Online Program

Offshore aquaculture – can we provide protein and still protect the environment?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 5:10 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Michael Tlusty, PhD, John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium, Boston, MA
The human population exceeds the earth's capacity for sustenance, and because of this, we need to grow our own food supplies. Seafood has many benefits including being nutritious and more efficient compared to other protein sources. We can catch fish from the wild, but fisheries are at their maximum limits, and cannot increase to meet growing demand. Because of this, aquaculture will be an increasingly necessary component of the food provisioning landscape. But for all of its positive benefits, as with any human activity, aquaculture can have deleterious environmental impacts. Thus it is important to understand the relative risks and benefits of aquaculture production which often occur as trade-offs. But aquaculture is not a single entity. It involves a diverse array of production schemes, technologies, and species, and thus it's impossible to provide a single estimate for its global ecological footprint. The goal of this talk is to understand global protein provisioning, and to address how aquaculture fits into the larger picture. Competition for land and water are driving intensification that sometimes push the limits of ecosystems to absorb impacts. One result is the open ocean being viewed as a viable space for aquaculture development. But to move there ethically requires us to take stock of our impacts as well as expectations of impacts. It is in no one's interest that aquaculture grows beyond the carrying capacity of the environment and consumers are right to insist on seafood produced in a manner that maintains ecosystem functionality. The question then becomes one of determining exactly what indicators and monitoring mechanisms of ecosystem sustainability make the most sense for assessing the impacts of our seafood production system. Is there a way to move food production offshore in a way that benefits human activity, oceans, seafood, and the public's health?

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences

Learning Objectives:
Compare aquaculture to terrestrial forms of protein production. Discuss the concept of tradeoffs in aquaculture production, and the tradeoffs relevant to offshore aquaculture. Identify the main significant impacts of aquaculture and the steps necessary to minimize those impacts. Explain that sustainability is a never ending journey, and the term sustainable indicates an end point in which no further improvements need to be made.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a principal scientist in our group working on sustainable seafood solutions for the past decade. I have helped formulate much of the theory behind corporate level Sustainable Seafood advising, and have published extensively on this topic. I also have been studying aquaculture for the past 25 years, and conducted much of the environmental impact assessment work in the Canadian Maritimes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.