By HunSik Chu, Water INTERface IGEP student
There have been lot of amazing researches and advancements in aquaculture technologies in recent years. This is due to the fast-evolving world of booming global population, increasing food shortage problem, scarcity of habitable lands, loss of potable water, and acceleration of global warming. In order to solve these problems, aquaculture is getting more attention than ever before.
In order to learn more about the whole industry, I attended 2016 Aquaculture Triannual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in February. This specific conference is held every three year by multiple aquaculture related sponsors such as World Aquaculture Society, National Shellfisheries Association, American Fisheries Society, and National Aquaculture Association. Because of its size, it is a must attend for anyone involved in the aquaculture industry.
Scientific conferences are always highly intellectually stimulating because it is not just about researches. There are scientists, aquaculturists, seafood processors, aquaculture technology engineers and etc. This mingling of everyone involved in aquaculture is refreshing to be part of. Sometimes, researchers are so wrapped in their own bubble that they forget the importance of how the food processors, aquaculturists, consumers, and researchers are all interconnected in tight web.
One thing I have noticed at the conference was how big of disconnection existed between the aquaculture industry and the consumers. Currently, most focused area is creating sustainable practices while maximizing production levels. Here, Maximizing production is the key factor. Therefore, most talks I’ve attended mentions mostly about the importance of their researches by relating to the improvement of production efficiency. Considering the growth of human population, insufficient supply of high quality protein diet is really important. Not only this is where the money lies, but also has ethical importance. However, because aquaculture industry is so warped around providing enough food to the market, quality and consumer-producer dialogue has received minimal attention.
There is an obvious benefits of improving production efficiency in aquaculture industry. However, I’m afraid that if we don’t think more than production we’ll go down the road of unsustainable practices including habitat destructions, antiobiotics and pollutant contamination, or low quality products leading to consumers refusing to buy the products due to health or moral stances. It is also true that catering fully towards consumers who are not always aware of all aspects of the industry can be destructive as well. Therefore, good balance of open communications and transparency can really alleviate many problems.
I believe we’re heading in the right directions. Aquaculture industry is growing in order to provide quality protein sources all around the world. It is also improving the quality of the products to more health-conscious consumers. Lastly, it is also working hard to push for cleaner and safer food source. Aquaculturists are aware of the problems involving waste water, natural habitat disruptions, antibiotic overuses, and etc. However, doing all the good things without properly communicating to the consumers will negatively impact the the industry. Therefore, I would like to suggests to the aquaculture industry to be more actively involved with the consumers and distribution companies (i.e. supermarkets) to improve the image of aquacultured products.
For further readings:
FAO. (2014). FAO Yearbook 2012. (ISSN 2070-6057). Statistics and Information Branch: Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.
Naylor, R. L., Goldburg, R. J., Primavera, J. H., Kautsky, N., Beveridge, M. C., Clay, J., … & Troell, M. (2000). Effect of aquaculture on world fish supplies. Nature, 405(6790), 1017-1024.
The World Bank. (2014). Sustainable Aquaculture. World Bank Group. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/environment/brief/sustainable-aquaculture