Responsible Aquaculture Development: A Holistic Approach

Sunday, February 17, 2013
Room 304 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jeffery Silverstein , USDA Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, MD
Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector in agriculture (8.5% growth per year over the past 20 years) and currently contributes nearly half of the seafood produced for human consumption.  As production of aquatic animal species continues to grow in order to meet the demands of an expanding population and steadily increasing global appetite for seafood, responsible aquaculture development requires, and is providing, attention to improved productivity, protection and enhancement of environmental services and thriving economic viability. Improved productivity is driven by research and development; for example , better systems-recirculating aquaculture systems which require less water and can be sited near population centers incurring smaller transportation demands , land based ponds with near zero effluent and ocean pens that use natural current to move water.  Breakthroughs in controlled reproduction and application of genomic and genetic tools are extremely promising because the tremendous fecundity of many aquatic species and provide a significant advantage over terrestrial animal applications. Protection of the environment is manifested by finding feeds and feed ingredients that are plentiful and sustainable, reducing reliance on marine proteins and oils.  Developing high quality feeds from biofuel co-products is one area of great potential.  Use of shellfish culture to reduce coastal nutrient loads is one way that aquaculture can improve environmental conditions; shellfish filter out phytoplankton and thereby graze the algal biomass that results from nitrogen and phosphorus released into near-shore environments. The seafood value chain as it applies to aquaculture is key to assuring that high quality products command good prices and are well distributed.  Timely delivery maximizes the value of highly perishable seafood.  Though there are some highly developed aquaculture value chains, the Norwegian salmon value chain is one such example, other value chains are rudimentary and can precipitate sharp devaluation of products due to inconsistent or unpredictable supply.  These systems need to be improved for maximum industry value to society.  Aquaculture also promises significant job creation and employment through direct and indirect aquaculture related activities.

Each of these elements is critical and part of the holistic approach to responsible aquaculture development.