Aquaculture, which is the cultivation of seafood items like bivalves (clams and oysters), seaweed, and fish, has been a contentious topic in the United States. Aquaculture is still a small sector. There are proponents and critics on both sides for different reasons. A new studyResearchers at the University of Adelaide and Nature Conservancy look at the climate, and they find or confirm a few good pathways for sensible aquaculture.
There is a wide variety of aquaculture operations, ranging from meticulously ethical to environment-destroying, slave-labor-using chaos farms. This is a complex topic. Some environmentalists rail against the reality or possibility of pollution, excess fertilizer that leads to algae blooms and escaped animals that outcompete local species, and high energy consumption. Some activists point out the many labor abuses that occur all over the globe.Please be carefulWhere to buy shrimp!).
Aquaculture’s realities are not always in line with what is possible. This is why many people are against it. However, those possibilities are fascinating. Theoretically fish farming could reduce bycatch and overfishing, have lower feed requirements and yields than land animals, and could even clean the water. This doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it does not mean that it wont.
So far, President Joe Biden has not said or done much about aquaculture during his tenure. A highly publicized letterThe president was asked to create more rules and permits for off-shore aquaculture. This letter was signed to clarify who supported what by Taylor Shellfish Farms, sustainable seafood pioneer and some well-respected scientists, as well Cargill and Red Lobster. They both want more aquaculture to be able to sell more and purchase less.
In any case, this study examines the effects of growing three types marine products: bivalves, fish, and seaweed. There’s a lot to be learned here! For example, seaweed can be used as a carbon sink. However, the key to storing carbon dioxide is that the medium of storage-the seaweed-must actually go somewhere. Carbon storage happens on land in the soil or in the plants. What do you do with seaweed if it is acting as a storage medium? Researchers write that seaweed can be either actively or passively sunk. But what are the effects of seaweed on ocean ecosystems? They recommend that more research be done.
[RELATED: The Future of Ocean Farming]
The researchers concluded that fish farming is the most difficult to optimize for climate-related goals. Fish feed, which is often made with wild-caught fish, is a problem. So is the location of offshore fish farm and the emissions (such diesel fuel) that are generated to get there. Bivalves, which are filter feeders that clean the water, have a low impact. The work left to do is mostly in packaging and transportation.
Transportation is the main problem. Tuna and salmon are high-value fish and must be transported quickly to their freshness-demanding markets. Climate-wise, rapid air transport is not ideal.
The researchers offer six main suggestions. These include farming certain categories together (fish and seaweed, bivalves or seaweed), fixing all infrastructure and transportation problems (good luck with that, especially in light of our worsening supply chain problems) and monitoring the carbon output from all types of aquaculture operations. They state that there is no single solution that will work in all situations and sectors.