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Sustainable Aquaculture

fish-farmingAs wild fish stocks decline in several parts of the world, marine aquaculture, the farming of aquatic species, is filling the gap. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more than 1 billion people depend on fish as their main source of protein. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says as of September 2013 aquaculture provides nearly 50% of the world’s supply of seafood. In fact, over the last decade, aquaculture has quickly moved up the ranks to become the fastest growing sector of food production worldwide.

Like any human or animal activity, aquaculture can and does have an impact on the environment. However, when practiced responsibly, the impact of aquaculture on our marine populations, marine habitats, and our water quality can be minimized. As a rapidly a developing industry, aquaculture has experienced growing pains and faced stumbling blocks. For aquaculture, those problems seem to primarily focus on environment issues including water pollution, degradation of ecosystems, and the depletion of wild fish stocks for feed pellets. At the community level, conflicts have arisen related to water allocation, land use and commercial fishing.

 

Merimbula boardwalk oyster farm post 5In some cases, aquaculture can both bolster our seafood supply and benefit the ecosystem. An example of this is oyster aquaculture;oysters naturally clean the water, remove nitrogen, accelerate denitrification, enhance water clarity, promote eelgrass survival, and provide excellent habitat for myriad juvenile fish and crustaceans. Additionally, aquaculture creates employment and business opportunities in coastal communities, provides safe and sustainable seafood, and supports marine fish populations and habitats.

Governments, non-governmental organizations (also known as NGOs or non-profits), and the people in the marine aquaculture industry are working together to come up with reasonable and attainable regulations. The goal is to find a balance so that we can meet the global demand for seafood and do so in a manner that has a benign or positive affect on local communities and the environment. In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working with their partners to develop innovative techniques and management practices that ensure we are protecting our marine ecosystems as aquaculture production expands around the world.

 

oyster farming 2Because different regions have different market needs, a one-size-fits-all approach would be impractical. Internationally, producers and other interested parties must work together to come up with models to address local and regional issues. Aquaculture farmers understand that sustainable practices are critical to environmental and human health, and their long-term economic success.  Aquaculture and wild fish stocks can and should complement each other to provide both a healthy diet and sufficient food supplies for the world population. In the long term, a healthy aquaculture industry will assure healthy fish populations worldwide.

Fish Farming in California

 

 

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The Fishes In the Deep Blue Sea

they-glowOceans cover more than 71% percent of our planet – and those oceans contain 97% of all the water on Earth. More than half of that water is deeper than 1 km (that’s only about ½ mile down.) Scuba divers and explorers have never explored most of the water this deep because it would kill them. There are several reasons why deep water is so dangerous for humans: 1) It’s cold – really cold, 2) There’s no air – without air, you’d pass out in about 5 minutes; 3) The water pressure gets stronger the deeper you go – the water pressure would squish you and collapse your lungs; and 4) This one is a little more confusing, but basically all the pressure on the body causes something called “nitrogen narcosis” and it would cause you to suffocate.

barreleye2-350For all those reasons, we don’t really know much about the fish and other creatures that live in our deep oceans. We know that they don’t get much light from the sun, that they can handle lots of pressure, and that they can survive in very cold temperatures. Most of these fish also don’t have skeletons, their skin is jelly-like, they grow very slowly and live longer, they don’t reproduce as quickly as fish closer to the surface, and there are not as many of them. All these things make them very different from the fish we normally see and find in seafood restaurants.

So, why does this matter? It matters because the Earth’s population is growing every day and today more than 1 billion people depend on fish as their main source of protein. With so many people eating fish, fishermen began running out of fish that that they could catch close to land and near the surface. Naturally, they moved further out to sea, but those fish populations started to get low too. Eventually the fishermen had to try new ideas and began fishing in deeper waters. Fish like mackerel, which live close to the surface can reproduce 50% of their population in a year, but these deep see fish can only reproduce 6% of their population in that same time. Through research, we can learn more about these fish and how to fish them at a rate that keeps them from being overfished and disappearing.

fish lightHave you ever heard of aquaculture? It is the farming of fish and other underwater plants and animals. It’s a lot like agriculture, which is the farming of plants and animals for food and other products on land. Aquaculture is one important way in which we can make sure that there are enough fish for people to eat and that the fish in our oceans aren’t overfished and have time to reproduce. In the last couple of years, aquaculture has become a big business. In fact, 50% of the world’s supply of seafood today already comes from fish farms across the planet. Aquaculture is one way in which scientists and fishermen are working together to figure out how to keep our oceans healthy and our population fed.

Watch MinuteEarth’s wonderful video on this

Oyster Reclamation

oyster growing on peirLast year, we kicked off our summer with a Memorial Day party at a friend’s house. His home sits on the scenic South River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, just south of Annapolis, Maryland. Little did we know, that day would turn into so much more than just a fun day with old friends.

After the all the kids, and some of the adults, wrapped up their adventures out on the river in our friend’s 14-foot sailboat, we relaxed on his pier and enjoyed the view. At one point, our friend mentioned that his baby oysters, aka “spat,” were grown and almost ready to go to their new home in the bay. He pulled up one of the eight cages he was caring for and explained his role as a volunteer in the South River Federation’s oyster restoration program.

Oyster Spat

Oyster Spat

In partnership with Marylanders Grow Oysters, the South River Federation gives hundreds of waterfront property owners the opportunity to participate in hands on oyster restoration. Volunteers with access to community piers or have their own, grow millions of young oysters in cages suspended from private piers each year. The volunteers are tasked with protecting the young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted on local sanctuaries where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and our oyster population.

After attending an oyster husbandry workshop, volunteers pick up their spat in the late summer or early fall. Throughout the growing season, the volunteers measure the length of spat, track mortality, and measure dissolved oxygen levels throughout the growing season. In early June, the volunteers deposit their oysters in the Glebe Bay sanctuary during the South River Days Oyster Flotilla.

Why are oysters so important? Oysters are filter feeders. This means that they feed by pumping large volumes of water through their gills and filtering out plankton and other particles. As they filter water to get food, oysters also remove nutrients, suspended sediments andbay oyster sanctuary chemical contaminants, helping to keep the water clear and clean for bay grasses and other underwater life. One oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water per day.

The spat fascinated the kids and adults alike and we all learned so much about their importance in the bay’s ecosystem. Having grown up near the ocean, I have always been enamored with our oceans and marine habitats. In 2000, I married an avid scuba diver on the beach and our now 12-year-old son might as well have been born with gills. That Memorial Day party changed our lives; we decided that it was time to apply our skills to make a positive difference and do something we love. The Marine & Oceanic Sustainability Foundation was sparked that weekend and has continued to grow with the support of friends, fellow ocean lovers, marine conservation organizations, and educators.

South River Federation - Kids Getting Spat

South River Federation – Kids Getting Spat