Guest Columnist - Michael B. Rust, Science Coordinator, NOAA Aquaculture Office
I read an interesting paper a few weeks ago by Michael Tlusty on the use of certification schemes to advance environmental sustainability of seafood production. The author explains how such schemes, combined with technological innovation, may make economic and environmental progress in aquaculture, which now accounts for 50 percent of all seafood produced globally. While the whole paper is worth a read, the author made clear that innovation continues to be the driving force behind advancing ecologically-compatible aquaculture.
As a scientist, I have been seeking innovation in the technologies and methods for aquaculture production since my Peace Corps days in the early '80s. I am passionate about aquaculture because of its potential to complement capture fisheries to feed a growing global population with a growing appetite for seafood.
Innovation through targeted scientific research has been a critical focus of NOAA's aquaculture programs. This is reflected by the fact that the majority of NOAA's aquaculture funding is spent on science through in-house research at science centers, grants and cooperative agreements with academic and other stakeholders, and by coordinating research with other federal agencies.
The just-released report, "The Future of Aquafeeds," is an excellent example of of innovation creating improved environmental performance and economic gain and new feeds technologies are making the jump from the labs to practice.
The report provides the findings of a multi-year collaborative effort involving scientists from NOAA, USDA, and other partners to address a finite supply of fishmeal and fish oil and to develop alternative ingredients for aquaculture feeds. The guiding principles of the effort were to identify options that would be economically-viable, environmentally-friendly, and that would maintain the human health benefits of farm-raised seafood.
What I can say is that we have come a long way toward the production of sustainable seafood through aquaculture. I encourage you look at the report's finding and recommendations, as well as at the case studies and "futurecasts," which make some predictions for the future of aquaculture. See below for more details!