Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coastal ocean aquaculture can be environmentally sustainable

Exploring U.S. aquaculture :
NOAA Fisheries provides an overview of aquaculture in the United States and explores its advantages, challenges, and growth.
Aquaculture—also known as fish or shellfish farming—refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.
This kind of farming is the world's fastest-growing form of food production and a vital component of our food supply.
Aquaculture also supports commercial fisheries, enhances habitat and at-risk species, and maintains economic activity in coastal communities and at working waterfronts.


Specific types of fish farming can be accomplished with minimal or no harm to the coastal ocean environment as long as proper planning and safeguards are in place, according to a new report from researchers at NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

 Net pen aquaculture in deep coastal waters.

The study, led by scientists at National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), evaluated the environmental effects of finfish aquaculture, including interactions with water quality, benthic habitats, and marine life across various farming practices and habitat types.

“We did this study because of concerns that putting marine finfish farms in the coastal ocean could have adverse effects on the environment,” said Dr. James Morris, NCCOS ecologist.
“We found that, in cases where farms are appropriately sited and responsibly managed, impacts to the environment are minimal to non-existent.”
“This report provides coastal and farm managers with a global perspective on a range of potential environmental effects and their relative intensity,” said Dr. Michael Rubino, director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture.
“It is a tool that can be used when evaluating proposed or operational farming sites and gives them a factual basis to make decisions.”

Dirty Bottoms: The Industrialization of Aquaculture
The environmental damage from net pen aquaculture is cause for great alarm in scientific and coastal communities alike.
According to Inka Milewski, marine biologist and science advisor to the Conservation Council of New Brunswick,
"Salmon farms operate like industrial feedlots in coastal waters."
Join Milewski, an expert on the impacts of salmon farms on the coastal environment, to hear the facts, to learn from Canada's experience along the Bay of Fundy, and to see what solutions, if any, are possible.

In the report, scientists said that continued development of regional best-management practices and standardized protocols for environmental monitoring are key needs for aquaculture managers.
As aquaculture development increases in the coastal ocean, the ability to forecast immediate or long-term environmental concerns will provide confidence to coastal managers and the public.

Marine Aquaculture: A Promising Future
Aquaculture supplies half the seafood eaten in the U.S. and abroad.
Although we continue to rebuild our domestic fisheries stocks, most of the seafood needed for a growing planet will come from aquaculture.
This creates an opportunity for commercial fishermen, who are beginning to look to aquaculture as a complement to their fishing activities.
Over the last two years, an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) project involving NOAA, New Hampshire Sea Grant and the University of New Hampshire, in conjunction with the Portsmouth Commercial Fishermen's Association is focused on growing steelhead trout, mussels, and sugar kelp in floating pens on the Piscataqua River.
It's a different kind of work for traditional fishermen, but they have the background and expertise on the water to pick it up quickly.

With training from NH Sea Grant and university experts, fishermen are learning the basics of feeding, maintenance, and harvesting the farmed species for sale.
The fishermen, in turn, bring a wealth of experience with boats, marine equipment, and business relationships to the venture.
In 2012, eight local fishermen took over day-to-day operations of the project, which supplies locally-raised trout and kelp to local markets and distributors, and provides income directly to the fishermen.

The response from local restaurants has been overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the potential for this model to be replicated elsewhere.

“This report contributes to the growing body of evidence supporting marine aquaculture as a sustainable source of safe, healthy and local seafood that supports jobs in coastal communities,” said Sam Rauch, acting assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

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