March 16, 2008

Food- Aquaculture and other quick proteins

Is Aquaculture the future of fish farming?

Eleonore de Lusignan

Aquaculture is commonly defined as the active cultivation (maintenance or production) of marine and freshwater aquatic organisms (plants and animals) under controlled conditions. This definition encompasses a broad range of operations, cultivating a wide variety of organisms, using a wide variety of production systems and facilities. Aquaculture operations across the U.S. produce more than 100 species of aquatic organisms at different life stages, such as catfish, shrimp, salmon, scallops, oysters, and trout.

A common attribute of all aquaculture systems is the use of water as the medium for cultivation. Aquaculture systems must provide a constant supply of sufficiently clean and oxygenated water to support the cultivated organisms, and must carry away deoxygenated water and wastes. Systems that hold organisms within open, natural water bodies (suspended cages, net pens, or racks) rely on natural water circulation or dispersion to accomplish this water "turnover." Wastes released from these systems are not collected or managed. Closed systems employing ponds and tanks, on the other hand, must manage the supply and condition of water in the system, and must remove and manage wastes, largely consisting of wastewater.

Contessa Green Cuisine Plant
In the fall of 2007, Contessa opened the first environmentally responsible, LEED-certified frozen-food manufacturing plant in the world. The facility, its processes, and the products manufactured there are known as "Green Cuisine." Contessa's Green Cuisine plant is so innovative that it was featured on "CBS News Sunday Morning" in a segment called "The Next Hot Invention."

Worldwide, about 1 billion people rely on seafood as their primary source of animal protein. Yet according to a recent report in Science journal, 90 percent of the ocean's edible species may be gone by the year 2048 due to over-fishing, pollution and the destruction of natural habitats.

With our world population increasing by about 80 million people each year, 8 billion people are expected to occupy this planet by 2025. And with the demand for seafood in the U.S. alone expected to increase by more than 3 billion pounds by the year 2010, expanding our resources is no longer an option.

That's where aquaculture comes in.

Aquaculture — the cultivation of aquatic animals — currently accounts for nearly 40 percent of the seafood we consume, and is the fastest-growing food-producing segment in the world. It's a sustainable, reliable way to provide food for the masses.

When carried out responsibly, aquaculture allows shrimp stocks to be maintained and replaced indefinitely. It provides a much-needed source of protein without damaging the ocean floor with shrimp-trawling nets. And it doesn't trap creatures — like sea turtles — inadvertently, only to be thrown overboard as "bycatch." Aquaculture is even used in replenishment programs for a number of overfished species to offset the number that are caught in the wild.

Aquaculture Quick Facts

Aquaculture presently provides nearly 40 percent of the world's edible seafood supply.

Crustaceans, mainly shrimp and prawns, account for about 5 percent of aquaculture production.

About 40 percent of all harvested shrimp are now grown through aquaculture.

Wild-caught vs. Farm-raised: You be the Judge

"Aquaculture — the practice of raising fish, crustaceans or mollusks in captivity for human consumption — is gaining importance as wild fish populations dwindle. If current consumption rates continue, a 2006 scientific study predicted, all wild aquatic species currently harvested for food will fall below a tenth of their largest historic population by 2050."
— Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2007

Net-pen farming can be a messy business
Many farmed fish, including most farmed salmon, are raised in net pens, like cattle in a feed lot. Thousands of fish concentrated in one area produce tons of feces, polluting the water. Diseases can spread from fish in the crowded pens to wild fish. Antibiotics and other drugs used to control those diseases leak out into the environment, creating drug-resistant disease organisms. And if farmed fish escape their pens, they can take over habitat from wild fish in the area. While the U.S. has laws to protect the environment around coastal fish farms, many nations that supply farmed fish to U.S. markets do not.

Shrimp farming can harm the coast
In Thailand, Ecuador and many other tropical nations, coastal forests of mangroves once sheltered wild fish and shrimp, which local people caught to feed their families. Mangroves also filter water and protect the coast against storm waves. Many mangrove forests have been cut down and replaced with shrimp farms that supply shrimp to Europe, Japan and America. After a few years, waste products build up in the farm ponds and the farmers have to move on. The local people are left with no shrimp farms—and no mangrove forest.

Far from the sea may be best
The best way to raise fish may be inland, far from coastal waters where wild fish feed and breed. Tilapia, a plant-eating fish, is easy to raise, and produces protein for people without using wild fish as feed. Catfish and trout are raised inland in the United States. All of these fish can be delicious alternatives to ocean-farmed shrimp and salmon. Even shrimp and salmon farming can be moved inland, where wastes are easier to handle. U.S. shrimp farmers are experimenting with enclosed, recirculating systems that filter wastewater and can be located far from the coast.

Global Demand for Aquatic Products

• Ocean capture fisheries, which have long provided the majority of edible fish products for the world, have reached maximum sustainable yields.

• Demand for fishery products will continue to increase in response to projected human population growth of nearly 50%, to 9.1 billion, by 2050.

• Key constraint to sustainability of aquaculture production will be the availability of cost effective, renewable protein ingredients for fish feeds.

• Global fishmeal supplies are already insufficient to sustain the growing aquaculture production using fishmeal-based feeds.


• Soybean meal has a significantly lower cost than most animal meals, particularly marine animal protein meals.

• Reducing feed cost is critical to improving efficiency and maintaining sustainability in aquaculture operations.


• Soybean meal is a renewable plant protein ingredient.

• Availability of renewable protein products will be critical to the future of the global aquaculture industry.

• In comparison to static production of marine animal meals, soybean production has grown more than tenfold in the last four decades, and can continue to grow to meet demand from the aquaculture industry.

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