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Seafood, Wild or Farmed?
updated: Aug 06, 2012, 10:42 AM
Most people think of seafood as either wild or farmed, but in fact both
categories may apply to the fish you pick up from your grocery store. In recent
years, for example, as much as 40 percent of the Alaskan salmon catch originated
in fish hatcheries, although it may be labeled "all wild, never farmed."
An article produced by a working group of UC Santa Barbara's National Center for
Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) recommends that when a combination of
seafood production techniques are used, this be acknowledged in the marketplace.
The group calls on national and international organizations and governmental
agencies to use the term "hybrid," when applicable. The article is in press with
Marine Policy, and is currently available online.
"Farming fish and shellfish is generally a different way to produce seafood than
fishing," said Dane Klinger, first author and a Ph.D. student at Stanford
University. "While fisheries traditionally interact with their target population
only at the time of capture, aquaculture, in its ‘purest' state, controls the
entire lifecycle of the organism, from egg to harvest. However, many common
types of seafood are produced using techniques from both fisheries and
Mary Turnipseed, second author and a former postdoctoral fellow at NCEAS,
commented: "Seafood production is a critical part of global food security, but
the way we study and talk about it often obscures how to achieve the thing we
care the most about: increasing the supply of sustainably produced seafood to
feed a rapidly growing human population. We need to start collecting more
accurate data on how seafood is really produced in today's world, and a first
step will be through replacing the old farmed-fished dichotomy with a farmed-
fished-hybrid classification scheme."
The article reveals how the strictly traditional categories of seafood
production -- fisheries and aquaculture -- are insufficient to account for the
growth potential and environmental impacts of the seafood sector. The authors
examine several popular seafood products that are harvested using a combination
of techniques generally ascribed to either fisheries or aquaculture.
The authors reviewed several cases of fisheries that are augmented by
aquaculture. In addition to the example of hatcheries stocking Pacific salmon in
Alaskan fisheries, hatcheries also stock scallops in New Zealand waters, and
eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the authors. And American
lobsters are fed by bait placed in traps until they reach legal catch size. In
fact, the amount of bait provided to lobsters in one season is often greater
than the volume of lobster catch in the same season, by a factor of two.
In aquaculture, the lines are often blurred -- fishing may be involved in
production. For example, Bluefin tuna farms obtain their stock by fishing. These
farms also fish for feed, and use 10 to 20 kilograms of fish for every kilogram
of tuna they produce.
The primary source of information about the world's fisheries and aquaculture
enterprises is the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
However, the authors explain that the reporting of data from many developing and
developed countries to the FAO is incomplete. They note that for the 52 percent
of countries that do submit adequate data, "adding a hybrid production category
would help elucidate their national understanding of domestic seafood
production, as well as enhance global understanding of an important food
The authors conclude by stating the urgency of adding the hybrid category:
"Without these data, transformations in the market for a critical food and
livelihood source for billions of people could occur, with global analysts and
policymakers being the last to know."
The team responsible for the article, the NCEAS Working Group on Envisioning a
Sustainable Global Seafood Market and Restored Marine Ecosystems, includes
ecologists, economists, policy analysts, members of the seafood industry, and
marine conservation organizations.
In addition to Klinger and Turnipseed, the authors are Benjamin S. Halpern,
NCEAS; Kimberly A. Selkoe, NCEAS and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology;
James L Anderson, University of Rhode Island; Frank Asche, the University of
Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway; Larry Crowder, the Center for Ocean Solutions,
Monterey, Calif.; Atle G. Guttormsen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences,
Aas, Norway; Mary I. O'Connor, University of British Columbia; Raphael Sagarin,
University of Arizona; Geoff Shester, Oceana, Monterey, Calif.; Martin D. Smith,
Duke University; and Peter Tyedmers, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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