It’s a fish-eat-fish world. Scientists want to change that

Farm-raised fish and shrimp eat other wild fish, which is leading to overfishing and damage to marine ecosystems. Insect- and bacteria-based alternatives just might turn the tide.

For the first time in history, humans are poised to harvest more fish and seafood from farms than they catch in the wild.

This milestone, expected within two years, would help keep the oceans from being overfished except for one issue: Those farmed fish eat wild fish.

Around 12% of the world’s wild whole-fish catch goes to feed fish and aquatic creatures like shrimp raised on farms, according to The Marine Ingredients Organization, a trade group for the international fish feed industry. Captive salmon and shrimp are fed fishmeal composed of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which themselves are being overfished in some parts of the world, damaging marine ecosystems and reducing an important food source for locals.

As aquaculture has expanded over the past few decades, scientists have tried to replace fishmeal with plant-based feeds, including soy. But these efforts have had only limited success for carnivorous fish like salmon, which rely on protein-dense fishmeal to reach market weight quickly. Salmon and other species also rely on fish oil—a crucial feed ingredient derived from wild-caught fish—to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids that consumers want. The result is a fish-feed bottleneck that could slow the expansion of global aquaculture.

To solve the problem, teams of scientists and entrepreneurs are developing fish-free fish food from bacteria and insects, along with replacements to fish oil derived from algae and genetically modified canola. They are attracting funding from major investors like BP PLC and Temasek, Singapore’s national investment vehicle.  Read the article.


Eastern Indiana Works! – AquaBounty

On this episode of Eastern Indiana Works! we discover a very interesting company in the Delaware County, Aqua Bounty Technologies, and discuss how Eastern Indiana Works helped find employees.  Watch the video.

Includes interviews with:

  1. Jay Julian, Chief Economic Development Officer, President/CEO, Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce & Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance
  2. Peter Bowyer, Facility Manager, AquaBounty Farms Indiana
  3. Jerry Johnson, Maintenance Technician, AquaBounty Farms Indiana
  4. Bobby King, Maintenance Technician, AquaBounty Farms Indiana

The first GMO salmon is coming to a store near you

The ability to manipulate genes once seemed like something out of science fiction. But now the first genetically modified animal is headed to U.S. supermarkets.

The development of this new GMO salmon began in 1989 when Atlantic salmon eggs were injected with genes from both Chinook salmon and ocean pout, an eel-like fish. This modification speeds up the growth cycle from three years to 18 months. The salmon are currently being raised at two facilities in Canada and Indiana. It is the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for sale, and the first U.S. harvest is expected in the fall of 2020.

Genetically modified salmon eggs from AquaBounty Technologies. The first U.S. harvest is expected in the fall of 2020. Photo by Freethink.
Genetically modified salmon eggs from AquaBounty Technologies. The first U.S. harvest is expected in the fall of 2020. Photo by Freethink.

The GMO salmon’s producers, AquaBounty Technologies, say bringing production closer to consumption reduces the carbon footprint of getting fish to market and solves problems plaguing the aquaculture industry, like ocean pollution and overfishing. With an increasing global population, some say biotech could be the key to sustainably increasing the amount of food the planet will need this century.

Biotech could be the key to sustainably increasing the amount of food the planet will need this century.

Opponents of GMO food have derisively called the salmon “Frankenfish,” and AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf has embraced the name, saying it faces the same kind of pitchfork-wielding mob that Frankenstein’s monster suffered.

“Land-based aquaculture and biotechnology are going to be a part of the future,” Wulf said. “We blazed the trail and set up the process so others will be able to follow it.”  Read the article.


GMO salmon could forever change the way we produce food

Bioengineered fish have been known to cause mixed feelings. Unnatural, right? Well, after 30 years of debate on whether we should be eating “Frankenfish,” this funky food source is finally coming to a store near you. Like it or not, GMO salmon and possibly other genetically engineered animal meats will soon be on the shelves of your local supermarket. And, these new futuristic foods may be revolutionizing the global food system right in front of our eyes.

Aquabounty, the biotechnology company based in Massachusetts and known for its R&D on GMO salmon, recently received its first shipment of genetically modified salmon eggs. Once harvested, these will become the first ever of its kind approved for consumption in the United States.

They don’t look like much, but they have been the topic of research and debate for decades.
They don’t look like much, but they have been the topic of research and debate for decades.

“We’re going to see a 2 billion person increase in the population in the next 30 years. So we’re going to have to feed 28% more people. You start with that premise, and then you think how is seafood going to play a role?”


Read the article and view the video.


Q&A: Sylvia Wulf, CEO, AquaBounty

With extensive experience in the consumer-packaged goods industry, Sylvia Wulf knows a thing or two about understanding and responding to the needs of consumers. Now at the helm of a company that is redefining sustainable food production through biotechnology, Wulf is taking AquaBounty and the world’s first genetically-engineered seafood – the AquAdvantage salmon – to full commercial production.

Wulf delivered the keynote presentation at RAStech 2019 in Washington, D.C., stressing the importance of RAS and biotechnology in solving the world’s growing food supply challenges.

RAStech caught up with Wulf in an exclusive interview where she offered her thoughts on RAS and the role of science and technology in sustainable food production.  Read the article.


5 questions with AquaBounty’s Alejandro Rojas on feed ingredients, social license for GE animals, and regulation

The world may be laser-focused on “alternative” proteins from plants and cultured animal cells, but the animal tech sector is undergoing sweeping changes of its own.

Aquaculture is a prime example. The industry is the fastest-growing animal protein sector, with a market value of $13.3 billion. By 2030, 62% of fish for consumption will come from aquaculture systems both in water and on land.

A number of startups are emerging in the sector, including data optimization venture XpertSea, filtration technology startup BioFischency, feed optimization developer CageEye, and fish health startup ViAqua.

“The industry is not behind when it comes to technological adoption and innovation,” says Alejandro Rojas, the farms division chief operating officer for AquaBounty, a company producing genetically modified fish.

Rojas sees AquaBounty as a prime example. “We are focused on two areas of innovation,” he explains. “One is feed and raw materials. The other is improving our genetic line. That is the constant focus of our innovation.”  Read the article.


AquaBounty Q2 net-loss widens as activity ramps up

US genetically engineered salmon pioneer AquaBounty Technologies saw a growing net-loss during the second quarter of 2019 but has a good reason for it: after years of delay, having US approvals in hand has allowed the company to quickly ramp up preparations for commercial operations.

According to the company’s earnings report, its Q2 2019 net loss rose to $4.026 million, up from $2.781m the year prior. It’s sales remain low, $42,486 for Q2 2019 compared to $47,898 for Q2 2018.

However, Sylvia Wulf, the company’s CEO struck an optimistic tone in a press release accompanying the earnings report.

“This past quarter was an historic one for AquaBounty, as the [Food and Drug Administration’s] FDA’s lifting of the import alert on AquAdvantage Salmon allowed us to stock our eggs at our Indiana farm site and, for the first time ever, grow our fish in the United States.  We also stocked our new farm in Rollo Bay on Prince Edward Island and completed a second equity fundraise to continue to improve our balance sheet.”  Read the article.


Three foods I wish I could buy at Costco

I enjoy shopping at Costco. I’ve been a member since the days when it was called Price Club. I like the diverse and yet selective range of products they offer and of course their reasonable prices. I find the staff friendly and helpful and I appreciate the fact that the employees must be treated fairly since so many are the same folks I’ve seen working there for years. The food court is an awesome deal and I almost always get my gas at Costco because it is the lowest price option in the area.  The free sample thing is fun and sometimes educational. The store is well lighted, and its aisles are uncluttered. Their wine selection is great, and Costco is where I always get my eye exams and glasses.

I particularly appreciate the way that they keep much of their fresh produce in a walk-in cold room. Yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable, but by keeping these foods cold until sale, they are extending the shelf-life for the consumer and thus reducing food waste. Yes, the packages of produce they sell are large, but I can share them with friends and neighbors in cases where I can’t get through the whole amount in time. I think it is really cool that Costco uses the empty boxes from their produce shipments to package up a customer’s purchases to take home. It is also my understanding that Costco negotiates reasonable, long-term supply contracts with the grower/shippers who supply their fruits and vegetables. Treating farmers well is a big plus on my list.  Read the article.


In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, AquaBounty farms country’s bio-engineered salmon in Indiana

Ten miles north of Muncie, a new 40-acre farm is busy with work — all day and all night. What’s being grown there, though, isn’t what most would likely expect from Hoosier farm country.

Just outside Albany, the gate-restricted, mostly inconspicuous facility owned by AquaBounty Technologies is one of few aquaculture farms in the state. Indoors, thousands of salmon swim within large, 70,000-gallon tanks. They’re eating and growing, being monitored by farm hands and biologists around the clock.

But a new, brimming batch of eggs are different than those already swimming around.

Growing at twice the rate of wild salmon, these are the first genetically-engineered animals deemed safe to eat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Their existence in Indiana also marks the first time a genetically-modified food animal will be raised and sold in the United States.

The salmon are expected to hit the U.S. market next year, but their consumer success remains to be determined. AquaBounty and the FDA persist that the fish are safe to eat. Scientists say the biotechnology used could help the industry meet growing seafood demands.

Will salmon-lovers bite, too?  Read the article.


Genetically modified fish to eat growing in the Midwest

CHICAGO (WLS) — The ABC 7 I-Team went inside a Midwest farm where futuristic food is coming to life.

AquaBounty Technologies will be the first company in the United States to produce genetically modified fish for humans to eat.

The 40 acre farm is just outside Albany, Indiana, which is about 10 miles northeast of Muncie.

There are multiple safeguards required as each building is entered and exited. Visitors must wear lab coats and boots, and in some buildings you have to sign a guest book. There are strict guidelines, too; live fish can never leave this farm over fears they could damage the wild salmon population.

The genetically modified salmon eggs are imported from Canada. Each shipment can be upwards of 90,000 eggs and will have to clear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspections at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

When the I-Team visited the farm in June, thousands of eggs from the first batch were springing to life.  Read the article / view video.


AquaBounty salmon no longer swimming up regulatory stream

It’s been an 11-year, $30 million regulatory journey for genetically modified salmon to end up on American plates, and it will take about another 18 months for that to happen.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration lifted an import alert that allowed Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies to import roughly 150,000 eggs into Indiana from its facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The eggs arrived at an Indiana fish farm in late May and it will take about 18 months for the salmon to reach market weight between roughly eight to 10 pounds.

The whole crux of the AquaBounty salmon involves adding a growth hormone gene out of Chinook salmon that doubled the size of a traditional Atlantic salmon over the same period, as well as adding DNA from ocean pout, an eel-like fish. But the salmon mark a regulatory advance because the fish is the first genetically-modified animal allowed by FDA to be raised and sold commercially in the U.S.  Read the article.


Ocean predicted to lose 5% of life per degree of global warming

Climate change is harmful to the ocean and bad for fisheries. We have chronicled many studies linking climate change, fisheries, and conservation and have not shied away from overtly suggesting that climate change is the largest threat to fisheries and biodiversity in the ocean (as opposed to other popular and well-known ocean issues).

A recent paper is the strongest evidence yet. Lotze et al. 2019, a groundbreaking study published open access in June 2019 predicts that life in the ocean will decrease by about 5% per degree of global warming.

Predicted changes in ocean biomass under different emissions scenarios and temperature changes. From Lotze et al. 2019.
Predicted changes in ocean biomass under different emissions scenarios and temperature changes. From Lotze et al. 2019.

This is a powerful figure that clearly shows a linear relationship between biomass and temperature change.

Climate change studies and the gloomy figures they produce can be discouraging, but the figure here can be interpreted positively: Reducing warming by any amount will move up the scale and prevent the deaths of countless marine animals.

Explaining the science: an ensemble of models

Lotze and dozens of scientists from across the world incorporated climate models into ecosystem models to determine how rising global and ocean temperatures (and their associated impacts) will affect animal populations over time.

Nearly every paper measuring something about climate change uses RCP scenarios* to set up a computer model to measure some kind of physical change. For example, a paper from last year used RCPs to measure physical changes inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs). What makes Lotze et al. 2019 groundbreaking is that researchers used RCP scenarios to inform a composite of ecosystem models that predict ecosystem changes, not just physical changes. Co-author Marta Coll of the Institute of Marine Science in Barcelona said, “Our study represents a major undertaking, where we used for the first time a comparative and standardized approach of 6 global marine ecosystem models forced with 2 Earth-system models and 4 emission scenarios with and without fishing. The process of incorporating RCP scenarios into an ensemble of various ecosystem models was 6 years in the making, according to another co-author, Tyler Eddy.

There are two major takeaways concerning fisheries:

  1. The composition of fish in the ocean will change dramatically and
  2. Fishing has very little impact on what will happen.

Read the article.

Editor’s note:  AquaBounty is doing its part to reduce negative environmental impacts by reducing the carbon footprint of salmon production.


Shellfish growers are feeling climate change’s effects now

Shellfish farming in Washington is a multimillion-dollar industry with a history as deep as Puget Sound. However, recent decades of warming oceans and higher levels of ocean acidification continue to challenge shellfish farming practices.

In and around Whatcom County there are several aquaculture farms, such as Lummi Shellfish Hatchery, Drayton HarborOyster Co., Blau Oyster and Taylor Shellfish in Samish Bay. Each farm varies in size, number of employees and type of shellfish produced, but they share one thing in common: the water quality of Puget Sound.

There are more than 300 aquaculture farms across Washington, according to the Pacific Shellfish Institute. A WashingtonState Maritime Sector Economic Impact Study in 2017 found that the industry directly supports 15,900 jobs. Samish Bay shellfish farms alone include $2 million annual payroll and $6 million in wholesale oysters, clams and geoduck.

In June, four ocean acidification bills made bipartisan progress, in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, to becoming law. The bills are designed to encourage research and spur new ideas for adapting to the affects of ocean acidification. The bills include the COAST Research Act of 2019, the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2019,the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2019 and the NEAR Act of 2019.

As carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere a certain percentage is absorbed into the water, causing a chemical reaction that makes the water more acidic. According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, roughly 25%of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed into the worlds oceans. The process is similar to bubbles escaping from a soda can, but in reverse. Since the industrial revolution ocean acidification has increased by 30% and reduced carbonate ions by16%, said Bill Dewey, director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish. By the end of the century it is predicted that ocean acidification will increase by 100% to 150% and reduce carbonate ions by 50%, said Dewey.  Read the article.

Editor’s note:  Land-based shellfish farming may become necessary in some areas.


Would you eat genetically modified salmon?

The FDA has approved an Indiana company’s genetically altered salmon. It may be available at restaurants next year, but you may be unaware it’s being served.

Share on Pinterest
AquaAdvantage Salmon is the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States. Getty Images

Genetically modified salmon grown in Indiana may be offered in cafeterias and restaurants by late next year.

The new salmon, engineered to grow at a much faster rate, requires 25 percent less feed and is produced inland to protect native fish populations and marine ecosystems, according to officials at AquaBounty, the company that produces the fish.

The salmon is already legal for sale in Canada. Michele Henry, a Toronto-based food writer, described the genetically modified fish as “buttery, light, juicy. Just as Atlantic salmon should be.”

But it’s not just Atlantic salmon.

The product, called AquaAdvantage Salmon, is the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States.  Read the article.


Indiana fish farm producing nation’s first GMO animal for human consumption

It’s the country’s first genetically modified animal approved for consumption, and it’s growing in Albany, Indiana.

AquaBounty Technologies is producing GMO salmon, and it could be hitting the market next year. Their fish farm off of E. Gregory Road received a shipment of roughly 90,000 bio-engineered eggs last month. Since then, the salmon have hatched.

The technology company believes they should be ready for harvest in late 2020. President and CEO Sylvia Wulf said these fish grow faster than conventional salmon, but they will not be larger or taste different.

“I think about food insecurity and climate change, and using genetic modification and gene editing allows us to meet those challenges,” she said.

In 2015, AquaBounty received FDA approval for the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. Health Canada approved the fish in 2016.  Read the article.


Genetically engineered fish hatched in Albany

AquaBounty Technologies proudly displayed thousands of recently hatched, genetically engineered salmon eggs to journalists from WLS-TV, Chicago, IndyStar and other media outlets this past week.

Previously, the company showed the eggs to Indiana Public Radio, the Associated Press and other media.

“We believe in transparency, because there is this concern with genetically modified,” company CEO Sylvia Wulf told The Star Press at the end of the two-hour press tour of the indoor salmon farm.

“We want people to see that (our) fish look like fish and how we care for and raise those fish,” she went on. “So in a limited, controlled environment, we want to be able to show people what we do and how we raise the fish.”

Biosecurity controls for visitors at the compound on the outskirts of town include locked gates; surveillance cameras; sign-in/sign out logs; instructions not to touch the fish or equipment; white lab coats over street clothes; rubber boots; and multiple foot baths to disinfect the boots as you move between buildings.

Facility manager/scientist Pete Bowyer led reporters through a heavy curtain leading to the hatchery room where an incubation unit sat on a platform at the top of a staircase.

Machinery hooked up to the unit chills the water to 7.5 degrees Celsius (45.5 degrees Farhenheit); sterilizes the water with ultraviolet light; and recirculates it, he said.  Read the article.


FAIRR report IDs 10 biggest threats to aquaculture sector

A new report from FAIRR, an investor network focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in protein supply chains and the global food system, cautions investors to be wary of fed aquaculture, but recommends greater investment in shellfish farming.

FAIRR’s member network, who are responsible for managing USD 12.6 trillion (EUR 11.1 trillion) of assets and investments, includes such influential players as Aviva, DNB Asset Management and the Norwegian pension group KLP.

The report, “Shallow returns? ESG risks and opportunities in aquaculture,” identifies 10 ESG challenges that could hamper future growth of the USD 230 billion (EUR 201.9 billion) global aquaculture industry, while pointing out that it has averaged annual growth of almost 6 percent since 2000.

Innovations are also highlighted, along with investment opportunities in fish health, alternative feeds, repurposing waste as feed, and cultured seafood or plant-based replications of fish products.

Short-term risks are identified as disease, transparency and food fraud, effluents and antibiotic use. For example, the World Bank estimated in 2014 that disease costs the sector more than USD 6 billion (EUR 5.3 billion) per year in terms of mortalities, loss of stock, and prevention or treatments. In Chile, an outbreak of infectious anaemia (ISA) cost USD 2 billion (EUR 1.8 billion) and 20,000 jobs, and resulted in companies having to renegotiate loans with their banks. In Norway, it is estimated that salmon farms lose around 9 percent of revenues each harvest to costs associated with sea lice.  Read the article.

Editor’s Note:  The report focuses on marine aquaculture (sea-cage farming), whereas land-based aquaculture practiced by AquaBounty is not affected by the specific challenges mentioned, and in many cases is a solution.


Future of Food: This genetically engineered salmon may hit U.S. markets as early as 2020

PBS NewsHour Weekend

People are eating more fish than ever, and a third of global stocks are threatened by overfishing. A small company says its genetically engineered salmon can help meet the demand, as critics say it’s a step in the wrong direction. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson reports on the GE salmon. This story is part of our “Future of Food” series, hosted by Mark Bittman and supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Tonight we launch PBS NewsHour Weekend special series, “The Future of Food.” Over the coming months, we’ll focus on stories around the world where efforts to fight food scarcity and waste are ongoing. Here’s author Mark Bittman to introduce our first story in the series on the debate over genetically modified salmon.

Fish is an important protein source for many people around the world, and we are eating more of it than ever before. And with one-third of the world’s stocks overfished, aquaculture has taken off – tripling production in the last twenty years. Yet to date, fish farming has struggled with environmental problems just like land-based farming has. One small company is producing a genetically engineered salmon it says could help solve some of these problems and help meet the world’s demand. Others say it’s a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Megan Thompson has more.

If you fly to the tiny province of Prince Edward Island on Canada’s eastern coast, then drive about an hour east out of the capital city, you’ll finally come to a small, unmarked building guarded by a chain-link fence. There’s nothing special about it outside. But inside is another story.

These tanks contain the only genetically engineered animal in the world that’s been deemed safe to eat: Atlantic salmon modified to grow faster.

Using new technology is an intelligent way to meet the global food security needs of the future.

View the video / read the transcript / listen to the audio.


Restaurants could be first to get genetically modified salmon


  • AquaBounty is producing the first genetically modified salmon approved for human consumption in the U.S.
  • Companies are working to transform how Americans eat plants and animals, but consumer advocates urge caution.
  • AquAdvantage salmon may first show up in restaurants or university cafeterias, which are not required to tell diners their fish are genetically modified.

Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year.

AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the U.S. yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.

“It’s their customer, not ours,” said AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf.  Read the article.