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