TRANSCRIPT - Dr. Barry Costa-Pierce
Looking through your book, Ecological Aquaculture: The Evolution
of the Blue Revolution, I have a sense that you think the blue revolution
is in its infancy. Can you comment further?
is about 3,000 years old, but in terms of modern development, industrial
aquaculture (high intensity developments) is relatively recent.
The farms are poorly funded, so there is not a lot of research and
development for public benefit. We don't know who benefits the social
aspects of it, or about the multiplier affects, or if the product
stays in the local communities versus being exported. Aquaculture,
on the industrial side, has sold itself as giving benefits to local
people by supplying jobs, income, and deposition of local product
in communities. However the local benefits and the studies documenting
them have really not been done.
Is aquaculture the solution to overstressed ocean fisheries?
will never be able to meet the global needs for sustainable protein
sources. Seafood demands are going to be about 150 million metric
tons and fisheries can be no more than 90 to 100 million metric
tons. We need both fisheries and aquaculture. We need fisheries
to be sustained over the long term. We can't define aquaculture's
future growth, which we clearly need. We can't define that growth
on the destruction of the world's capture fisheries. We need to
sustain them; we need to restore and recover them. We need to see
a greater relationship between aquaculture and fisheries for fisheries
restoration, environmental restoration, and public or private benefits.
To define the future of aquaculture on the destruction of the world's
capture fisheries is an unacceptable alternative for the future
sustainability of the world's oceans.
Could you speak more about the infancy of the blue revolution?
is 3,000 years old, but if you look at the last 200 years, it has
evolved mainly in Asia. Asian systems have rapidly changed from
low input systems to high input systems to meet the increasing need
for seafood, both high quality and food for the rural poor. The
evolution of the blue revolution is going to require that we have
greater knowledge about who benefits. If the benefits are accruing
to mainly the economies of nations, because we are getting a larger
pile of fish to benefit the national economy and the balance of
trade, then we should be developing plans that are oriented in that
I find that
when most of the developments of aquaculture are being justified
on the benefits accruing at lower levels, the national governments,
towns, regions, communities, to local areas, then we are talking
about a different type of aquaculture evolution to meet the needs
of local communities. We are talking about the sustainability of
rural areas and providing benefits to rural areas where there are
few other alternative employment opportunities. We are talking about
planning for multiplier effects; we're planning for the development
of feed mills, locally. We are not importing all of this feed coming
from a distance, because feeds are 50 or more percent of the total
annual operating costs. Feed industries are a big business, but
oftentimes, with the large industrial scale aquaculture operations,
feeds are being imported from a great distance. Why aren't these
feed mills being planned and developed in the local areas if you
are trying to provide a whole host of new job opportunities? Aquaculture
can provide a ten to one multiplier effect to local communities.
I find a real
problem with the planning of aquaculture for direct public benefits.
We are not even planning, for example, for the transportation networks.
You have to have feed, seed, and need in order for aquaculture to
be a success. I want all of that to be planned at a local level.
I want to keep people in rural areas that are going to ensure the
survival of a working coast and the traditions and heritages of
these people far into the future. Most of the aquaculture benefits
that we see today are accruing to people far away from the sites.
I'd like to see more of that localized and better planned. To me,
that is the evolution of the blue revolution: accruing benefits
locally, ensuring local sustainability, and sustaining rural development.
How would you define the blue revolution?
not the green revolution, which were higher inputs of fertilizers
and pesticides required to yield higher quantities of rice. We are
not talking about that in the blue revolution. We are not talking
about the need for transgenics; we don't need transgenics in the
blue revolution. Most of the species that we deal with in the aquatic
realm are not domesticated or they are in the infant stages of domestication.
Conventional animal breeding for producing improved varieties of
virtually wild species can provide tremendous bumps in production
and in benefits to local producers. That is one part of the blue
revolution: using well-known animal and plant breeding techniques.
Aquaculture is not only animals it is also plants like seaweeds
and sea grasses.
All that we
need to do there is not work on molecular transgenics. We need to
work on conventional animal breeding and then bring these into more
sustainable farming systems. Many of these organisms that we can
farm in the aquatic realm are very opportunistic in their food needs.
We know so little about what they actually require. Many of the
species that have great potential for aquaculture are fed with feeds
that were developed for just a small handful of species and they're
thrown at these new species for aquaculture. Cobia is one example.
Cobia Aquaculture is growing worldwide, but it doesn't develop single-species
type feeds that are acceptable for sustaining the marine environment
over the long term.
How is the green revolution different from the blue revolution?
The blue revolution
is all about the people who are benefiting. The green revolution
was touted to be saving the world and giving greater nutritional
benefits to millions of Asians, primarily who were eating rice.
The blue revolution is all about sustaining the environment and
bringing high quality foods to the world.
What is needed to fix the problems with salmon aquaculture?
We need many
different types of aquaculture systems and fisheries systems working
together in concert to provide enough protein to sustain the demand
that we see for the future crowded coastal planet. We need salmon
aquaculture. It can be changed and reformed. We can have large-scale
industrial type ecological systems. Industrial ecology is a well-developed
concept. We can use the concepts from systems ecology and industrial
ecology to look at the future of salmon aquaculture.
There are two
basic issues with farmed salmon, feeds and pollution. The feeds
issue can be solved; it has been shown on an experimental basis
that we don't need to use fishmeal and fish oils in salmon feeds.
We can produce a vegetarian salmon. Some people compare this to
feeding lemongrass to lions. I disagree. It's real clear that you
can use agricultural protein sources to grow carnivorous animals.
You can use agricultural oils to feed carnivorous animals that are
grown in the aquatic realm. The taste and market for them is another
issue. The fact is that is an organically grown product. It may
not look like the red, artificially farmed salmon that we have today,
but it will come from organic foods.
The second issue
is pollution. Having net pens in the coastal ocean that are producing
pollution comparable to about 60,000 people per salmon farm is clearly
not acceptable. Poor site selection and poor flushing are responsible
for this. If you have excellent food conversion ratios with good
feed in salmon with the use of agricultural feeds, you will be producing
pollution that is mostly fish feces. What better waste to put in
the marine environment? These feces could be used by a whole host
of other marine organisms. These salmon structures of the future
could be looked at as almost artificial reefs. However there are
a lot of issues about site selection. You cannot have them in enclosed,
poorly flushed bays that are amidst a crowded coastal environment
with recreational with boats zipping back and forth and commercial
people complaining about their operations.
What ever happened
to a model of rural aquaculture development that provided direct
benefits to local communities? Ones that didn't only say, "All
you get is our pollution." Because that is what we are saying
to them, right? We are saying to them, "Here's an industrial
model, it doesn't employ your people and uses feeds from other countries."
What kind of sustainable model is that? We can reform this practice;
we can move these salmon farms out of the coastal zone; we can use
sustainable feeds and we can provide many more benefits to local
communities where salmon are raised. This is not all theory. This
can happen, but who's going to take the risk? Who will produce the
first organic salmon coming to the U.S. market?
What about the diversity of aquaculture?
It is not just
salmon and shrimp. There are agricultural aquaculture like shellfish
and then there is fed aquaculture. Aquaculture is just as diverse
and large as agriculture and can provide just as many benefits to
the world as agriculture. Aquaculture is not just aquatic animal
husbandry. It involves seaweeds, etc. To change this viewpoint,
we must move these farms out of crowded coastal areas. That seems
to be the evolution of aquaculture. The primitive, surface net pens,
or gravity pens, where there is a floating superstructure and a
net bag underneath that to slosh around in a two to three meter
wave then end up on the shore with fish all over the place. The
world has no place for those in the future. Highly engineered net
pen structures or cage structures that are submersible, which engage
in using acoustics to prevent escapes, is readily available technology.
I would advocate
offshore aquaculture. It is a tremendous future, but should be unlike
the coastal pens. There should be planning to structure it like
agriculture and have little impact on capture fisheries. They should
consider a plan for coastal zone management. Some newly engineered
net pens are submersible and at a moments notice can be submerged
below a storm and be up off the bottom in a higher energy environment.
The fish feces can be organic and distributed well in the open ocean
to act as artificial reefs, or FADs, Fisheries Aggregation Devices.
One of the most exciting projects like this is off the island of
Oahu. They are growing a low trophic level species, moi, with little
environmental impact. The expense is greater, but so is the market
Is this a positive direction in which the blue revolution is going?
Most of global
aquaculture is species low on the food web, low trophic level species.
This is dominated by Asia and China. There is reason for this. Feeds
are less expensive. The world should take this as an example. Instead
of just Tilapia and Cobia, they should develop high potential, locally
appropriate, highly marketable, and acceptable species over the
long term. They should raise indigenous species that are cheap to
feed. The salmon and shrimp aquaculture weighs heavily on the public's
conscious as well as the scientific community. Too much research
has been focused on these fish at the expense of the local, indigenous
species. There are 20,000 or so marine species and we know of a
mere 100 or 200 of them. Species like parrotfish eat seaweeds and
We are not taking
the evolution of the blue revolution in the long term indigenous
way, but rather we're taking the short term, green revolution approach
which grabs improved varieties using pesticides and chemicals to
churn out higher production. The blue revolution is more grassroots.
It asks what is important to the local communities and species,
in including what the species eat. The blue revolution will happen
with the expansion of the production and support systems, the feeds,
seeds, the markets, and transportation systems. All that is required
for sustainability. It is the height of irresponsibility to develop
grow-out production systems in an area where you don't know where
the seeds or fish fry or fingerlings will be coming from. Hatcheries
should be developed locally with community planning that doesn't
degrade society or the environment.
Will aquaculture need too many forage species one day?
of the fishmeal and fish oil fisheries should be of concern to anyone
who follows the future of resource management. There is a true need
to take the pressure off of fishmeal and fish oil fisheries. This
industry is being used maximally. It is of great concern that every
gram of fishmeal is going to be removed from the ocean for human
use, whether it is for pigs, poultry, rabbits, or salmon. This is
similar to those who want to take every drop of water from the Colorado
River, thinking it must all be used. We have to be better stewards
of the global ocean ecosystem so that we can leave enough of the
ocean's food web to sustain the ecosystem for our children, grandchildren
and beyond, for 1,000 years. We have to plan for nature in addition
to human needs.
that is out there getting the resource will tell you it is an economically
driven commodity item. Anchovy oil is cheap. If we expand into the
future, especially in Asia and China, they are going to want more
fish, poultry, and swine. There will not be enough fishmeal and
oil for humans and nature. However you can grow all of the agricultural
fish, Tilapia, Catfish, etc. with zero fish oil. There are issues
of palatability. Fishmeal and oil can make the feed more palatable,
but more research is needed. We must also consider the market. Tilapia
is successful. It is a top, white tablecloth fish. Why aren't more
people growing it? They are not aware of its marketability.