry: salmon is a high value product, and it grows exceedingly well in marine net cages, but the environmental impact is significant.  RAS has been identified as a more sustainable production system, utilizing treatment and recycling of the water instead of discharging it into the environment.  Restrictions have arisen based on the economics of RAS systems: they are extremely expensive to build and operate, plus a great deal of knowledge and expertise is required in the areas of engineering, hydrodynamics, fish health and biology, and waste management.  With an initial production of 1,000 tonnes per year, this Danish facility will be vital pilot study into the economic feasibility of on-land, recirculation salmon production.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Debate over Land-Based Salmon Farms

Currently, there is a very strong debate in British Columbia regarding land-based salmon farms: if this technology exists, why isn’t the industry adopting it?  On-land recirculation systems separate farmed salmon from the natural environment, thus removing any potentially harmful environmental effects that may stem from open net-cages.  Wastes from the farmed fish can be collected and treated rather than being released into the marine ecosystem.  Additionally, any diseases or parasites can be screened for and monitored much more closely, thus protecting both the farmed stock as well as the wild fauna.

However, there are several key points that must be addressed in this debate.  The first is that land-based systems are extremely expensive, both to build and to operate.  By their very nature, a land-based recirculation system is much more capital-intensive to set up than a net-pen operation: tanks, pipes, pumps, filters, the land itself, a building if necessary...these are all costs that net-pen operations do not have to cope with.  Add into the equation the cost of electricity and the overall carbon footprint of the facility, and suddenly land-based systems are not looking as attractive.

There is a fantastic report by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2010) that states that while land-based recirculation systems may be economically viable, their high operating costs make them extremely sensitive to fluctuations in market conditions (the price of salmon, the price of electricity/water, etc.): the margins are so small that a tiny shift in the market may be all that is necessary for the system to lose its profitability.

While it may not be possible for the salmon industry in BC to adopt these systems immediately, there is hope on the horizon.  As I write this, researchers and engineers are working hard to continue developing these technologies with the sole purpose of increasing efficiency and decreasing operating costs.  Additionally, by implementing other sustainable farming methods (aquaponics, solar/wind power, etc.) the operating costs can be reduced even further. 

It is my opinion that these systems are inherently better than the current practices, but unfortunately we are simply not yet prepared to adopt them. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aquaponics Makes a Splash at TED Talks

A few weeks ago, a staff member from the Institute of Aquaculture gave a fantastic presentation on aquaponics at an independently-organized ‘TED’ event in England.  As you may know, TED events consist of short 20-minute seminars given by experts in a number of fields, but presented in a way so as to be accessible and understandable to everyone.  Businesspeople, scientists, artists, you name it...every speaker has an innovative topic and the presentations are always interesting!

Charlie Price is one of the founding members of Aquaponics UK, a social enterprise that works as a consulting firm for aquaponics projects around the globe.  Before deciding to do my MSc dissertation on aquaculture insurance, I was in talks with Charlie to join his team for my dissertation work!

Charlie’s TED Talk covers the basics of aquaponics and explains how a well-designed system operates exactly like a natural ecosystem, with the wastes being recycled and used by other organisms.  He then walks through a facility that his company designed and built in London- fish, chickens, plants, and even flies are all cultivated together in a harmonious environment that people can actually visit and learn more about! 

Aquaponics is a reliable and versatile way to significantly reduce the impacts that aquaculture has on the environment.  And as Charlie describes, as you include more species in the system, it becomes cleaner, more productive, more efficient, and ultimately more profitable!

Charlie’s TED Talk can be viewed here:

For more information about TED Conferences, or to watch TED Talks, please visit:

Aquaculture Insurance MSc Dissertation

My MSc dissertation focuses on aquaculture stock mortality insurance in the United Kingdom and Ireland, working to identify the attitudes and perceptions that fish farmers have regarding this specialized product.  This study will provide a bridge between fish farmers and insurance companies to identify the accessibility and appropriateness of currently available stock mortality insurance policies.  It is expected that the conclusions of this study will help increase the suitability and value of future stock mortality products.

There is a short on-line questionnaire to be completed by fish farmers: it will take less than 15 minutes to fill out.  The questionnaire is available at the following website:


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Barcelona Fish Market

A vendor stands next to 10-kilo bags of rope-farmed mussels

While on holiday in Barcelona last week, I had the opportunity to go to the Barcelona Fish Market (Merca-Barna), a massive warehouse where fish is sold wholesale to distributors and retailers.  The market can move over 90 tonnes of fish per day, constantly working to satisfy the voracious demand for fish in this Mediterranean city.

Fishermen sell their catches to wholesalers, who then bring the fish into the market to sell to shop owners, restaurants, and local fish markets.  The variety of fish available was absolutely incredible: from mussels to tuna, shrimp to salmon, sea bream to monkfish...every type of fish you could possibly want!

The friend I was staying with in Barcelona use to work at the market as a health control officer, so he was friends with several of the vendors, allowing us to speak with them about the fish they were selling.  Some fish was wild-caught (the yellowfin tuna, for example), but much of it was farmed (mussels, salmon, sea bream, etc.).

In the end, we made a few purchases ourselves: 1 kilo of red shrimp (or gambas roja in Spanish), a 2-kilo salmon, 5 kilos of sea bream, 3 kilos of razor clams, a 5-kilo bag of mussels, and a gorgeous 3-kilo yellowfin tuna loin.

Overall, it was an amazing experience to see fish exchange on such a massive scale, especially given my interest in the economics of farmed seafood!
Merca-Barna in full swing

Yellowfin tuna loins for sale

Red shrimp


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fish Farm Tour of Ireland- April 2011

After the Aquaculture Insurance Conference in Kinsale, Ireland, I spent several days touring fish farms in the south-west region of the country.  My father had flown out from Los Angeles to attend the Conference, so I joined him and several other delegates on these tours.  The entire trip was organized by Geoff Robinson, an Aquaculture Development Coordinator for the Irish Sea Fisheries Board (Board Ischa Maera).

We began at a sea urchin recirculation facility in Bantry Bay, where the farmers are growing urchins to sell their roe in French and Asian markets.  The roe, called 'uni' in sushi restaurants, is a highly-prized delicacy in certain countries, and the farmer was kind enough to allow us a small taste of urchins fresh from his tanks.  After that, we traveled by boat to a longline site, where a farmer was growing urchins and scallops: on this short visit we spoke about the life cycles and different production systems of these species.

Juvenile urchins
The orange masses are the roe, sold as 'uni' in sushi restaurants
A scallop farmer checks on his stock 

The next day we visited a recirculation system for abalone, a very valuable gastropod that resembles a large snail.  These animals can sell for up to 100 dollars per kilo, making their farming a potentially very profitable business.  The farmer had carefully planned the operation, from its design to its management, and overall the facility was very impressive.  After that, we drove to a salmon cage site (Murphy`s Irish Seafood), and while we did not have a chance to take the boat out to the cages, we spoke to the manager about the operation.  He informed us that the majority of salmon production in Ireland was organic and was marketed as such, allowing Irish salmon to be differentiated as a premium product in the marketplace.

The third day found us traveling from Bantry, where we had been staying for the past three nights, to Dublin, where we ended our tour.  Along the way, we stopped at a flow-through trout farm (Goatsbridge Premium Irish Trout), where rainbow trout were grown in earthen ponds.  This was a family-owned and -operated farm, with a hatchery, grow-out, and processing facilities on-site.  They had begun marketing hot-smoked trout fillets, which we tasted and found to be absolutely delicious.  They have experienced success with this product in the market, and plan to ramp up production to meet growing demand.
Goatsbridge Premium Irish Trout Farm- Thomastown, Ireland
All in all, the tour was a resounding success, as we had the opportunity to meet and speak with many different farmers operating many different production systems.  Additionally, these farmers will be the first ones that I contact with respect to my upcoming Master`s thesis project.    
Longlines used to grow urchins and scallops
The smoked trout was delicious!

12th Aquaculture Insurance and Risk Management Conference- Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale, Ireland

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 12th Aquaculture Insurance and Risk Management Conference which took place on March 31 & April 1, 2011.  It was held in Kinsale, Ireland, a small town near Cork in the south-west region of the country.  With just under 100 people in attendance from 19 different countries, this Conference was the largest gathering of aquaculture insurance specialists anywhere in the world.

Over the 2-day event, a variety of presentations were given on different subjects relating to the field of aquaculture insurance.  These topics included sustainability in aquaculture, national overviews of the aquaculture industry of several countries, a review of aquatic diseases and their impacts, biosecurity, legal issues, and the future of the aquaculture insurance market.

As my upcoming Master’s thesis project deals directly with aquaculture insurance, I attended the Conference to learn about the industry, in addition to making contacts that may contribute their expertise to my study.  I feel as if I succeeded with both of these goals, as I learned a great deal and my project proposal was received with interest from many people.   

The Conference was organized by Paddy Secretan, who has been involved in aquaculture insurance for many years and is arguably the premier authority when it comes to this specialist field.  Paddy has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable resource for my thesis project, and he introduced me to many key people at the Conference.

Overall it was an incredible experience to meet and speak with so many experts in this field, and I am very excited to get many of them involved in my study when the work begins in a few short weeks.      

Advanced Module 6- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing

The sixth and final Advanced Module in the Stirling MSc program was titled Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing and was taught by Lindsay Ross.  This course covered the basics of GIS modeling, and had small groups working on analysis projects utilizing these techniques.

The first two days consisted of lectures, with topics including GIS and remote sensing software, databases, and applications, as well as a history of the development of these techniques.  On the third day, we received tutorials of the software we would be using to complete our assessments: my group of three students was assigned a study of the suitability of sites for pond construction in the African nation of Ghana.  We adopted the perspective of National Environmental Regulators and, utilizing GIS, we analyzed the entire country for pond aquaculture suitability according to a variety of factors, including soil composition, livestock production, population density, water availability, etc.

By mapping these factors and deciding their relative importance to aquaculture, different maps could be overlaid on top of one another to give a comprehensive overview of the suitability of a given region.  We used recommendations from the FAO to determine the suitability of detailed factors such as soil type and relative distance from water bodies.

In the end, we produced a map that accurately displayed the suitability of sites for pond construction in Ghana.  These findings were then used to identify the best regions for pond aquaculture, as well as calculate potential production figures from these regions.  This study would be useful for potential developers and other aquaculture stakeholders, and it taught us the value of such a project as an integral part of the planning and design stage of an aquaculture operation.   
Soil variation in Ghana- each colour represents a different soil type

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Upcoming Master’s Thesis Project- Aquaculture Insurance

In the third week of April, I will begin working on my Msc Thesis project, which will focus on aquaculture insurance in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The objective of the study is to conduct a detailed survey into farmer attitudes towards aquaculture stock insurance as well as the various factors and market conditions affecting demand. Additionally, I will be giving a description of the suitability and availability of present policies to meet farmers’ needs.

The study will focus on three distinct production sectors within aquaculture:

a) A sector where insurance is available and coverage is prevalent (Salmon)
b) A sector where insurance is available but coverage is not often purchased (Trout)
c) A sector which is currently rarely covered by insurance (Shellfish)

Characteristics and industry features of the different sectors will be determined to draw correlations between farmers’ operations and perceptions of the risks to which they are exposed, as well as the insurance industry’s perception of the risks and the coverage currently offered by insurers.

For this study, I have partnered with several leading aquaculture insurance brokers and underwriters, who will serve as invaluable ‘industry partners’, providing insight and information into this specialist insurance sector.  Additionally, I have partnered with the respective producer associations to solicit their assistance in contacting producers to conduct interviews.

It is expected that the conclusions of this study should prove valuable to insurance companies, as I will be working to identify discrete factors which affect farmers' uptake of coverage.  The results should also prove beneficial to producers, as the completed study may help insurance companies gain a clearer understanding of the perceptions of risk that farmers maintain.

I am very receptive to external inputs into this study, so please feel free to comment below.  Additionally, if you would like to be involved in the study, please do not hesitate to contact me!  

MSc Advanced Module 5- Epidemiology and Health Control

The fifth module in the MSc course was titled ‘Epidemiology and Health Control’ and was taught principally by Jimmy Turnbull and Darren Green, with supplementary lectures from Randolph Richards, Andy Shinn, Sandra Adams, and Kim Thompson.  This was a veterinary class which focused on the spread of aquatic diseases and parasites and how outbreaks of disease may be controlled.

The majority of this course was lectures and seminars: main topics included fish welfare, biosecurity, risk management, pharmacology and treatment, and statistical analysis.  Several labs were also conducted, on such topics as immunochemistry, histopathology, virology, and parasitology.

Statistics were heavily emphasized: the assessment for the course was a report on the statistical analysis of a disease outbreak at a series of shrimp farms.  This assessment took real data gathered at shrimp farms and had us using statistical software to analyse a variety of factors, such as source of feed, use of antibiotics, source of water, etc.  Through a variety of statistical tests, it was our job to determine which, if any, factors were significantly associated with the disease, and if so, propose recommendations as to how to control the outbreak.

This course was a requirement for the students taking Aquatic Veterinary and Pathobiology studies, and as such it was taught at a seemingly advanced medical level.  However, the material was incredibly interesting, and I feel as if I have a much firmer grasp of diseases, disease transmission, and maybe more importantly, mitigation.

The next and final module of the MSc course is Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which is a subject that I have never had the opportunity to take but have been looking forward to for several years! 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

MSc Advanced Module 4- Livelihoods and Aquatic Resource Management

The fourth Advanced module in the MSc program at Stirling was titled ‘Livelihoods and Aquatic Resource Management’ and was taught primarily by Dave Little, with supplementary lectures from Francis Murray.  This course focused on small-scale rural communities and how aquaculture fits into the complex social and economic environment surrounding these communities.

Three days of lectures centered on such topics as livelihoods analysis at both community and household levels, aquatic resource management, and stakeholder interactions.  After these lectures, we were broken into two groups of three for our assessed projects: our group was assigned an in-depth analysis of Pangasius farming in Vietnam, and how this industry impacts the region on a social level.

Pangasius farming has absolutely exploded in Vietnam over the past ten years: many would argue production has grown so fast that regulation and legislation has not been able to keep pace, resulting in an extremely complex, and often messy, situation.  Many small producers are beginning to be outcompeted by larger, more industrialized outfits, and our assessment was to make recommendations as to how the livelihoods of these smaller farmers may be protected.
A Pangasius farm in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam

We came to the conclusion that cooperatives, where many small farmers band together to create one larger entity, may be a potential for smaller producers.  In this way, they begin to gain more bargaining and buying power and can start to take advantage of the economies of scale that the larger producers utilize.  Additionally, education and training programs may be key to helping farmers improve their practices and ultimately optimizing their production.   Both of these methods can help farmers achieve market certification through organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, whose Pangasius standards are gaining global recognition.

Overall, this module was thoroughly enjoyable and I feel as if I learned a great deal about the complex interactions that must be identified and considered when evaluating an aquaculture operation in context.  The next module is Epidemiology, the only veterinary course that I will be taking during this program.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

MSc Advanced Module 3- Policy and Planning

We just completed the third Advanced module for the MSc program, titled ‘Policy and Planning’.  This course was taught entirely by Krishen Rana and focused on the development process for national and regional aquaculture policies.  

Similar to the previous Advanced modules, this class entailed three days of lectures, with the remainder of the two weeks open for individual and group work on the assessments.  We were also fortunate to have a guest lecture from Paul Haddon, the Head of the Aquaculture and Fish Health Policy Unit for the Scottish government, who spoke on the status of Scottish aquaculture, as well as the steps taken to build the current national policies.  

The assessments consisted of several deliverables and presentations, both individual and group-based.  The first was an in-depth situation analysis of the aquaculture industry and market in our home countries (I did mine on Canada), complemented with a 20-minute individual presentation.  Then, we were placed in groups of four and tasked with creating a virtual country (either ‘developed’ or ‘developing’, based on our home countries- I was in the ‘developed country’ group) and developing a national aquaculture policy for it.

It was up to us to determine policy principles, objectives and strategies that would be appropriate for our new country, as well as design action plans and real-world initiatives that could be implemented to achieve these objectives.  Using as examples the strategic frameworks from different countries all over the world, we built a complete national aquaculture policy from the ground up!

Overall, this course was well-taught and presented me with quite a bit of valuable experience!  The next module is ‘Livelihoods and Sustainable Development’, which I am also looking forward to!!   

Monday, February 14, 2011

United States Drafts National Aquaculture Policy

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership with the US Department of Commerce, published a draft for a National Aquaculture Policy, which works towards further developing the aquaculture industry of the United States.

According to the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, “it is in the national interest, and it is the national policy, to encourage the development of aquaculture in the United States”.  It has now been recognized that the US is lagging behind many other countries in terms of aquaculture development: 84% of seafood consumed in the US is imported, and domestic aquaculture only provides 5% of the national demand.  The global demand for seafood is expected to continue growing, and all estimates suggest that wild fish stocks will not be able to meet this demand, even with conservation and rebuilding efforts.  Therefore, future increases in demand will be supplied from either foreign aquaculture or increased domestic aquaculture production: this policy aims to develop the latter option.  

The policy draft emphasizes four main priorities: 1) science and research; 2) regulation; 3) innovation, partnerships, and outreach; and 4) international cooperation.  Ecosystem compatibility, social and economic benefits, best management practices, and industry accountability are all covered in this draft, which is open for public comment until April 11, 2011.

The policy, as well as information about commenting, can be found here:  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

MSc Advanced Module 2- Broodstock and Genetic Management

The second Advanced Module was titled Broodstock and Genetic Management: this course centered on the creation of a selective breeding program.  The students were placed into groups of three and each group was assigned a species: our group was responsible for designing a breeding program for European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).

With the exception of formal updates every few days, the entire two-week module was unstructured and we were free to focus on building our program.  If we had any questions or needed any input, we went to go see any of the four professors who coordinated the course: Brendan McAndrew, Dave Penman, Herve Miguad, and Krishen Rana. 

Selective breeding programs are used in most animal husbandry and culture industries: by selecting the best-performing fish for a given trait (such as growth rate, disease resistance, flesh consistency, etc.) and breeding them together, the offspring will (theoretically!) display some aspect of that trait.  By doing this over several generations, each time selecting the best-performers to breed, the entire population begins to display the trait.

Our group was tasked with overcoming two specific challenges associated with European sea bass culture: the high proportion of males-to-females (males grow slower and are therefore not wanted in culture) and the slow growth of the fish in general.  Because fast growth and femininity are correlated traits, we designed our breeding program to select for these.

This module was one of my favourites thus far: we did not work under the professor’s direct supervision, and in this way the course was very true to the real world.  We were completely free to design something, take it to the experts, then go back and tweak it.  In the end, we came up with a very successful and efficient program that could be implemented at a sea bass hatchery tomorrow!

The next module is Policy and Planning, another of the required modules for my ‘Business Management’ designation...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Aquaculture Overtakes Fishing for Global Seafood Production

In a report recently released by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, fish farming has become a more valuable industry than conventional fishing.  According to the FAO ‘State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture-2010’ report, global capture fisheries landed 90 million tonnes in 2008, while aquaculture animal production was only 52.5 million tonnes.  However, the value of global capture fisheries was $93.9 billion, while aquaculture was valued at a whopping $98.4 billion!  And that doesn’t include aquatic plant culture, valued at another $7.4 billion!!
The report states that global seafood consumption is now at an annual level of 17 kg per capita: that’s 37.5 pounds of seafood per person!  And while that figure represents both capture fisheries and aquaculture, capture fisheries has remained somewhat stagnant while aquaculture has enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 6.6% since 1970.  Currently, aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production industry in the world!

While these figures foretell of a booming industry to come, we must be cautious: many conventional aquaculture practices are harmful to the environment and are counter-productive to protecting wild fish stocks.  It is imperative that the future expansion of aquaculture be done in manner that takes the security and quality of the environment into account: rather than monoculture facilities, conduct polyculture to grow many species and create sustainable mini-ecosystems.  Utilize natural biological pesticides as opposed to chemicals to combat parasites.  Treat the wastes from fish farms to be reused as terrestrial fertilizers.  Build aquaponics facilities to grow fish and plants together, each living off the wastes of the other.  In these ways, we can create an industry that is both environmentally-sustainable AND economically-profitable for generations to come!

Find the full FAO report here:       

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Israeli Company Farming Environmentally-Friendly Fish

An Israeli company is developing closed, environmentally-friendly recirculating systems to grow fish on land.  GFA (Grow Fish Anywhere) Advanced Systems Ltd. utilizes biological filtration to break down the fish-farming waste products into harmless atmospheric gases, eliminating the major environmental concern surrounding this industry.  They have teamed up with Dr. Jaap van Rijn, an aquaculture professor at the Hebrew University in Rehovot, Israel.  I met with Dr. van Rijn in 2009 when I was living in Israel and working on the fish farm at Kibbutz S'de Eliyahu, and after speaking with him about his extensive work in aquaculture biofiltration, I completely understood why he is considered one of the leading global experts on the subject.  With his guidance and input, I have no doubts that this company will be able to overcome the obstacles associated with these technologies and succeed in their mission to produce environmentally-friendly fish.

The entire article can be read here:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MSc Advanced Module 1- Business and Financial Management

I am back from Winter Break, which was amazing: traveling for three weeks in Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Paris!  It was the trip of a lifetime, and I enjoyed the time off, but part of me is happy to be back at work at the Institute!

The first of my Advanced Modules was Business and Financial Management, one of the courses that I was most looking forward to.  It was taught primarily by John Bostock, the Director of Stirling Aquaculture, which is the consultancy group run by the Institute of Aquaculture.  There were only four MSc students who chose to take this module, so the lectures were more like round-table discussions than formal seminars. 

The lectures covered such topics as business plans and structures, human resources, accounting, project management, and aquaculture insurance.  Because the class was so small, the entire format was very informal, allowing us to explore several in-depth case-studies and spend more time on subjects that were interesting or challenging.  Overall, it was nice not being in a large class for once!

The majority of my assessment for this course was a human resources management handbook that I created for a theoretical shrimp farm in the Basque Country, Spain.  Each student was assigned a different aspect for the same company: one looked at the financials of the company, another at risk management, and the third at project planning and management.  When all four documents came together, we had the beginnings of a business plan/ operations manual for the facility!

One fantastic aspect of this course was a bit of real-world experience that we received: John put us in touch with two MBA students from Utah who were starting a tilapia farming business in Ghana and had emailed the Institute for assistance.  The four of us had the opportunity to serve as consultants on their project, and we communicated with them via email and Skype throughout the two weeks of the module.  The two of them actually travelled to Ghana towards the end of the module, and they said that they found our input exceedingly helpful: we have plans to continue communicating in the future, even though the module is over!

The next module is Broodstock and Genetic Management, which is not a strength of mine but should be valuable nonetheless!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Closed-Containment Salmon Tanks Installed in BC

A company in British Columbia, Canada is in the process of installing and testing floating tanks to grow chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), a species that occurs naturally in these waters.  The tanks are essentially closed pens, with fresh seawater being pumped in and excess food and feces being pumped out.  These systems have vast advantages over conventional open-net pens, where wastes are allowed to enter the surrounding environment.  Additionally, the water being pumped into and out of the tanks can be filtered and treated, minimizing the risks of parasites and disease.  Overall, if proven economically viable at a commercial scale, this will be a large step towards the sustainability of the aquaculture industry!

Read the complete press release here: