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.

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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.



AquaBounty begins production at Albany facility

After two years of planning and waiting on regulatory approvals, Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AQB) has begun commercial production of its AquAdvantage Salmon at its Albany facility. The announcement comes three months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted an Import Alert that prevented the company from shipping its salmon eggs from Canada.

AquaBounty took over control of the facility after acquiring Bell Fish Co. in a $14 million deal in 2017. The company received FDA approval in April 2018 to raise salmon at the facility, but had to wait until the Import Alert was lifted to begin producing its branded salmon. While it waited, the company stocked the facility with traditional Atlantic salmon.  Read the article.


Indiana salmon hatchery to raise nation’s first genetically modified animal cleared for human consumption

On a winding road on the outskirts of a small Rust Belt town in eastern Indiana, a fish hatchery is poised to raise the country’s first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, altered the genetic makeup of the Atlantic salmon to include a gene from chinook salmon and DNA sequence from an eel-like species known as an ocean pout. The result is a salmon that grows to market size about twice as fast as its natural counterpart.

The company, which already breeds the salmon in Canada, received its first batch of bioengineered eggs Wednesday at its indoor facility in Albany, Indiana, , and the first salmon fillets raised there could appear in U.S. supermarkets in late 2020. AquaBounty’s decision to raise the salmon in Indiana is a landmark moment for the Midwest, a region known globally for its agricultural prowess but one where land-based fish farming operations have struggled mightily to become profitable.

AquaBounty purchased the complex about 10 miles northeast of Muncie where yellow perch and steelhead trout had previously been raised and renovated it for Atlantic salmon.Before Wednesday’s shipment, the 16-person staff, which includes factory workers who were laid off in recent years, had been overseeing 100,000 conventional Atlantic salmon from eggs until they reach market size. With around 150,000 bioengineered eggs currently inside the facility’s incubator trays, production is expected to grow.

Commercially raising seafood, a process known as aquaculture, will be necessary to feed the planet’s growing population at a time when rising seafood demand is pitted against plateauing wild fisheries burdened by overfishing, pollution and climate change, according to industry experts. The U.S., which imports over 90% of its seafood, has lagged behind much of the world in aquaculture production, and proponents hope the introduction of genetically engineered fish might help promote the industry, relieve pressure on ocean fisheries and scale back the United States’ $16 billion seafood trade deficit.

“Because this fish grows faster, you can use the same facility and produce twice as much product, and the overhead cost is halved,” said William Muir, a professor emeritus at Purdue University who has researched genetically modified animals. “That’s really where we’re going with it: Can we produce fish more cheaply? The fact is, aquaculture is expensive and it’s not competitive with ocean-caught fish, because the ocean is free. But if you can produce salmon cheaply inland, large urban centers like Chicago would love to have fresh salmon next door.”  Read the article.


It’s time to be honest about seafood

If we want to eat sustainably, aquaculture has to be part of the conversation

Demand for seafood is increasing across the globe, and the United States is no exception. Aquaculture, or aquatic farming, is increasingly meeting this demand and now supplies just over 50 percent of all seafood globally. In fact, it has been one of the world’s fastest growing food sectors for years.

The U.S. is the largest importer of seafood in the world, and some of Americans’ favorites—including shrimp, salmon and tilapia—are predominantly farmed these days. Yet, we contribute less than 1 percentof the world’s total aquaculture production. This means we rely heavily on other countries to satisfy our appetites for seafood.

If the U.S. does not increase its domestic production of farmed shellfish, seaweed and finfish, the divergence between what we consume and what we contribute to the global seafood market will continue to widen. This gap may make it harder for our seafood diets to be sustainable. It also means the U.S. won’t have a hand in shaping the standards or economies that contribute to the seafood sector as a whole in the future.  Read the article.


How RAS farming can alleviate environmental pressure in East Africa

The development of a sustainable aquaculture sector can play an important role in providing livelihoods for people living around Lake Victoria, according to Kyra Hoevenaars, AquaBioTech Group’s project manager in the VicInAqua initiative.

Lake Victoria in Eastern Africa, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is a vital resource for the surrounding countries, providing communities with water, food and employment. The fishery sector is the main employer in Lake Victoria basin, being a major source of income for the population and an important part of the national economies in the region. However, the lake is under pressure due to overfishing, water shortages and severe pollution.

Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, could benefit from more farmers using RAS
Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, could benefit from more farmers using RAS

Promoting the use of more sustainable aquaculture systems, such as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), in the region is now more important than ever and can provide livelihood opportunities while reducing the sector’s environmental impact on the lake.

Currently, the aquaculture sector in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda mainly consists of small-scale farmers using earthen ponds to grow their fish – largely tilapia, but some catfish too. These are low-maintenance, easily managed systems but can only sustain low stocking densities.  Read the article.


AquaBounty CEO Wulf: ‘Let’s applaud the Frankenfish’

Instead of running scared from the “Frankenfish” moniker that’s been slapped on AquaBounty Technology’s genetically engineered salmon by those fighting to keep it from entering the US market, Sylvia Wulf, the company’s CEO, suggested this week that it might be time to instead embrace the title.

The fish, which is more properly identified as AquAdvantage by its creators, grows from egg to 5 kilos in 18 to 20 months (eight to 10 months faster than the reported norm) and maintains a 25% advantage in feed conversion. But instead of being celebrated by everyone for their potential to help fill the world’s need for more protein, some have responded to the fish’s scientifically enhanced traits by grabbing pitchforks, she told the crowd of roughly 275 in attendance at the Recirculating Aquaculture System Technology (RAStech) conference.

That does make it much like the Frankenstein monster in Mary Shelley’s 1817 work of fiction, she said.

“It was the uneducated mob that didn’t understand the benefits of the science that killed Frankenstein,” she said. “And so what I say is, ‘let’s applaud the Frankenfish, because it’s designed to solve real-world global challenges’.”

Alejandro Rojas, chief operating officer, and Sylvia Wulf, CEO, at AquaBounty Technologies, were the keynote presenters at the RAStech conference, in Washington, DC, this week.

“And to the vocal minority that says ‘I don’t want GMOs in my food’; 80 years of GMO. I don’t think people are dying from eating GMO crops. And, in fact, we’re not going to feed an additional 2 billion people without moving past conventional methodology.”  Read the article.


Why aquaculture may be seafood’s future

Dive Brief:

  • Aquaculture is a profitable investment that can not only feed Earth’s growing population but also help rehabilitate the oceans, according to a report from The Nature Conservancy and Encourage Capital released last week.
  • Aquaculture is already a $243.5 billion industry, but the report estimates that by 2030, the sector will require an additional $150 billion-300 billion in capital investment to meet the increasing demand for seafood.
  • The study focused on the viability of three particular segments of aquaculture: On-land finfish recirculating aquaculture systems — abbreviated as RAS — offshore finfish aquaculture systems, and bivalve and seaweed aquaculture systems.

Dive Insight:

People love their seafood, but they don’t want anything fishy when it comes to environmental and economic impacts. A recent Feed4Thought survey from Cargill showed sustainability considerations are so important, about 59% of those surveyed ranked “keeping fish healthy” as the most important duty of a company raising seafood. How to keep fish healthy and still provide sufficient amounts to feed the world is, however, another question.

Today, nearly one in five U.S. shoppers say they would like to eat more fish, and Nielsen reports seafood sales increased 3.4% over the year ending Feb. 24. This increasing interest in sea-based protein has led experts to hypothesize that seafood in the oceans could be extinct by 2048. While Sylvia Earle, who is a National Geographic Society explorer in residence and a former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at The Good Food Conference last year that this prediction is a little overblown, she warned fishing as it is known today will stop by the end of the century because supply will not be there. She suggested lab-grown substitutes as an alternative, and said marketing could help turn consumers’ attention to the new products like aquaculture.

Anticipating a radical change in how humans will need to procure their sea-based diet, the study, called “Towards a Blue Revolution,” proposed aquaculture not just for its environmental benefits but also for its financial advantages. RAS and offshore fish farms currently comprise less than 1% of all fish production, but the cost to do this type of fish farming are dropping. Oceana issued a report in 2013 indicating 90% of U.S. fish for consumption is imported, which increases costs to the customer. By switching to aquaculture, farms could be located closer to major markets, which could reduce transportation and logistics costs, saving companies a good chunk of change.  Read the article.


Genetically engineered salmon on the market

About 4.5 tonnes of fresh AquAdvantage salmon fillets have been sold in Canada. The fish are the first genetically engineered animal food product on the market. While some consumers are excited about how the salmon can benefit the environment, others have concerns. Rob Wager, a biochemist and member of the biology department at Vancouver Island University, answered some questions about this new fish.

Is genetically engineered salmon safe to eat?

Wager: “Yes, it is. Extensive testing over almost two decades has clearly demonstrated GE (genetically engineered) salmon has the same nutritional profile as non-GE-salmon of the same species. The FDA in the United States and Health Canada have both stated GE salmon is as safe as non-GE salmon.”

Does it taste the same as other salmon?

Wager: “GE salmon has the same flavour, texture and nutritional aspects as the non-GE Atlantic salmon. Each species of salmon tastes a little different owing to fat content, diet of the species etc. Most consumers enjoy the flavour of all the species of salmon (five Pacific species and Atlantic salmon).”

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension Specialist, Animal Genomics and Biotechnology at the University of California-Davis, explained in this Best Food Facts article how the fish was developed.  Read the article.


The ‘Future of Food’ is genetic engineering!

Shoddy journalism boosts anti-biotechnology activism

Washington Post article, “The Future of Food,” discussed the methods we use to breed food crops, but the piece suffered from “pseudo-balance” commonly seen these days in journalism: seeking out clueless commentators to contradict advocates of superior modern genetic modification techniques. We hate to break it to the author of the article (who holds a bachelor’s degree in “magazine journalism, international relations and Spanish”) but, in spite of what they teach you in journalism classes, not every issue has two sides and benefits from point-counterpoint.

Because most of society is between two and six generations removed from farming, that subject is largely terra incognita, literally and figuratively. This lack of knowledge makes the public very susceptible to fear-based marketing of food.

Humans have been modifying the DNA of our food for thousands of years. We call it agriculture. Early farmers (>10,000 years ago) used selective breeding to guide DNA changes in crops to better suit our needs. Approximately a hundred years ago plant breeders began using harsh chemicals and/or radiation to randomly change, or mutate, the DNA of crops. These mutagens caused innumerable changes to the DNA, none of which were characterized or examined for safety. Problems were rare. Today more than half of all food crops have mutagenesis breeding as part of their pedigree.  Read the article.


Why climate change could mean more disease for marine aquaculture

Extreme weather events and changing ocean conditions are creating unpredictable outcomes for aquaculture. One area where research is offering some insight into what to expect, though, is the increasing incidences of disease.

Anyone who was in France in the summer of 2018 can attest to the searing temperatures that swept the country. From north to south, the nation experienced the second hottest summer since records began. Whilst children played in lakes and the sea to cool off, the shellfish producers of Étang de Thau could only watch as their oysters and mussels perished at the hands of malaïgue – a period of sustained high temperatures and little wind.

Oyster farmers in Étang de Thau struggled during the summer heatwave of 2018
Oyster farmers in Étang de Thau struggled during the summer heatwave of 2018

The ocean has always been a highly dynamic environment, with its ever-changing conditions presenting challenges to aquaculturalists. However, thanks to human-induced climate change and continuing carbon emissions, events like malaïgue may become more regular occurrences, bringing with them new disease-related challenges.

As every aquaculturalist knows, temperature plays a major role in the growth and health of aquatic species. Certainly, higher temperatures are typically related to higher energetic requirements and demand for food. In an interesting twist, finfish can find their hunger suppressed when held at the upper end of their thermal tolerance for too long – even though their metabolic demands continue to rise. Malnourished fish make for unhealthy fish, which makes for a more stressed and susceptible animal.  Read the article.


We need GMO salmon

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently removed the final barriers for raising and selling AquaBounty’s GMO salmon in the US. These genetically engineered salmon grow faster and use less resources, while providing a healthy food that is indistinguishable from conventional salmon.

On this topic, Anastasia Bodnar wrote Fast-growing genetically engineered salmon approved, which describes the health and environmental risk analysis that went into approval of the fish in the US and in Canada. She also created the AquAdvantage Salmon Regulatory Timeline Infographic. Guest expert Richard Green added a call to action in his article Ask your supermarket to stock GMO salmon.

Now, Know Ideas Media has added to the conversation with the video below. Nick Saik encourages viewers to “do something real for science today” by using Richard’s template to contact your grocery store and ask for fast-growing genetically engineered salmon.  Read the article.


AquAdvantage Salmon Needs YOU!

GMO Livestock… That’s a bridge we’re crossing now! Recently, a company called Aqua Bounty got U.S. approval to begin selling their Genetically Engineered Salmon in U.S. grocery stores.

The Salmon grows twice as fast as a non-engineered Salmon, making it far more efficient to farm. So efficient in fact, that Aqua Bounty can skip all the problems of trying to farm Salmon in the open ocean, and do it on land in big tanks. There’s tonnes of nuance to this process, and we’ll likely get deeper into it in a future video!

Long story short: Aqua Bounty’s AquAdvantage Salmon is one of the most sustainable live stocks on the entire planet!

This video was produced independently by Know Ideas Media


Environment and Climate Change Canada Risk Assessment for AquAdvantage Salmon


The EO-1α Salmon was notified for use in a commercial, land-based, aquaculture facility in Rollo Bay, PEI. EO-1α Salmon are all fish that derive from EO-1♀ and are part of the EO-1α lineage of Atlantic salmon (including AquAdvantage® salmon) that contain the integrated, α-form of the opAFP-GHc2 construct. A detailed description of containment measures was provided by the notifier in 2013 (New Substances Notification 16528) and as additional information submitted for this notification. A waiver of the information requirement for paragraph 5(a) of Schedule 5 of the New Substances Notification Regulations (Organisms) was accepted under paragraph 106(8)(b) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), based on the sufficiency of the proposed containment measures. Despite the negligible to high range of hazard potential for the nine ecological endpoints, the risk to the environment associated with EO-1α does not meet the criteria in paragraphs 64(a) or (b) of CEPA due to the low potential for exposure. A significant new activity notice is recommended to require that containment measures are maintained as described and significant new activities are appropriately notified and assessed. Similarly, assessment of available information does not suggest a risk of adverse human health effects at the exposure levels predicted for the general Canadian population from use in commercial aquaculture and as such EO-1α Salmon do not meet the criteria in paragraph 64(c) of CEPA.

Download and read report

Science Advisory Report

Summary of information submitted by the public to the New Substances program on the environmental and human health risks of the AquAdvantage® salmon


How to commercialise sterile finfish production

Ways to commercialise the production of finfish rendered sterile by novel methods sparked a thought-provoking discussion at the end of the inaugural International Finfish Sterility Workshop, which was held in Stirling this week.

The second day of the Salmotrip+ and ARCH-UK-organised workshop contained presentations on the latest research on methods such as such as gene silencing, gene knock out and primordial germ cell ablation as emerging methods to induce sterility in finfish. These were delivered by a host of eminent researchers – including Anna Wargelius from IMR, Yonathan Zohar from the University of Maryland and Debbie Plouffe from the Centre for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT).  Read the article.