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May 15, 2019

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.

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