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...