Aquaculture Provides More And More Of Our Future Protein Source
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As our world surges toward a global population of 9.9 billion by the year 2050, the need to feed all those people is spiking too. That’s putting unprecedented stress on our fisheries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that already “58% of the world’s fish stocks are being fished at or beyond sustainable levels.” The reasons are many: but it boils down to too many boats chasing too few fish, creating a classic “tragedy of the commons.” Climate change will only exacerbate the problem: warming waters are already forcing fish populations to migrate toward cooler habitats. A recent paper in the journal “Science” calculates that rising seawater temperatures will leach oxygen out of the seawater at increasingly dangerous levels. If we don’t manage to significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions immediately, marine animals will face a mass extinction within three hundred years. In a special 90-minute live event, the PBS NewsHour will explore the connections between climate change, warming oceans, migrating fish populations, the economic stressors facing fishermen and the fishing industry, bad actors on the high seas, and ever-growing seafood demand. Emmy-award-winning science journalist and Tipping Point Executive Producer, Miles O’Brien, will guide us through a thoughtful conversation with a series of thought leaders on this subject to foster a meaningful dialogue on the science, the policy challenges and possible solutions, in the video streamed on June 8, 2022, “Tipping Point: Fisheries on the Brink – A PBS NewsHour Special“, below:
Rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere means more CO2 in the oceans as well. Ocean acidity is up 30% since the Industrial Revolution, making it more difficult for oysters, clams, scallops, and the likes to build their shells. Thinner shells means less growth and increased death rates. During the Permian extinction 250 million years ago, a huge influx of CO2 from volcanic eruptions snuffed out 95% of marine and 70% of terrestrial species. Curtis Deutsch, a professor of geoscience of Princeton University, compared fossil records to the present day and built a model to predict outcomes as the climate crisis worsen. Professor Deutsch said that with current rapid warming and acidifying and depleting of oxygen of the ocean, if left unchecked, there is the projection of 10% of all marine species becoming extinct by the end of the century. By 2300, warming could reach well over 5 degrees Celsius, approaching 10 degrees Celsius, leading to the extinction of a third of marine species. Professor Deutsch added that if we can keep the warming to less than 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius above the pre-Industrial era (Paris Agreement), there is the hope of avoiding mass extinction of marine life.
Kathy Mills, a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, studying ecosystem change and fish ecosystem relationships, said Gulf of Maine has been warming at about three times faster than oceans around the world and experiencing frequent marine heat wave (temperature conditions that exceed those historically experienced). Climate projection out to mid-century is expecting the waters in Gulf of Maine to feel more like those of Rhode Island now. Ecosystem will adjust to warmer state and species will shift that are adapted to warmer waters in this region more frequently. In the past decade or so, lobsters population in the Gulf of Maine have benefitted from the warming climate as well as the strong conservation measures to protect egg bearing lobsters and large lobsters, leading to earlier and longer lobster season. However, such warming contributed to the decline of Northern Shrimp and Maine cod and increase of Longfin Squid since the 2012 Heat Wave. Cost and knowledge are needed to adapt to the change.
Effective fishery management is data driven. United States offers the best example of strong and effective regulations to avoid depleting fisheries. Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, enacted in 1976 and amended in 1996 (extending from 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles off of U.S. coast) and 2007, puts science at the center of policy. When the data shows that fishery is failing, regulators must intervene to stop overfishing and rebuild stocks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducts a series of surveys, aimed at creating an accurate fish census. For example, the Biennial Bottom Trawl Survey, began in 1963, one of the oldest continuous fish counts in the world: using modified fishing gear and oceanographic instruments, aiming to take stock of 50 fisheries from North Carolina to Maine, dragging large net from bottom of the ocean, counting and weighing all the species that are in the net and recorded data of different species from different fisheries. To see what’s happened to U.S. fisheries over the years, click HERE. Better data sampling strategy is always needed to improve management of fishery.
As fish becomes more scarce, incentive to ignore the law is growing. Therefore, greater enforcement measures and monitoring of fisheries are needed in order to preserve the objective of fishery management. Satellite tracking technology enables authorities to look over the horizon, and 25 tuna companies that are part of ISSF are tracing fish from catch to can (a way to limit losses during a food recall, now arises to help with fish monitoring). Traceability is the foundation of sustainability. Data from each point of the supply chain is needed. Traceability is key and provides much visibility for small fishermen in addition to enabling monitoring necessary for following the rules and laws.
Precision agriculture provides food of the future via aquaculture. As terrestrial food source is tapped out, new sources of protein are needed. Aquaculture now provides half of the world’s supply of seafood, but the aquaculture industry must deal with many problems: hardened enclosures to keep the fish captive, never use prophylactic antibiotics, deploying lungfish to eat the sea lice that can infect farm salmon, and feeding involving combination of automation and remote monitoring to provide the precise amount. Many industry researchers believe the numbers for fish farming falls well short of sustainability.
At the University of New Hampshire, they are testing the notion of farming sugar kelp, mussels, and steelhead trout together, hoping all three species would mutually benefit and the farming would be more ecologically balanced. There is great potential for aquaculture.
Finally, Burnham Brothers Marine Railway of Gloucestser of Maine, one of the earliest steam-powered marine railway in USA, now a wonderful museum educating young people many of the STEM issues associated with oceans and fisheries.
If you want to find out more about Sustainable seafood, please click HERE.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker More about the community at www.WindermereSun.com
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