March 30, 2017

CLF Aquaculture Links: March 2017

Dave Love

Dave Love

Associate Scientist, Public Health & Sustainable Aquaculture Project

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

The White House proposed budget calls for large cuts to NOAA and completely removes Coastal Zone Management grants, the Sea Grant program, and the NERRS coastal research sites. These cuts will harm the ability for local and state governments to respond to climate change and storms, and will have negative impacts on businesses that rely on Sea Grant extension services, as well. The CLF has  a longstanding collaboration with staff at the Maryland Sea Grant, and we are concerned about these proposed budget cuts. Read more at the Washington Post.

Jackets, sweatshirts, and other clothes made from synthetic microfibers shed large amounts of those microfibers (several grams per item of clothing) every time they are washed, and those microfibers end up in the environment and the food we eat, including seafood. Dr. Chelsea Rochman, a scientist who conducted the microfiber study, says, “I have no doubt that every time I eat oysters and mussels I eat at least one microfiber.” It is unclear if these synthetic fibers are harmful to animals and humans, and more research is urgently needed. Read more at NPR.

Scientists have found that 90 percent of fishmeal caught and used for animal and fish feed could instead be used to feed humans. That amounts to 18 million pounds per year of small, oily fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring. The NPR story quotes chef Dan Barber from his book The Third Plate: “If you look around the world at all the cuisines that rely on these oily, healthy fish throughout the centuries, they haven’t found it hard to prepare. Preparing isn’t the problem — it’s creating a culture of desiring them.” US Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat a diversity of fish, so be adventuresome next time you dine! Read more at NPR and The Third Plate.

Eating shellfish is good for the planet and a better choice in terms of animal welfare than eating farmed fish. Shellfish present fewer ecological impacts than farmed fish, but there are still some ecological challenges such as spreading invasive species, damaging coastal habitat, and plastic debris from farms. In terms of animal welfare, shellfish are invertebrates, so they do not move very much or require much space to exert their natural behavior, which makes them a good candidate for humane aquaculture. Aquatic plants like seaweed are the best choice for animal welfare, but shellfish are not far behind. These were the findings of a recent study by NYU scholar Dr. Jennifer Jacquet and colleagues. Read more at the Guardian and the journal Solutions.

This season, 30,000 pounds of farmed salmon—raised in West Virginia in a land-based recirculating aquaculture system run by the Freshwater Institute—will be making a splash in DC and Virginia restaurants and up-scale grocery stores. Chefs and retailers are looking forward to having local salmon on the menu and in seafood cases. Steve Philips, seafood manager at Wegmans grocery store, says Virginia shoppers are not very price sensitive, but “it’s not at the same price we need to be competitive with conventional salmon.” (Conventional salmon is raised in net pens in the ocean, contrasting with land-based circulating systems.) Dr. Steve Summerfelt, director of Aquaculture Systems Research at the Freshwater Institute, estimates that starting a competitive land-based salmon farm costs over $50 million, which is twice the cost of a conventional net-pen salmon farms. That is a hefty price tag for investors, but prices may drop for farms and products if more businesses enter the market. Read more at Fast Company.

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