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Future of aquaculture focus of California conference


February 6, 2015
By Joe Sabbagh

Aquaculture business entrepreneurs were invited to share the challenges, problems, and opportunities within the state and within the industry and scientists explored potential research avenues to address the issues.

 Though Scripps isn’t involved in developing fish farms, the institute has a longstanding study in fisheries research, as well as scientists in ecology, genomics, cell research and biology, which can address some of the challenges involved in farming fish and shellfish. In addition, research at the institute in ocean circulation, pollution, coastal oceanography, and marine engineering provided insights on creating offshore fish farms in California waters, institute representatives state.  Director Margaret Leinen highlighted in her presentation longstanding programs such as the 65-year-old California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program, which is focused on quarterly ocean surveys to provide leaders in science and resource management with information on the state of fish populations and health of our nearshore ocean waters.

 “This makes Scripps the perfect place to convene an event with aquaculture specialists, not only to share information with leaders in this area, but to investigate ways in which Scripps’s expertise in marine sciences can aid environmentally responsible aquaculture efforts in the future,” said Leinen.

 The event brought together more than 80 experts from various sectors within the industry and supporting aquaculture to collaborate and cultivate sustainable fish farming as a means of feeding the growing global population and how California, with its 3,427 miles of shoreline, including large sounds and bays, can play a huge part in the global market.

California’s aquaculture future

 Paul Olin, a California Sea Grant/Scripps aquaculture specialist, provided a foundation for the discussion in his presentation on the history of aquaculture in the U.S. and around the world, including active aquaculture efforts currently being done regionally and internationally.

 In this overview, Olin said that the US imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes, creating an annual trade deficit exceeding $10 billion.

 “Much of this seafood could be produced domestically by Americans farming fish and shellfish,” he said. “If we doubled domestic aquaculture production it would produce seafood with a farm gate value (base price) of $1 billion and create 55,000 new jobs. Increasing seafood consumption is recommended by the FDA and would dramatically improve public health, primarily by reducing fatal coronary heart disease.”

 Several aquaculture companies call California home, but some have only their headquarters located in and around San Diego, with their offshore aquaculture operations located in Mexico, mainly around the Baja California Peninsula.

 In addition to finfish and shellfish production, public information and education was also discussed with leaders of Scripps, Aquarium of the Pacific, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the restaurant sector.

 Discussions in aquaponics, and algae aquaculture research and business opportunities were led by faculty, like Steve Mayfield, a UC San Diego biology professor and Director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

 “The algae industry more and more is getting really strongly focused on the need for new biomass sources that have higher nutritional value than traditional terrestrial crops and are not wild harvest ocean fishmeal,” said Scripps biologist Greg Mitchell, who conducts research on algae in his Scripps laboratory.

 Organizers said the event was a productive opportunity for attendees to learn about aquaculture in the state, the nation, and the world, while providing applicable research, and technology development going on at Scripps.

 “The thing that made the day a great one was the diversity and the quality of conversations – we touched on so much of the motivation for aquaculture, the problems, the opportunities, the experience, and technology,” Leinen explained after the conference.

 For more information on aquaculture in California see http://www.caaquaculture.org.

— Erich Luening

1 figure – word document, not sure if you can use it, no caption needed.  I will see if I can find a better version at FAO.

2 slides pdf from power point

Caption for both: Reproduced by permission from the presentation by Paul Olin

2 photos – these were pulled from Slide 1

Caption for both: California aquaculture courtesy of Paul Olin


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