Thursday, February 28, 2008

Annual International Boston Seafood Show

This year, the captains of the global seafood industry are showing signs of movement toward sustainable fishing practices -- and at least the trappings of concern for the ocean as an ecosystem, not just a place for harvesting profits. All of that was on display in a session called "Sustainability: Where to Get the Answers." The panel focused on sustainable aquaculture -- fish farming. Panelists grappled with the difficult question of how to define sustainability.

Moderated by David Beard of The Boston Globe, panelists discussed establishing guidelines for sustainable aquaculture, and agreed that creating effective standards depended on transparency about the process; input from all stakeholders; rigorous, science-based information; emphasis on continuous improvement; and international acceptance. Aquaculture now provides about 45 percent of the world's seafood. Given that volume, issues include: the use of wild fish as feed for farmed fish, feed conversion ratios (i.e., some fish grow well on less feed than others), the treatment of effluent water, energy use, and life-cycle analysis, and overall carbon footprints for aquaculture operations. The panelists also touched on escape of exotic species, exposing wild fish to disease, and the densities at which farmed fish can be raised. One panelist, pointed out that mass-scale aquaculture is a relatively new phenomenon, adding that as producers gain more experience with it, they'll prove to the public that fish farms can be sustainably managed.

Many spoke about the need to educate the public in order to create a demand for sustainable seafood. If the public is upset at the environmental cost of poorly managed farms or harvesting practices, it will impact sales. The seafood industry has taken stock of the grave state of the ocean's health and ability to produce seafood for human consumption.

Source: Grist

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