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: