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LICENCE TO GILL – Excerpts from a Presentation

I will be highlighting the importance of aquaculture and will take the view that we all need to embrace the need of aquaculture for food security and nutrition and collaborate to enhance responsible sustainability and productivity outcomes building capability and capacity in areas such as food safety, health control, improved feed stocks that do not compete with human foods, domestication and genetic improvement, integration models, improved linkages with food chain with due consideration to ecosystems integrity. I will touch briefly on feeds and reducing fish meal/oil as feed and encouraging the promotion of research and development into animal feeds.

Thank you for the film last evening – based on what I saw the Ocean Health Index looks like a good innovation, my only concern is that industry does not seem engaged – if we are going to change the world then we need to be involved in some way. If people do not have ownership then engagement is so much harder – many governments fail this test, in my opinion.

No one is saying ‘Let us save the world by not procreating’, so there clearly is acceptance that we are going to have 9 billion people by 2050 and they need to eat. They will need to eat the most sustainable and the most nutritious food available so it is imperative that we all work together……

At this point I must emphasise that we are not feeding the world now – an estimated 842 million people are chronically hungry now. In Latin America the figure is about 50 million people or 8 per cent of the population. We must all have at the top of our minds that people are dying daily as a result of hunger and malnutrition – a child dies every 6 seconds due to malnutrition.

Let us talk about fish and seafood and its importance in this complex world we live…..

I hear a lot of gloom and doom about the Fish industry but what is forgotten is that Fish is the world’s most traded protein, it is twice the size of the coffee trade. It had an estimated export value of $US136 billion last year. Additionally according to an article last year from environmental think tank Earth Policy Institute global production of farmed fish has overtaken the production of beef. As Nutreco and former WWF leader, Jose Villalon, pointed at the World Aquaculture Conference in Adelaide two weeks ago by the end of this century we will need to produce the same amount of food as we produced in the past 10,000 years, and, importantly aquaculture will be pivotal to global food security.

It is estimated that more than 120 million people in the world depend directly on fisheries –related activities. Apart from the primary production sector, fisheries and aquaculture provide numerous jobs in ancillary activities such as processing, packaging, marketing and distribution, manufacturing of fish-processing equipment, net and gear making, ice production and supply, boat and gear construction and maintenance, research and administration. All of this employment, together with dependents, is estimated to support the livelihoods of up to 1 billion people (last night’s film said 1.5 billion), anyway it’s some way between 12-15 percent of the world’s population.

Of course, we’d all like to eat wild fish that jumped into the boat on a long-line shortly before hitting our plates. Whilst we can maintain our wild fish harvests through prudent strategic management and cutting out wasteful practices and work hard on IUU issues but basically we are mostly dreaming. Fact is, aquaculture is the future.

Yes, of course you already knew fish is good for you. But just how good? There is an outstanding graph, published during last month in a report by the High Level Panel of Experts to the UN Committee on World Food Security, entitled “The case for obtaining your essential omega-3 fatty acids from fish” which is something everyone should see and understand. The authors have been queried and have confirmed that it is indeed correct that the level of iron in beef is lower than in most fish, particularly small freshwater fish.

The knowledge on the health aspects of seafood just keeps getting stronger. At the same time, in light of increasing evidence of neurodevelopmental benefits from eating fish, the US Food and Drug Administration has last month revised its dietary recommendations to encourage pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children to eat more of it — two to three servings a week. An important message that needs to be heeded by all governments who want to have healthy people with less chronic diseases thus alleviating heavy health costs and underpinning better GDP prospects.

Have any of you heard of the 1000 Days program?

I heard some news about a famous family in Monaco who are expecting to hear the patter of tiny feet later this year so this is essential news to them. Maybe someone in the audience can pass it on?

The 1000 day program highlights the most important period of anyone’s life – the time from conception to the time of their 2 year birthday and the essential window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. It can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.

In the real world for children under the age of two, the consequences of under-nutrition are particularly severe, often irreversible, and reach far into the future.

During pregnancy, under-nutrition can have a devastating impact on the healthy growth and development of a child. Babies who are malnourished in the womb have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are more likely to face lifelong cognitive and physical deficits and chronic health problems.

Evidence shows that the right nutrition during the 1,000 day window can:

  • save more than one million lives each year;
  • significantly reduce the human and economic burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS;
  • reduce the risk for developing various non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and other chronic conditions later in life;
  • improve an individual’s educational achievement and earning potential; and,
  • increase a country’s GDP by at least 2-3 percent annually.

We were meant to eat fish and seafood. In Australia the Meat & Livestock Association promoted red meat ads espousing how we were meant to have been born eating red meat? Well, typically let us not get our facts confused with a good story. Just because millions are being spent on the TV, it does not mean it is true. Fact is that it was the Neanderthals who ate lots of red meat. Modern humans became modern by eating lots of oysters, mussels and fish (Paleo diet promoters, take note). As a Scientific American article, “When the Sea Saved Humanity”, reveals, when the number of breeding humans crashed to about 600 in five locations across Africa, it was seafood and root vegetables that helped us survive, not red meat. As we move to the future and noting that the Earth is 72% Ocean it will be the same again.

Seafood can help tackle the global obesity crisis, says health writer Martin Bowerman, author of Lean Forever: The Scientific Secrets of Permanent Weight Loss. Speaking at World Aquaculture Adelaide, Bowerman said fish provided more protein for comparably lower calorie intake than other meats and this “calorie efficiency” was key to a high-protein weight-loss diet.

In ‘Don’t Miss the Bus’ a new book drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience from the University of California, South Australian author Rex J. Lipman names a list of a dozen “Gold Medal” food groups vital to maintaining brain health and preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s. The only animal products on the list are fish — specifically salmon, trout and sardines — and dairy foods.

In a recent report prepared for Canada’s aquaculture industry, How Higher Seafood Consumption Can Save Lives, the authors quote a study from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington that found older adults with high blood levels of fish-derived fatty acids lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels. “Increasing levels of fish consumption (to the recommended levels) could save about 7000 lives (in Canada) a year,” the report concluded.

It is the position of the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that dietary fat for the healthy adult population should provide 20 percent to 35 percent of energy, with an increased consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and limited intake of saturated and trans fats. Two “long-chain” omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are not made by the human body, meaning we need to eat them from a dietary source. Many people get omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources like flax seeds and walnuts, though this a type of “good” fat it only partially converts to EPA and DHA in the body and doesn’t have the same amount of research behind it that omega-3s derived from fish do. There is a difference between short chain Omega-3’s (plants) and long chain (seafood), something that is not well promoted nor understood.

As far as Latin America is concerned overall their seafood consumption is below world average – only a handful of countries exceed world average and there are no stand outs like there are in Asia. I particularly note Brazil which had a seafood consumption of less than 5kgs per head of population until it embarked on a strong aquaculture program with Tilapia and now has a seafood consumption of nearly 10kgs per head of population and currently producing well over 200,000MT of Tilapia – they have also built on their Shrimp aquaculture business and rarely export. It is the only place I have seen in the world where they are Shrimp restaurants where you can get Shrimp forty different ways – and these restaurants are very popular. Most other countries are focusing more on exports.  

I was fortunate to be invited to present in Mexico last year. There seafood consumption has been on a downward spiral and they know they need to arrest this and turn things around.  As a result of the discussions there I understand there are now plans and budgeting being put in place to promote seafood consumption alongside increasing aquaculture activity based on specifically training the workforce through the value chain.

Overall Latin America produces about 4% of the world’s aquaculture – Asia produces around 87%

While all farmed animals need to be fed, aquaculture represents the most efficient method by which to convert feed to edible protein. And some species, such as oysters and mussels, do not need to be fed at all. But clearly many species do need to be fed and there have been massive improvements since the industry started.

We always put the emphasis on Salmon and such carnivore species but really this is the wrong emphasis – we will not feed the world with Salmon, this is still a fish for those amongst us with money in our pockets. It is actually freshwater fishes which dominate global aquaculture production (56.4 percent, 33.7 million tonnes) so that is Carp, Tilapia and Catfishes – these are herbivore species so are not reliant on fish meal/fish oil.

There are two important points to make re fish meal/fish oil. Firstly aquaculture is far from being the biggest user of the product; that dubious honour lies with land based animals. Secondly there is demonstrated evidence from the Salmon industry that their investment in feed research over 20 years has enabled the quantity of fish meal/oil to drop from around 89 per cent of the feed to 32 per cent and more progress is expected in this area. Producing more from less is the consistent aim. The anti-aquaculture lobby seems to be stuck purely on the past on these issues and either lacking current data or stuck with antiquated concepts.

There has been a massive amount of time, money and effort going into feeds for the future and I am just going to highlight three ideas which are being investigated – Worms, Insects and Algae.

Worms – Composting earthworms have potential as a substitute. These worms feed on vegetable scraps, wood, and other organic material. In return, they produce a rich compost. Some varieties reproduce at a rate of up to eightfold per year. Harvesting is a little messy but given a large enough worm stock to start with and a steady food supply, worms could be a good supplement or possibly an outright substitution for fish meal.

Insects – Insects are natural food sources for many fish and poultry. Chickens, for example, can be found picking worms and larvae from the topsoil and litter where they walk. There is a reason, too, why maggots are used as fish bait in recreational fishing. Given insects’ natural role as food for a number of farmed livestock species, it is worth reconsidering their role as feed for specific poultry and fish species.

Algae – Algae are the fastest growing plant organisms in nature and have the ability to convert large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen.

Before algae evolved, the earth’s atmosphere had no oxygen but instead consisted of carbon dioxide and methane. Photosynthetic algae converted carbon dioxide into biomass and released oxygen into the atmosphere. Today, algae still produce 70% of the earth’s oxygen.

Algae also form the base of the aquatic food chain. They produce carbohydrates, oils, protein, vitamins and organic minerals. Since they are aquatic, algae grow much faster than land plants as they do not have to expend energy growing roots and cellulose support structures like trunks, leaves and stems. Without the need for support structures, algae can triple or quadruple their biomass every day. This rapid growth means that one acre of algae can produce the same amount of protein in a year as 21 acres of soybeans or 49 acres of corn.

Companies like Alltech are harnessing the opportunities in this area and after 10 years of research, CSIRO in Australia have perfected the Novacq™ prawn feed additive. Farmed prawns fed with Novacq grow on average 30 per cent faster, are healthier and can be produced with no fish products in their diet, a world-first achievement in sustainability.

Potential alternative ingredients already in use include soybeans, barley, rice, peas, canola, lupine, wheat gluten, corn gluten, other various plant proteins and yeast.  Other sources that show great promise include waste from bio-energy and bio-plastic production and fish processing waste (trimmings).  Farmed seaweed has significant growth potential as a source of food and fiber for both aquaculture feed and human consumption.  Researchers have been successful in identifying alternatives that grow fish and help maintain the human health benefits of eating seafood. It is a work in progress.

I quickly want to mention two modern systems relating to aquaculture.

Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) provides the by-products, including waste, from one aquatic species as inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. Farmers combine fed aquaculture (e.g., fish, shrimp) with inorganic extractive (e.g., seaweed) and organic extractive (e.g., shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for environment remediation (biomitigation), economic stability and better management practices.

Selecting appropriate species and sizing the various populations to provide necessary ecosystem functions allows the biological and chemical processes involved to achieve a stable balance, mutually benefiting the organisms and improving ecosystem health.

Aquaponics is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an Aquaponics system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all Aquaponics systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an Aquaponics system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.

Seafood harvested from aquaculture is a complete nutrient package, and the major source of animal proteins and micronutrients for many coastal populations. It is a renewable and sustainable source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA, EPA) for optimal brain development and the prevention of coronary heart disease; a unique and complete source of micronutrients (calcium, iodine, zinc, iron, selenium, etc.); and an important source of vitamins (A, D, B group) generally scarce in rural diets. People should consume seafood weekly to comply with dietary guidelines (GILLS/FAO).

I urge you all to read the report issued just two weeks ago by High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition “Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition”.

We need to maximise our utilisation of the Oceans – working together to maximise the benefit of the Ocean and fully utilise the resources in sustainable growth is the way forward. Working to assist the poorer nations and increasing food security and nutrition is essential.

Ladies and Gentleman what we need is a LICENCE TO GILL….

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