Cancel
Advanced Search
KEYWORDS
CATEGORY
AUTHOR
MONTH

Please click here to take a brief survey

Sustainable Seafood
Gil Friend, 3 Apr 05

Gil Friend is a systems ecologist and business strategist, and is the CEO of Natural Logic, an environmentally-focused strategy, design and management consultancy. He writes occasional essays on sustainable business for our Sustainability Sunday feature.

April 1st may be April Fools Day in the U.S., but it's Poisson d'Avril in France, which makes it a perfect time to consider the state of fisheries.

As global demand for protein rises, driven by rising populations and rising incomes, and the decline of most of the world's major fisheries continues to sink in, aquaculture has become a growth industry. (The world's ocean catch has grown by only 0.5% per year from 1990 to 2002, while aquaculture has been growing at 10.2% per year.)

But as aquaculture has taken off, it has predictably followed the course of industrial agriculture, with fishy feedlots taking a cue from bovine feedlots -- crowded, chemicalized and polluting. So the rapid growth of interest and activity around 'sustainable seafood' is no surprise.

There are more standards, protocols and evaluation schemes emerging
than you can shake a fish stick at: Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Audubon Society, Blue Ocean
Institute
, to name a few. This week the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has just released standards and guidelines on Ecolabelling of Marine Fishery Products
and Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries (FTP download).

Companies ranging from EcoFish to CleanFish are bringing product to market. Funding and investment efforts, including the Packard Foundation's philanthropy, the State of California's [transition fund] and the new "http://www.seachangefund.com">SeaChange Investment Fund are
trying to provide the capital. NGOs like Environmental Defense, Ecotrust's 'Salmon Nation' initiative, and PassionFish are educating consumers, producers and policy makers. You can't tell the players without a scorecard, and there are many scorecards.

I've always harbored some enthusiasm for aquaculture, inspired by John Todd's solar powered polycultures at New Alchemy Institute. (In fact one of my very first environmental initiatives was designing -- at Bucky Fuller's World Game Workshop in 1972) -- an integrated food/waste/energy system for an urban brownstone: greenhouse on the roof, fish in the basement. Ah, those were the days! We did grow vegetables on one of the earliest U.S. green roofs, at Insitute for Local Self-Reliance, just hailing distance from the White House, and FernWood Mitchell's did get started with urban trout farms at Community Technology, but that's another story for another time.) So it was very sobering to be instructed, over dinner with a senior official of the Swedish fisheries ministry a few years ago, to stay far away from the chemical soup -- antibiotics, colorants, problematic feeds -- of farmed salmon, and many other probleams, ranging from water pollution to contmaination of wild stocks.

The issues are not equally relevant, or equally clear. Farmed salmon get their classic pink color from an artificial additive, say some. No, say others, it's a natural compound from the shrimp that wild salmon eat. On the other hand, most farmed salmon are fed high protein feeds -- which means the cradle to grave burdens of modern agriculture, from soil erosion and bioaccumulating agrochemicals.

Which is why CleanFish CEO (and my old buddy) Tim O'Shea says 'You can't have sustainable salmon without sustainable feed.' Obvious perhaps, but what's radical is that he implies that you can have sustainable, farmed salmon. (Disclaimer: I'm on CleanFish's advisory board, working to develop their 'best in class' standards, and improving practices throughout their supply chain.)

Nick Joy, Managing Director of Loch Duart, CleanFish's 'artisan salmon' provider, explains 'We did nothing special; we just honored the life cycle of a salmon.' And they designed their systems accordingly -- limiting density; ensuring clean, uncontaminated feed; and being guided by the needs of the fish, not the demands of investors. 'If you have ten good fish, and want more production, and add one more fish,' Joy explains, 'you might well wind up with 11 bad fish.'

CleanFish faces a challenge in its mission of delivering 'fish you can trust,' since by now 'everyone knows,' through the good efforts of many environmental groups, to avoid farmed salmon. But o'Shea believes there's an important social and business opportunity in nurturing good practices by rewarding good practitioners, even in problem fisheries.

The challenge of population pressure and rising demand still remains. Will it be possible to make 'sustainable seafood' something more than just a stopgap? Lester Brown argues, in his very noteworthy book, Plan B, that the future of aquaculture is in polycultures of herbivorous fish, which has been developed to a high art in China, rather than monocultures of the carnivorous fish that Western pallettes currently demand.

Bookmark and Share


Comments

If you want to know about "greenhouse on the roof", do check http://www.solaroof.org (I specially like the "Gallery", and also this DIY initiative in UK). SolaRoof has been created by Richard Nelson and "given away" as "open source technology" (like DemoTech does, too).

For Integrated Farming Systems, I'd recommend Dr George Chan's work.

Of course, we'd all love to know of even more options, so we may learn from each other etc.


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 4 Apr 05

If you want to know about "greenhouse on the roof", do check http://www.solaroof.org (I specially like the "Gallery", and also this DIY initiative in UK). SolaRoof has been created by Richard Nelson and "given away" as "open source technology" (like DemoTech does, too).

For Integrated Farming Systems, I'd recommend Dr George Chan's work.

Of course, we'd all love to know of even more options, so we may learn from each other etc.


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 4 Apr 05

If you want to know about "greenhouse on the roof", do check http://www.solaroof.org (I specially like the "Gallery", and also this DIY initiative in UK). SolaRoof has been created by Richard Nelson and "given away" as "open source technology" (like DemoTech does, too).

For Integrated Farming Systems, I'd recommend Dr George Chan's work.

Of course, we'd all love to know of even more options, so we may learn from each other etc.


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 4 Apr 05

There's an excellent resource for people feeding out of the North Atlantic: Fish Online - a searchable database on fish that gives info on stock status, fisheries management and the environmental impacts of the fishing methods used.


Posted by: Gyrus on 4 Apr 05



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO:

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS:


MESSAGE (optional):


Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Worldchanging2.0


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/ worldchanging.com
©2012
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg