Efforts to put the world's oceans on a pathway towards sustainability got a major boost this week with the announcement of two major initiatives.

CEOs of 10 of the largest seafood companies in the world behind the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative announced they will increase their efforts to strengthen sustainable practices in the seafood industry following their meeting in Japan this week.

They agreed to address key topics affecting ocean health and seafood sustainability, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and modern slavery, and they committed to improving transparency in reporting, to substantially reducing their use of antibiotics in aquaculture and plastic materials in their supply chains.

Members of SeaBOS include salmon farmers Marine Harvest ASA and Cermaq, aquafeed companies Skretting and Cargill Aqua Nutrition, and tuna fishers Thai Union Group PCL , Dongwon Industries and Kyokuyo.

Norwegian initiative

In Norway, the world’s richest government-owned investment fund has called on companies it invests into integrate ocean sustainability into their strategy.  

Oslo-based Norges Bank Investment Management, whose fund value reached a record $1-trillion last year, said many companies in its investment portfolio depend on the ocean as part of their business model.

It now requires them to integrate measures that will help to identify and minimize the impact of their activities on the ocean.  In the aquaculture industry, the fund has investments in Huon Aquaculture Group of Australia.

"The ocean is a vital part of the biosphere and an important part of the global economy," Yngve Slyngstad, NBIM's CEO, said in a statement on Wednesday. "We expect companies to manage the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable use of the ocean."
Measures proposed to lift the rate of employment in the aquaculture industry in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) by requiring employers to set hiring quotas are counterproductive and unfair, according to the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA).

Mark Lane, NAIA executive director, says the call by workers union FFAW-Unifor for the government to mandate aquaculture companies to employ a minimum number of workers and set a minimum number of weeks of employment is unreasonable. “If implemented, [it] will likely result in less investment and production in the industry that would keep people employed,” Lane tells Aquaculture North America (ANA).

The union, which represents workers in the fisheries, fish farming and processing industries, says the aquaculture industry “struggles to provide meaningful work” for its 150 processing workers in the community of Connaigre Peninsula in NL.  In a CBC News report the union proposes that aquaculture companies in the province be required to process their fish at local plants instead of New Brunswick, where it says much of the processing work is now being done.

Lane says the closure of two facilities owned by Barry Group in Harbour Breton on the Connaigre Peninsula was due to the downturn in the wild fishery.  “The recent downturn in processing in the province is no different than any other industry such as oil and gas, agriculture or traditional wild fisheries,” Lane tells ANA. He noted that the aquaculture industry has re-opened both facilities.  

But he acknowledged that lack of technology and equipment required for certain types of processing in NL facilities means these need to be done outside the province. “To my knowledge none of these plants can perform value-added processing such as portions or smoking. The plant in St Alban’s cannot do filleting.

“As well, for salmon in particular, current levels of technology do not allow for removal of pin bone pre-rigor in NL. Thus, to avoid unnecessary delays in transport and reduction in shelf life en route to market we process pre-rigor in NL, transport closer to the market and remove pin bones in New Brunswick. Having said that, every fish grown in NL is processed in NL,” he says.

He adds that the aquaculture industry has been “quite successful in keeping people employed in rural coastal NL year-round.”  About 450 people are directly employed on farms in NL, he says, including aquaculture technicians, veterinarians, managers, and divers. There are also more than 200 people employed in processing.

“For every job created on the farm there are three indirect employment opportunities created as a result, among them in retail, service, supply and transport. We are very proud of these accomplishments and the socio-economic contribution that we are making to rural communities.”

Like FFAW-Unifor, Lane is banking on the arrival of Marine Harvest in the province to expand NL’s aquaculture industry. In July, the Norwegian salmon producer finalized its acquisition of Canadian salmon farmer Northern Harvest Sea Farm (NHSF), which has 45 farming licenses in Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) tells ANA that it is still developing its long-term plans to increase production on Canada’s south coast. “All salmon grown at NHSF operations in NL are prcessed to HOG and fillet stage on a contractual basis by the Barry Group,” says Jeremy Dunn, MHC Director, community relations and public affairs.

FFAW-Unifor says “the arrival of Marine Harvest in NL presents an opportunity to do things differently.  Not just economic viability, but an opportunity for responsible farming, meaningful jobs and respectful collective bargaining and labour relations.”

Lane says the entry of Marine Harvest, Grieg and expansion plans of Cooke Aquaculture will help the industry expand. “We are confident that employment opportunities will increase also accordingly.”

He says the industry is poised to meet the province’s growth target of 50,000 MT of finfish and 10,000 MT of shellfish by 2022. “This will eventually result in more long-term stable employment opportunities in additional communities around the province’s coast line and inland,” he says.

Lane concludes that “the best way to ensure long-term stable employment in aquaculture is to support the development of the industry across the province in both farming and support service sector.”

“This will create critical mass in production to keep people employed, but also open up new avenues of employment in servicing and supporting the industry,” he says.
Nordic Aquafarms' two major land-based farm projects in Belfast, Maine in the US and in Fredrikstad, Norway are forging ahead as planned, according to the company's chief executive, in light of news reports that one of its major vendors, Inter Aqua Advance (IAA), has filed for bankruptcy protection on August 29.

"We see no material effect on timelines from this (IAA bankruptcy filing) in Norway nor Maine," Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim told Aquaculture North America's sister publication, Hatchery International, adding his company had "no active delivery contracts with" IAA.

"We have a growing internal engineering department that increasingly is taking control of design and delivery," Heim said.

Several news sites have reported that IAA has filed for bankruptcy protection in an Arhus, Denmark, court last week. Established in 1978 and headquartered in Egaa, Denmark, IAA claims to be the first company in the world to develop and supply recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). It has since built more than 150 RAS facilities worldwide, according to the company's website.

Last April, Nordic Aquafarms announced a long-term strategic agreement with IAA to develop, design and deliver large RAS facilities for both land-based farm developments in Norway and the US. Construction of a new 1.6-million smolt facility in Fredrikstad was expected to start this year, while the 3.5-million smolt facility in Belfast, Maine, was planned for mid-2019.

According to Heim, these timelines will continue as planned.

"The important thing for us in this event has been to protect our IPR, as regulated in contracts. So, to sum it up, we are moving forward as planned. The consequence may be greater for some of (IAA's) other clients, but we have little information regarding the status of their other projects," he said.

Heim also hinted at an "exciting development" at his company that will be announced in the next few days. He did not provide any further details on this.

“I am going to tell you something that you already know intuitively, that aquaponics is helping to rebuild the US aquaculture industry,” Dr George B. Brooks Jr tells the audience at this year’s Aquaculture America conference.

Brooks is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Agriculture at Mesa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona and is actively involved in the evolution of urban agriculture and business development in the city.

Brooks noted that in the 1990s the US aquaculture industry was in serious trouble. There was an ageing workforce, difficulties in finding employees, a lack of new young entrants, a dearth of innovation and a reduction in extension programs. Then came the huge planes that enabled extensive low-cost imports, disrupting the business model for fish and seafood in the United States.

However, Brooks believes domestic production of fish and other species can recover in the US, and the market is huge. In a post on ‘The Aquaponic Gardening Community’ forum in November 2017, Brooks stated that “the United States currently only produces 10 percent of the seafood it eats,” producing about 500 million lbs of the 5 billion lbs that’s consumed annually. “For us to just increase that by 5 percent of the total would require an additional 250 million lbs of product,” he stated, which is “far from impossible.” He says “millions of dollars are now being devoted to reviving our industry. The only question is what role will aquaponics play?”

Brooks believes that it will play an important role across the nation, and shared many signs of progress during his Aquaculture America 2018 presentation. As an example, he pointed out that in Wisconsin, the number of aquaculture farms has recently jumped from 2,300 to 2,800, with 300 of the 500 new farms being aquaponics operations. In Brooks’ home city of Phoenix, large organizations like Vitalyst Health Foundation are actively supporting aquaponics and other types of urban farming because, he says, the products “can provide health, healthy neighbourhoods, healthy people.”

Municipal leaders, adds Brooks, in cities like Phoenix and Boston, so badly want urban agriculture that “we are now able with new techniques to bring this directly into the city, whether that’s a community garden, urban farm or a vertical garden…Everyone can have a farm, whether it’s in your backyard or an urban space that couldn’t become anything else.”

An aquaponics demonstration project proposal was recently put before Phoenix city council, and the ​Phoenix Office of Environmental Programs was recently awarded a $400,000 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to remove hazardous substances from brownfield properties and to redevelop them in ways that improve public health, including aquaponics, hydroponics, controlled environment, community and school gardens. In Phoenix as well, Mesa Community College has a ‘Center for Urban Agriculture,’ which promotes “healthy eating and living through sustainable urban agriculture, aquaponics, and local food production.” Brooks says his aquaponics courses are overbooked.

At the same time progress is being made, much remains to be accomplished for aquaponics and aquaculture in Brooks’ home state and beyond. “In Arizona,” he says, “we are seeing increasing new farms, farmers of all ages, an institutional desire to support these farms and successful training programs, but we need new system designs, a processing hub, new species, we need an experimental station, and we need more access to capital.”
Marine scientists are warning the aquaculture community about the rise of so-called predatory journals, scientific research papers that are not peer-reviewed, have questionable quality and are freely available on the internet.

In their paper Predator in the Pool? A Quantitative Evaluation of Non-indexed Open Access Journals in Aquaculture Research, marine ecologists Jeff C. Clements, Rémi M. Daigle and Halley E. Froehlich said predatory journals can pose a threat to aquaculture if policy makers rely on them.

“Policy makers, managers, fish farmers, and the general public rely on sound and reliable science for a successful and sustainable aquaculture industry”, says Clements, a visiting post-doctoral fellow with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.  “If they aren’t trained to properly recognize good science from bad science, they run the risk of interpreting predatory open access journals as high-quality scientific journals.”

Such journals get published in dubious online publications that charge academic authors prohibitive fees. The researchers found that predatory journals were more likely to be found during a Google search.
“This is concerning given the public perception of aquaculture is often negative, despite research showing positive benefits too,” Clements said.

He believes that open access publishing is a benefit to aquaculture science—and indeed all of science—but that it is important to understand that some scientific information may not necessarily be correct or factual.

“Science communication, like any form of communication, is a two-way street: readers need to be aware that not all science is created equally and that some science is flawed; at the same time, scientists need to connect with a broad audience to quell some of the misinformation that exists in scientific literature.”

How to identify predatory journals

Awareness and recognition is key to identifying and avoiding predatory open access aquaculture journals. To recognize whether or not a scientific journal may not be legitimate, here are some tips:

•    Readers should be wary of aquaculture journals that were established after 2010, publish less than 20 papers per year, and publish articles rapidly (less than 80 days after submission)

•    If a journal is deemed suspicious based on those criteria, the reader should then go online and search for the name of the journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals (

•    If the journal shows up in that database, it is good, but if it doesn't show up in that database, it should be read with caution

•    For interpreting science, non-scientists should seek the advice of trained scientists
Superior First has become the first land-based aquaculture and aquaponics facility to bag a Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) awards BAP certification on environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture companies.

Superior Fresh fish are fed a specially formulated diet free of hormones and antibiotics, said the GAA in the August announcement.  The fish produce ammonia and solids, and the solids are broken down from ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates, making nutrients available for plant uptake. The nutrient-rich water is then pumped into the greenhouse for the leafy greens, which use the nutrients and, in turn, clean the water. The clean water is then pumped back into the aquaculture system.

“We are proud to be a part of the BAP program. Our personal standards and morals related to how we farm are backed up by a strong stamp that truly helps consumers understand that we are doing everything possible to raise healthy, safe and sustainable food,” said Superior Fresh President Brandon Gottsacker.

The BAP achievement is another first for the Wisconsin-based company.  In July, it achieved a milestone when its harvest of Atlantic salmon raised inland hit the US retail market for the first time.
Cermaq says it is raising its fish according to the recommendations of Fishwell, a research project that has come up with a tool for farmers to help them assess the welfare of farmed salmon in various production systems.

Examples of welfare indicators include appetite, the fishes’ behaviour, physiological status, gill condition, fin damage, skeletal status, temperature, and water flow rate.

Cermaq says it has used FishWell’s recommendations to enhance fish welfare throughout its operations. “Cermaq wants its fish to thrive, grow and be healthy. A fish with good welfare is healthier, performs better and ultimately has better quality, which is essential for the productivity and sustainability of Cermaq’s farming operations,” the salmon and trout farmer said in announcing its new fish welfare policy.

The company believes however that individualized farming, where fish are monitored and treated individually, will be the “real change maker” in aquaculture. It is developing a technology, called iFarm, to achieve this goal.

“iFarm, when developed, can measure the external fish health and welfare parameters presented in FishWell. By sorting and treating individual fish, the welfare for all fish in the pen will increase and mortality rates will be dramatically reduced,” says Cermaq R&D Director Olai Einen.

The FishWell project is a collaboration between the food research institute Nofima, the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, Nord University in Bodø and the University of Stirling in the UK and the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund. The 328-page manual was scheduled for publication this August/September.

Grieg Seafood announced that total operating income jumped double digits in the second quarter, while also lowering its harvest outlook for the whole year.

The Norwegian salmon farmer’s total operating income in Q2 2018 amounted to NOK 2.3 billion ($278 million), up 14 percent compared to the same period last year. This despite production at its Rogaland and British Columbia sites being impacted by pancreas disease and algal bloom, respectively.

It expects harvest of 75,000 tonnes in 2018, up 20 percent from 2017 figure but lower by 5,000 tonnes of the initial guidance for the year because of the Rogaland and BC issues in June.

Grieg remains committed to increasing production by at least 10 percent annually until 2020; it aims to harvest 100,000 tonnes that year.

Furthermore, the company aims to achieve production cost “at or below the industry average.” “Increased volumes, improved capacity utilization and shorter production time in sea will contribute to higher efficiency and reduced production costs. The Group also continually undertakes cost-reducing initiatives and has established an internal improvement program, scheduled to run until 2020,” it said.

It believes “continued access to high-quality smolt is critical to ensure future growth.” “Larger smolt will result in shorter production time in sea, thus contributing to reduced biological risk and increased survival.”

Things are falling into place for Ontario, allowing the province’s freshwater aquaculture to grow in recent years.

Rich Moccia, professor and director, Aquaculture Centre, at The University of Guelph said the province has easy access to very large and affluent markets and has a diversified population base, among them large groups of new Canadians that arrived in the last generation. These create demand for new and different types of aquaculture products, he told the audience at Aquaculture Canada 2018.

"We’re at a tipping point where we’re having enough production to be able to go after some of the larger marketplaces, like Costco and Wal-Mart," says Moccia.

He also noted Ontario’s very strong infrastructure capacity, making it very well positioned to support aquaculture development. Processing infrastructure has also benefitted from industry consolidation in recent years with new private sector investors purchasing some existing farms and upgrading them, he said.

More on Ontario’s robust aquaculture industry in Aquaculture North America’s September/October 2018 issue.

More than 19 million people around the world are employed in aquaculture, with women accounting for an estimated 14 percent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) biennial report, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.”

Looking at employment in capture fisheries and aquaculture as a whole, the proportion of those employed in aquaculture increased from 17 percent in 1990 to 32 percent in 2016. The figures reflect aquaculture's robust growth and crucial role in feeding the world’s population. In contrast, the proportion of those employed in capture fisheries declined from 83 percent in 1990 to 68 percent in 2016.

Fish farmers totalled 19.27 million in 2016, up 4.1 percent from 18.51 million in 2010, according to the report. In North America, there were 9 million fish farmers in 2016, unchanged since 2010. Employment in aquaculture was concentrated primarily in Asia (96 percent of all aquaculture engagement), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. The report defines employment as full-time, part-time or occasional basis.
American retail giant Target Corp has resumed selling farmed salmon after eliminating it from its offerings in 2010.

The retailer has since then sold only wild-caught Alaskan salmon. But this week, it announced that it brought back farmed salmon in its stores since last year, saying that farmed salmon could still be sustainable.

It is selling farmed salmon certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. "Currently it is the only major eco-certification for farmed salmon that has been benchmarked to perform to at least a Yellow Seafood Watch equivalency and now meets our sustainable seafood policy,” it said. More on the story here.
Increasing awareness of the health benefits of seafood has driven consumption in recent years and the trend is likely to continue, according to a market research firm.

Transparency Market Research says the global seafood market is likely to grow at a steady pace as global population is making a lifestyle change.

“Changing lifestyles is the biggest contributor to the global seafood market. Analysts state that the growing awareness about proteins present in the wide variety of seafood is expected to drive the global seafood market. Today, the seafood market has progressed to farmed fishes or aquaculture to meet the exponentially growing demand,” the company said in the report, Seafood market – Global Forecast, Market Share, Trends, Size, Growth and Industry Analysis 2016 – 2023.

Consumer awareness of the advantages of seafood such as being rich in protein and an excellent source of Omega-3 has boosted seafood consumption in recent years, it added.

A US startup pioneering a technique of producing lab-grown seafood products has attracted the attention of investors.

BlueNalu of San Diego, California, is in the business of cellular agriculture, which is the creation – in the laboratory – of animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs from cell and tissue cultures. In BlueNalu’s case, seafood will be grown directly from fish cells.

The company says its cellular aquaculture process will provide the industry with a more sustainable way of producing seafood. The two-month-old company has attracted $4.5 million in seed funding.

Lab-grown seafood, anyone?

A shrimp farmer in Dallas, Texas is field-testing a technology that it developed to keep indoor shrimp farms safe from bacteria.

NaturalShrimp, a publicly traded agro-tech company, has started testing the patent-pending technology in a 65,000-gallon tank at its pilot production farm near San Antonio, Texas.

The company says the technology is “potentially disruptive to the entire shrimp farming industry.” “NaturalShrimp’s patent pending Vibrio Suppression Technology effectively eliminates water-borne bacteria and other harmful organisms and keeps ammonia at safe concentration levels, thus eliminating one of the historically most difficult problems in shrimp aquaculture,” it said on its website.
A Canadian town is reportedly considering building an aquaculture service hub that will provide comprehensive services to fish farms in the Atlantic region.

Under the plan, a former shipyard in the town of Marystown, Newfoundland, will be converted into a service facility. Marbase Marystown Inc, a partnership between a Newfoundland-based private equity company and a Norwegian firm are behind the plan, reported the Southern Gazette.

“Marbase will bring together key suppliers to enhance the industry’s supply chain efficiency, enable access to key resources, improve advanced technology transfer, and move Canada’s aquaculture production towards a more modern, sustainable and efficient future,” the publication reported, citing a leaked document.

However, the plan will only move forward if the province of Newfoundland will approve the Grieg NL project, the report said.

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