Kelp boom hinges on supply chain and carbon market investments

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Excitement about kelp farming is sky-high (or ocean deep?). They seem like the do-it-all solution to many of today’s most pressing problems. Kelp can draw down carbon, restore the health of coastal ecosystems, nourish people and revive coastal economies. But farming kelp successfully is also pretty complicated. 

That’s where this week’s good news comes in. On Monday, the regenerative ocean farming non-profit GreenWave launched a virtual ocean farming hub. It’s the most comprehensive resource to date — providing a free training program for ocean farmers and an interactive community hub. With it, the organization is responding to the exponential rise in interest for ocean farming training resources it has experienced since its launch six years ago. 

The information age is starting to transform fishing worldwide

A researcher at the advocacy group Oceana uses GPS data to trace the activity of fishing boats. Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

by Nicholas P. Sullivan, Tufts University

People in the world’s developed nations live in a post-industrial era, working mainly in service or knowledge industries. Manufacturers increasingly rely on sensors, robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace human labor or make it more efficient. Farmers can monitor crop health via satellite and apply pesticides and fertilizers with drones.

Commercial fishing, one of the oldest industries in the world, is a stark exception. Industrial fishing, with factory ships and deep-sea trawlers that land thousands of tons of fish at a time, are still the dominant hunting mode in much of the world.

This approach has led to overfishing, stock depletions, habitat destruction, the senseless killing of unwanted by-catch and wastage of as much as 30% to 40% of landed fish. Industrial fishing has devastated artisanal pre-industrial fleets in Asia, Africa and the the Pacific.

The end product is largely a commodity that travels around the world like a manufactured part or digital currency, rather than fresh domestic produce from the sea. An average fish travels 5,000 miles before reaching a plate, according to sustainable-fishing advocates. Some is frozen, shipped to Asia for processing, then refrozen and returned to the U.S.

But these patterns are starting to change. In my new book, “The Blue Revolution: Hunting, Harvesting, and Farming Seafood in the Information Age,” I describe how commercial fishing has begun an encouraging shift toward a less destructive, more transparent post-industrial era. This is true in the U.S., Scandinavia, most of the European Union, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and much of South America.

Sustainable fishing limits catches at or below levels that fisheries can replace at their natural reproductive pace.

Fishing with data

Changes in behavior, technology and policy are occurring throughout the fishing industry. Here are some examples:

  • Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit, monitors and creates open-access visualizations of global fishing activity on the internet with a 72-hour delay. This transparency breakthrough has led to the arrest and conviction of owners and captains of boats fishing illegally.
  • The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, an international business-to-business initiative, creates voluntary industry standards for seafood traceability. These standards are designed to help harmonize various systems that track seafood through the supply chain, so they all collect the same key information and rely on the same data sources. This information lets buyers know where their seafood comes from and whether it was produced sustainably.
  • Fishing boats in New Bedford, Massachusetts – the top U.S. fishing port, based on total catch value – are rigged with sensors to develop a Marine Data Bank that will give fishermen data on ocean temperature, salinity and oxygen levels. Linking this data to actual stock behavior and catch levels is expected to help fishermen target certain species and avoid unintentional bycatch.
  • Annual catch limits, divvied up through individual quotas for each fisherman, have helped curb overfishing. Imposing catch shares can be highly controversial, but since the year 2000, 47 U.S. stocks that were overfished and shut down have been rebuilt and reopened for fishing, thanks to policy judgments based on the best available science. Examples include Bering Sea snow crab, North Atlantic swordfish and red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A growing “fishie” movement that mirrors the widespread “foodie” locavore movement has been gaining steam for more than a decade. Taking a page from agriculture, subscribers to community-supported fisheries pay in advance for regular deliveries from local fishermen. Such engagement between consumers and producers is beginning to shape buying patterns and introduce consumers to new types of fish that are abundant but not iconic like the cod of yore.

Growing fish on land

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing form of food production in the world, led by China. The U.S., which has exclusive jurisdiction over 3.4 million square miles of ocean, has a mere 1% share of the global market.

But aquaculture, mostly shellfish and kelp, is the third-largest fisheries sector in the Greater Atlantic region, after lobsters and scallops. Entrepreneurs are also raising finfish – including salmon, branzino, barramundi, steelhead, eels and kingfish – mostly in large, land-based recirculating systems that reuse 95% or more of their water.

Industrial-scale ocean salmon farming in Norway in the 1990s was largely responsible for the perception that farmed fish were bad for wild fish and ocean habitats. Today this industry has moved to less dense deep-water offshore pens or land-based recirculating systems.

Virtually all new salmon farms in the U.S. – in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, and several planned for Maine and California – are land-based. In some cases, water from the fish tanks circulates through greenhouses to grow vegetables or hemp, a system called aquaponics.

There is heated debate over proposals to open U.S. federal waters, between 3 and 200 miles offshore, for ocean aquaculture. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that without a growing mariculture industry, the U.S. won’t be able to reduce and may even widen its $17 billion seafood trade deficit.

Vancouver, Canada-based Willowfield Enterprises raises coho salmon in recirculating tanks on land.

A voracious China

This kind of progress isn’t uniform throughout the fishing industry. Notably, China is the world’s top seafood producer, accounting for 15% of the global wild catch as well as 60% of aquaculture production. Chinese fishing exerts huge influence on the oceans. Observers estimate that China’s fishing fleet may be as large as 800,000 vessels and its distant-water fleet may include up to 17,000 vessels, compared to 300 for the U.S.

According to a study by the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana using Global Fishing Watch data, between 2019 and 2021 Chinese boats carried out 47 million hours of fishing activity. More than 20% of this activity was on the high seas or inside the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of more than 80 other nations. Fishing in other countries’ waters without authorization, as some Chinese boats do, is illegal. Chinese ships often target West African, South American, Mexican and Korean waters.

Most Chinese distant-water ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in one week as local boats from Senegal or Mexico might catch in a year. Much of this fishing would not be profitable without government subsidies. Clearly, holding China to higher standards is a priority for maintaining healthy global fisheries.

The ocean’s restorative power

There is no shortage of gloomy information about how overfishing, along with other stresses like climate change, is affecting the world’s oceans. Nonetheless, I believe it bears emphasizing that over 78% of current marine fish landings come from biologically sustainable stocks, according to the United Nations. And overharvested fisheries often can rebound with smart management.

For example, the U.S. east coast scallop fishery, which was essentially defunct in the mid-1990s, is now a sustainable US$570 million a year industry.

Another success story is Cabo Pulmo, a five-mile stretch of coast at the southeast end of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Once a vital fishing ground, Cabo Pulmo was barren in the early 1990s after intense overfishing. Then local communities persuaded the Mexican government to turn the area into a marine park where fishing was barred.

“In 1999, Cabo Pulmo was an underwater desert. Ten years later, it was a kaleidoscope of life and color,” ecologist Enric Sala, director of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Project, observed in 2018.

Scientists say that thanks to effective management, marine life in Cabo Pulmo has recovered to a level that makes the reserve comparable to remote, pristine sites that have never been fished. Fishing outside of the refuge has also rebounded, showing that conservation and fishing are not incompatible. In my view, that’s a good benchmark for a post-industrial ocean future.

Nicholas P. Sullivan, Senior Research Fellow, Fletcher Maritime Studies Program, and Senior Fellow, Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South Carolina wants you to recycle your empty oyster shells

Read the full story at Saveur.

Today, South Carolina is actively working to restore and sustain its wild oysters. To help maintain existing habitats, the state requires licenses for the recreational and commercial harvesting of shellfish, and controls where and when harvesting activity can take place. South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources has also deployed initiatives to recycle and replant oysters shells; its South Carolina Oyster Restoration & Enhancement (SCORE) program operates drop-off points around the state where residents can bring shells to reseed back into the ocean.

A new “Fitbit” for fish spills secret life of fish

Lab-on-a-Fish uses multiple sensors to wirelessly track location, heartbeat, tail movement, and even temperature of the surrounding environment.
(Graphic by Michael Perkins | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

A new fitness tracker that’s very much like a ‘Fitbit for fish’ is revealing new information about fish health and behavior. The first-of-its-kind device uses multiple sensors to wirelessly track what a fish experiences in real-time.

“The Lab-on-a-Fish offers something needed in conservation and aquaculture—a cost-effective way to monitor fish health and behavior,” said Daniel Deng, a Lab Fellow and mechanical engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) whose sensor development team collaborated with the battery team lead by Jie Xiao, a Laboratory fellow and chemist.

The device, a type of biosensor, can simultaneously collect data about a fish, including its location, heartbeat, tail movement, and burned calories, as well as the temperature, pressure, and magnetic field of its surrounding environment. This information can help scientists and managers understand the impact of climate change and infrastructure development on ecosystem health and, in turn, inform future management and conservation strategies.

Modern study of the ancient practice of mixing rice and fish farming uncovers striking trends

Read the full story at Anthropocene.

After four years peering beneath the surface of rice paddies in China, researchers quantify increases in rice yields and decreases in fertilizer use.

Something fishy in the water? Minnesota monitoring tech senses risks in real time

Read the full story at Centered.

Aquaculture is the practice of breeding and harvesting fish, shellfish, and plants in freshwater or saltwater environments for human use. Aquaculture supplies more than 50% of all seafood produced globally for human consumption, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association considers it one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein.

Diseases can occur in these farmed fish communities just like they can among other animal populations. But factors including climate change are contributing to worsening aquaculture disease outbreaks, creating a major threat to production, food security, and environmental health.

Minnesota startup Nucleic Sensing Systems, or NS², is developing patent-pending, cloud-based sensing and analytics technology to automatically detect environmental DNA that signals the presence of troublesome organisms in the water.

‘Health-giving’ fish waste offers food formulators cost and sustainability benefits

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

Fish farming by-products have the potential to increase the sustainability of aquaculture, and contribute to sectors such as food ingredients, diet supplements, animal feed and food packaging, according to a new study.

Now when you get uni in your sushi, you could be stopping climate change

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Sea urchins love to eat kelp. Kelp loves to sequester carbon. Now sea urchin farmers are removing hungry urchins from kelp fields in California, raising them in captivity to fulfill the world’s hunger for sushi, and saving the kelp to do its important work to help the climate.

The Maine microplastics researcher re-envisioning aquaculture

Read the full story at DownEast.

Stonington’s Abby Barrows dialed back a globetrotting research career to take over an oyster farm in her hometown. Now, she’s out to refashion the equipment of her new profession, to keep Maine’s booming aquaculture sector from fouling the waters it relies upon.

To make fishing sustainable, we need to track fish as they move around the world

Read the full story at Massive Science.

Wealthier nations have extensive telemetry networks, but the majority of worldwide fish catch goes untracked