Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hong Kong: Aquaculture innovation panel discussion

Matt Thompson is a senior aquaculture specialist with the Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Programs (SSP). He is blogging from the Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. The Seafood Summit brings all those concerned with sustainable seafood together in a conference to identify challenges and look for solutions.  

Today, I had the great pleasure to moderate a panel at the Seafood Summit, it was entitled: “Untapped potential for sustainability: Exploring aquaculture innovation in Asian aquaculture.” The purpose of the panel was to call leading experts to give their opinions on some of the most effective technologies and practices in Asian aquaculture and identify how they can used in other global aquaculture industries to reduce the environmental and social impact of aquaculture.

My panel consisted of Dr. Malcolm Beveridge an aquaculture scientist from Worldfish Center who uses his extensive knowledge of the industry to tackle the environmental challenges of aquaculture, as well as poverty and hunger in the developing World; Olav Jamtøy from a company named Genomar that raises improved tilapia by selectively breeding them for things like faster growth ; Robins McIntosh, from CP Thailand, who is a pioneer in shrimp farming and actively works to move this improving industry towards ever better and more responsible practices, Dr. Rohana Subasinghe, a globally recognized leader that works with the FAO to analyze and predict trends in global aquaculture.

Collectively, the panel showed that Asian aquaculture was a leader in production in fish farming and had some of the most efficient fish farming systems globally. We all agreed that there is an opportunity to learn from these producers to increase global aquaculture production, which was important as we face a large shortfall in seafood supply relative to the demand of future generations. Another issue was that despite the rapid growth in aquaculture production, the numbers are below what they need to be to meet the growing demand. The panel highlighted challenges for the industry, including feed, technology, and finance. Disease and biosecurity (techniques to prevent the introduction of disease) were also identified, with Dr. Subasinghe highlighting that the annual losses from diseases in aquaculture cost around $6 billion. But innovation, creating ideas and technological solutions to address challenges in aquaculture, could offer us a way to expedite an increase in seafood production while addressing its environmental challenges. Innovations learned from shrimp and tilapia farming, such as selective breeding and biosecurity can improve efficiencies to, as Robins put it, we can “get more from less”. These innovations have the potential to be transferred to other aquaculture industries, especially the smaller-scale fish farmers that form the majority of the people working in aquaculture, around the world to increase production, profitability and food security – all while reducing aquacultures environmental footprint. My thanks again to the panel.

From the left, Me, Dr. Rohana Subasinghe, Dr. Malcolm Beveridge, Robins McIntosh, Olav Jamtøy

While there are great innovations in Asian aquaculture, there are also ongoing challenges. Additionally, innovations may not be used by all the farmers in the industry, making it important to source seafood from farms that make meaningful efforts to reduce their environmental impact.

– Matt

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