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How to make aquaculture more digestible

January 17, 2011

I’m currently reading a great book by Paul Greenberg called Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. In it, he examines the history, domestication, and story of the salmon, tuna, bass and cod. Though I’ve just finished the first section on salmon, I have come to realize that fish farming is probably going to remain as one of the biggest producers of food for our growing population. There’s just no way we can satisfy our voracious appetites for seafood on wild fish while we diminish and pollute the habit fish need for survival. Now, I’m not saying I approve of fish farming or genetically engineering our food. It just seems that we’ll need to find better, healthier ways to produce food to feed our expanding population.

So if we are talking about aquaculture, I think the IMTA (integrated multi-trophic aquaculture) approach is a way to begin thinking about food systems. In this approach, excess nutrients released from salmon pens are captured and become food and energy for mussels and seaweeds.

IMTA is the practice which combines, in appropriate proportions, the cultivation of fed aquaculture species (e.g. finfish/shrimp) with inorganic extractive aquaculture species (e.g. seaweed) and organic extractive aquaculture species (e.g. shellfish/herbivorous fish) to create a balanced ecosystem management approach to aquaculture for environmental sustainability (biomitigation), economic stability (product diversification and risk reduction) and societal acceptability (better management practices).

If we can learn anything from the way our farming system on land has developed over the past 100 years, we’ve learned that monocultures are dangerous both for the health of ecosystems and the economy. Watch Dr. Thierry Chopin explain more about his research:

Many will argue the detriments of fish farming, some suggest farms need to be brought inland where they are secluded from the open ocean and many will say it is the only way to feed our planet. I am not sure exactly where I fall on the line, but I do know that we cannot afford to farm fish the way we have poultry and beef. We need innovation and looking at food production at a system level seems like a smart place to invest our research.

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