The United Nations (UN) predicts the global population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, making it crucial to find a sustainable food supply to feed the world.
There are several pros and cons to commercial fishing, such as supporting 1.2 million jobs in 2016 and feeding a hungry global population while also leading to significant overfishing and loss of marine wildlife.
Comparatively, aquaculture is essentially “water farming” in which fish are bred, raised and harvested for food and commercial purposes. In the United States, aquaculture is a sustainable practice that aims to build healthier ecosystems and restock threatened and endangered aquatic populations.
Fortunately, technological advancements are improving the way the industry operates. Here are a few ways current innovations are making aquaculture more sustainable.
Minimize Sea Lice
Sea lice is a significant problem in the aquaculture industry. When sea lice release their eggs, the larvae cling to the fish, restricting their growth and making them vulnerable to disease and death.
New technologies strive to improve upon this problem, though. For example, San Francisco-based Aquabyte has designed a camera software that allows fish farmers to count the number of sea lice on 50 to 100 fish at a time, giving them an overall picture of the parasite’s progression and the health of the fish without needing to handle them directly.
Similarly, the Norwegian SpectraLice camera uses hyperspectral imaging technology to record the number of sea lice and determine their stages of development. This allows farmers to make management decisions. All to address sea lice infestations effectively.
Fish farmers may also employ advanced compressed air products to extract sea lice and dead fish from enclosures. Air compressors blow air into the pens, raising the oxygen levels in the water. The artificial upwelling prevents algae and parasites, such as sea lice, from entering.
Healthier Fish Feed
Using a high-quality feed is critical in meeting the fish stocks’ nutritional needs and maintaining the health of aquaculture farms. To ensure a sustainable feed for fish farms, biotechnology company Calysta developed FeedKind, a bacterial protein meal that’s non-GMO and contains traceable ingredients. The protein is produced by fermenting natural gas with the bacteria using zero crops and little water.
Early studies have found that FeedKind can replace 30% of fishmeal protein in yellowtails’ diets without negatively affecting their maturation, digestion or feed efficiency.
Additionally, FeedKind prevented early mortality syndrome (EMS) in shrimp feeding trials, which has set the industry back billions of dollars in the past. Throughout the study, FeedKind-fed shrimp had a 100% survival rate after 15 days of exposure to EMS, compared to 76.7% survival of those provided traditional feed.
Offshore Aquaculture Facilities
Most of the aquaculture industry has kept their pens along coastlines or fjords. However, high concentrations of waste, feces and parasites can negatively impact ecosystems and wild fish populations.
Companies like SalMar are trying to fix this problem. Thereby constructing offshore fish farms in open waters. The SalMar fish farm is the largest globally. For it’s measuring 100 meters across by 40 meters deep. That’s with the capacity to hold 1.5 million salmon at a time.
Because the SalMar offshore farm is located in the ocean, the currents can ward off parasites and pollution buildup. All the while reducing interbreeding with wild fish.
Elsewhere in the world, Ocean Arks Tech of Chile (OATECH) is developing a 558-foot by 210-foot vessel. One that uses low-emissions artificial intelligence. All to operate self-cleaning pens and ensure fish health. The entire vessel will have a commercial capacity of 3,900 tons to improve aquaculture stocks. Most importantly and mobility throughout open seas.
Sustainable Aquaculture to Feed the World
So more technologies will pave the way for sustainable aquaculture and increasing fish stocks. All so future populations have a greater chance at survivability. Moreover and overcoming food shortages. Of course, employing the latest technology to maintain coastline habitats and oceans is just as crucial as the aquaculture industry progresses.
Jane is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co and an environmental writer covering green technology, sustainabilityand environmental news