Saturday, December 11, 2010

Salmon Story

I thought you all might like this.

-Rachel Wright

The Geoduck

The Geoduck is a species native to the Pacific Northwest. It is a very unusual animal – a large saltwater clam with a siphon that can reach over three feet in length and weigh up to fifteen pounds. “Geoduck” is a Lushootseed word that means “dig deep”. The Geoduck is an important part of coastal Native American aquaculture. It is also considered by some to be an aphrodisiac. 

Geoducks are now harvested commercially and eaten all over the world. Bivalves are beneficial to our coasts, but we must ensure that the tides are clean and that we do not exploit the coasts when we grow Geoducks commercially. We can learn a lot from how the Native Americans fished, which was low-impact and environmentally friendly. This can be a challenge today though because our population has grown to over 300 million people in just a few hundred years. The Geoduck is a fascinating animal. Besides its interesting shape, it is one of the longest lived animals on Earth. The Geoduck can live over 150 years! Scientists believe this is because the animal has limited wear and tear on the body. Female Geoducks are also able to produce over a billion babies! The Geoduck is a truly unique animal and we should feel lucky that we share a home with it in our Puget Sound. 

-Rachel Wright

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sustainable Fish Farming

Scientists predict that the earth's population will peak at 10 billion, adding another 3 billion to the current population. Something has to feed these 3 billion mouths, the aquaculture industry is arguing it is them.
Global demand for fish is rising at a rate our ocean is incapable to support. Aquaculture is here to fill that gap. The industry provides nearly half of all the fish we consume, and it is going to spread to more areas and provide more fish for the days to come.
The downside is that fish farming itself is unsustainable. Fish farming makes fish feed out of smaller fish or fish oil and feed them to bigger caged fish. To raise a pound of farm raised fish, it sometimes takes several pounds of wild fish. Fish farming is adding pressure to the ocean rather easing it. Then there are the escaped fish. Fish escape is unpreventable and can turn into invasive species, devastating nearby habitat. It raises more concern that genetically modified salmon may soon be approved for farming. An alternate argument is that we are consuming more carnivorous fish not because of our increasing population but of our increasing wealth. Unless we can invent some vegetable feed for carnivorous fish, we need to eat more herbivore fish like Tilapia and Striped Bass.
One fact is for sure though: we need aquaculture, but only one that is sustainable and would leave behind usable water bodies for us.

-Tom Lee

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How does farmed salmon affect wild salmon?

Coho salmon
Wild salmon populations in many areas of the world have been declining for several decades.  Farmed salmon was thought to be the answer to this problem, but many studies have found harmful effects of aquaculture on the environment (for example, high concentrations of nitrites and ammonia polluting the waters surrounding fish farms).  Despite these problems, farmed fish was still thought to be more helpful than harmful to wild fish populations.  This is now known to be false.   

According to a new study, wild salmon populations living near salmon farms have lower rates of abundance and survival than wild populations unexposed to the farms.  Study authors Ford and Myers looked at five different salmonid species – pink, chum, coho, and Atlantic salmon, as well as sea trout.  They studied populations of these fish living in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, as well as Canadian populations in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and British Columbia.  They defined a wild salmon population as “exposed” if at least one fish farm discharged water into wild spawning grounds, or into a bay downstream from spawning grounds (where juvenile fish had a high likelihood of swimming by fish farms).  In almost all cases, having a fish farm upstream dramatically reduced the chances that wild fish would return to their natal spawning grounds.  In many cases the rate of return was less than 50%.   

Some of the causes of this might be pollution or spread of parasites from the fish farms, or problematic interbreeding of escaped farmed fish with wild fish.  Ford and Myers’ study shows that salmon farms have strong negative effects on nearby wild populations. Further research may show what factors cause these effects.


-Ford, J., and Myers, R. (2008) A global assessment of salmon aquaculture impacts on wild salmonids. PLoS Biology 6(2): e33. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060033
-Gross, L. (2008) Can Farmed and Wild Salmon Coexist? PLoS Biol 6(2): e46. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060046

Posted by: Anne Accettullo

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cleaning System Eliminates Marine Growth Build up on Aquaculture Nets

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 12:11
HUGHES Pumps have claimed that their range of Aquaculture Net Cleaning Systems provide the first truly reliable way of removing marine growth from aquaculture nets in situ, giving exceptional levels of reliability, maximum productivity with very low levels of maintenance.
The company says: “Aquaculture producers are only too aware that marine growth build up reduces the tidal flow of oxygen rich seawater through nets, limiting fish growth and increasing the possibility of disease. In severe cases the weight and additional drag of marine growth can damage nets, leading to a breakdown of the cage allowing predators in and fish to escape.
“These revolutionary Aquaculture Net Cleaning Systems combine Hughes’ range of high pressure pump sets that bring a level of engineering and performance not seen before in the net cleaning market, with the unique range of Terminator net cleaners.
“Traditional in-situ net cleaning systems are inherently inefficient, because the pumped high-pressure seawater is split between the net cleaning process and holding the cleaning discs in position, which can cut the high-pressure seawater available for net cleaning by around 50%. The Hughes Pumps range of Aquaculture Net Cleaning Systems allow the net cleaning system’s cleaning discs to be held against the net using only a small amount of the high-pressure seawater pumped to the cleaning heads.
“The Hughes package, that combines the HPS2200 pump set and Terminator 9 disc net cleaner, has become the pump of choice among net cleaning contractors. This package is available in two versions; a conventional stand alone pumpset fitted with an acoustic canopy that is generally used from a workboat deck, and a marine engine driven version designed to be installed below deck, that uses seawater to cool the engine, making for a very compact installation.”


Monday, December 6, 2010

Fisheries run out of room to expand

According to a new study by University of British Columbia scientists, humans have run out of room to expand our fisheries. Severe overfishing has occurred in the waters around Europe and North America, so every year since 1950 people have expanded fisheries to cover other parts of the ocean. Catches have been increasing, but this is at an unsustainable level. There has been a high ecological footprint. In the 1980s and 1990s, fisheries were expanding at the fastest rate, and in the late 1990s they began to stagnate. Today, there does not appear to be any more room for expansion. The open ocean and the continental shelves have been overfished to the point that many fish stocks are declining. The world’s overall catch of fish today is five times greater than it was in 1950, but it is unsustainable.

Overfishing at such a high level demonstrates one of the principles we learned about in class, Gifford Pinchot’s concept of nature as a resource. (In contrast to John Muir’s concept of nature as a place that should ideally stay wilderness.) However, Pinchot said that the resource should be managed so as to sustain production at a reasonable level. He would not agree with resources being depleted unsustainably. The latter is what is going on with the world’s fisheries.

I think that there are only a few solutions to overfishing. The most obvious one is to let fish stocks recover by drastically reducing our catch of the most overfished species. Another is to rely more on farmed fish. Or we could start eating more of certain species that people have not fished very much before. But any permanent fix probably will have to include the first idea of reducing catch. With a growing population, especially one being advised by health associations to eat more fish, this will be difficult.

People protesting overfishing in Kenya

Source: Swartz W, Sala E, Tracey S, Watson R, Pauly D (2010) The spatial expansion and ecological footprint of fisheries (1950 to present). PLoS ONE 5(12)

Posted by: Anne Accettullo

Old widely-adopted method of measuring health of fisheries shown inaccurate

Example of a trophic pyramid for marine organisms. (Source:, <>)

-       According to a team of scientists led by Trevor Branch of the University of Washington, the most used method of measuring the health of ocean ecosystems and fisheries yields accurate results only half the time. 
-       Science originally published the measurement method in 1998, which is based on the trends of fish at various trophic levels. The paper that was published said that based on catch data over 40 years, trophic level averages were falling. This led the researchers to believe that humans were taking a top-bottom approach to fishing; in other words, they thought humans were overfishing species at higher trophic levels first and then moving to lower trophic levels as the stocks became depleted. 
-       Now, new analyses have been developed that integrate and assess other factors besides average trophic levels of catches; these other factors include populations, catch data, and which species of fish live in the particular ecosystem being studied. 
-       With the new data, catches of species at higher trophic levels have actually increased rather than decreased (a decrease what would have been expected from fishing down the food web). 
-       The older measure of the health of fisheries ecosystems only works if there is top-down fishing rather than bottom-up fishing. For example, the assessment fails in Thailand because the fisheries in that area went after low-trophic level organisms like shrimp first and then moved to catching higher-level species later. The measure thus concluded that Thailand fisheries were healthy when in actuality the ecosystems were being overfished. 
-       Because we are catching more of everything in general, average trophic levels are not a good sole indicator of the health of an ecosystem, which is why the 1998 method of measurement fails half of the time.

"Scientists question indicator of fisheries health, evidence for 'fishing down food webs'". 17 Nov 2010. <>.

 -- Erika Najarro

Lionfish Threatens the Keys

Lionfish, a venomous yet beautiful species that is kept and enjoyed by advance marine aquarium hobbyists, but they are not so appreciated in Florida Keys.
Lionfish is believed to have been releases in the Keys by hobbyists back in the 1990s, but the population exploded in the early 2000s. Lionfish has no natural predators but they pose significant threat to juveniles fish of practically all other species. They would consume almost every fish on the reef, and they have grown so dominant on the reef that they are barely afraid of humans which makes them much easier to kill.
Lionfish pose more threat than just to fish. By preying on juveniles fish and rapid breeding, they are threatening the area's commercial fishing and sightseeing business.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that eradication of the species is near impossible and the only hope is local control. Divers at Florida Keys are encouraged to kill Lionfish. The Keys even created a new tournament called the Lionfish Derby. Participants simply kill as many Lionfish as possible. Besides good killing and good gaming, Lionfish is also good eating. Lionfish nuggets are excellent feast, and the Keys may soon promote Lionfish as a food source.
By Tom Lee

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Europe Decides to Continue Deep-Sea Trawling

Illustration of how trawling nets work to catch fish. (Source: Greenpeace,

-       Despite pleas and former agreements from the United Nations General Assembly, nations in Europe have chosen to continue destructive trawling practices to catch fish and other sea life
-       The Council of Fisheries Ministers reported that catch quotas would be more or less the same for European Union countries over the next two years; however, there will be some fishing restrictions for a few species
-       Critics of the Council of Fisheries Ministers’ decision say that they are not holding to their commitment to help preserve ocean species and ecosystems
-       Trawling involves large nets dragged along the seafloor by fishing vessels, catching everything it comes in contact with and destroying the seabed. When the nets are brought up onto the boats, unwanted bycatch, many either dead or dying at that point, is simply thrown back into the water.
-       Problems related to trawling include:
o      Overfishing
o      Destruction of coral and vegetation on the seafloor
o      Disruption of the ecosystems
o      Decrease in overall size and population of species: deep-sea species take a long time to recover, as they tend to reproduce and mature at a slower rate
-       According to a British study, commercial trawling has “a more negative impact on the seafloor than all other major human activities combined”

Jolly, David. "Shrugging Off Criticism, Europe Will Keep Trawling". 3 Dec 2010. The New York Times. <>.

-- Erika Najarro

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aquaculture within the US

Aquaculture in the United States

Workers at Matunuck Oyster Farm in Rhode Island
Farmed oysters, clams, and mussels account for about two-thirds of total U.S. marine aquaculture production. Pictured above, workers from the Matunuck Oyster Farm in Rhode Island head out to harvest fresh oysters for their customers. [NOAA Aquaculture Program photo]

Aquaculture includes the production of hatchery fish and shellfish which are grown to market size in ponds, tanks, cages, or raceways and released into the wild. Aquaculture is used to support commercial and recreational marine fisheries as well as to enhance or rebuild wild stock populations or coastal habitats such as oyster reefs. Aquaculture also includes the production of ornamental fish for the aquarium trade and plant species used in a range of food, pharmaceutical, nutritional, and biotechnology products. There are also related industries such as equipment production, feed, and nutrition companies, and aquaculture consulting service firms that provide support to the global aquaculture industry.
Additional domestic seafood production will reduce the nation’s dependence on imports. Right now, the United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products – we import 84% of our seafood and half of that is from aquaculture – yet we are a minor producer.  U.S. aquaculture (freshwater and marine) supplies about 5% of the U.S. seafood supply and U.S. marine aquaculture less than 1.5%.  Driven by imports, the U.S. seafood trade deficit has grown to over $9 billion annually – the highest it’s ever been.
Many other countries are investing more heavily in aquaculture than the United States. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United States ranked 10th in total aquaculture production in 2004, behind China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Chile, and Norway. The United States imports significant volumes of marine aquaculture products from these and other countries, resulting in an annual seafood trade deficit of over $9 billion.

U.S. Marine Aquaculture

The U.S. marine aquaculture industry is relatively small compared with overall U.S. and world aquaculture production. Total U.S. aquaculture production is about $1 billion annually, compared to world aquaculture production of about $70 billion. Only about 20% of U.S. aquaculture production is marine species.
The largest single sector of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry is molluscan shellfish culture (oysters, clams, mussels), which accounts for about two-thirds of total U.S. marine aquaculture production, followed by salmon (about 25 percent) and shrimp (about 10 percent). Current production takes place mainly on land, in ponds, and in coastal waters under state jurisdiction.

More info can be found on the NOAA website!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fish Farm on Land

Roughly three years ago, investor Efraim Bason and Joseph Mizrahi recognized the growing need for sustainable, eco-friendly yet profitable aquaculture, so they met up with a few marine biologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and started a new fish farm... on Land!
Two years ago, the duo opened the Local Ocean fish farm for business in Hudson, NY. The fish farm is aimed at self-contained, self-cleaning and barely need any infusion of new water. 70% of water is recirculated and the rest is treated for other use. They rise royal dorado, white sea bass, European sea bass at the farm but are looking forward to the addition of summer flounder, black sea bass and himachi by next fall. To ensure that they are not affecting the nature order in any ways, the company obtain their hatchlings from hatcheries. They also use solar design to power lighting and heating, and with underground tanks, gravity to power pumps. Local Ocean fish farm provides  sustainable, unpolluted and above all, an affordable price for fresh fish to Hudson area.

-Tom Lee