Can ecosystems provide space for further growth in aquaculture?

Can ecosystems provide space for further growth in aquaculture?

This is a comment. The comment expresses the writer’s position.

The Aquaculture Committee submitted its report recently. One of the main proposals is to regulate the environmental impact of aquaculture more directly while at the same time differentiating regulation, so that requirements can be tightened in areas with unacceptable environmental impact, and growth can be achieved where the environmental impact is acceptable. They suggest many other moves as well, but this is exactly what I want to comment on.

We wrote a lot about environmental regulations in a report we completed this spring: In collaboration with Akvaplan-niva and NIVA, in the FHF1 project, we evaluated the knowledge base of environmental regulations in aquaculture and specifically the possibilities for more precise regulation of ecosystems in aquaculture. Environmental impacts.

Audun Iversen, researcher at Nofima. Photo: Silje Helene Nielsen

It is controlled by a traffic light system

Many have pointed to the potential for a significant increase in production and value creation in agriculture through 2050. At the same time, concerns about poor fish welfare and major environmental impacts have led to regulations that have slowed production growth. Hence, there is a clear contradiction between the desire for growth and concerns about the environmental impacts of agriculture.

Today, most of the industry’s growth is managed by a traffic light system and based on only one environmental indicator, the impact of salmon lice on wild salmon.

Essentially entire production areas are organized together based on this. Local conditions affect growth to a lesser extent. There is no doubt that growth may also be limited by access to local areas, and the willingness of municipalities to allocate certain areas, a willingness that reflects competition for marine areas and societal acceptance of the industry.

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Impact on the environment can be measured with an individual location as a starting point, but many types of environmental impact also depend on what is happening in a larger area, and in some cases impact from other industries and activities can also play a role. Regulations must take into account impacts at all levels.

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Lockdown may be the solution

Not least is that regulations must take into account the locational structure of the industry; Both HI and the Aquaculture Commission have noted that even small changes can have a significant impact on lice infestation or infection.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of systems that rely on local carrying capacity is that they can be facilitated to increase production in areas where the increase in production is sustainable.

If production is not sustainable due to the impact on an area, production can be reduced, or as the Commission suggests: the environmental impact caused by parts of production can be reduced, for example through different degrees of facility closure.

Depending on how the closure is conducted, it can have an impact on different types of environmental impact, such as lice, sludge discharge, and disease transmission.

Both industry and management also want growth to be environmentally sustainable through holistic and ecosystem-based management. Holistic ecosystem-based management requires an understanding of ecosystem function and structure and the comprehensive impacts of different types of human influence.

Norway currently has different systems based on holistic and ecosystem-based management, for example water area management through water systems, comprehensive marine management plans, coastal zone planning and wild salmon management.

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Increased need for knowledge

Both more precise and locally adapted environmental regulation and more comprehensive management seem attractive. But both approaches place significant demands on knowledge of important environmental impacts.

Knowledge of impact mechanisms is required, an overview of the occurrence and extent of various environmental impacts is required, knowledge of assets in which there are multiple sources of environmental impact is required, and scientifically based and acceptable targets and limit values ​​for various stressors are required.

The scientific knowledge base of the environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry has been summarized in the project report, after a systematic literature search and knowledge review.

The scientific literature on environmental impact has been reviewed for a number of influencing factors, commonly referred to as stressors. The review shows that there is significant variation in the knowledge base for different stressors, both established knowledge where there is a great deal of agreement, and the research frontier where there is greater uncertainty.

There may also be differences in the reach of knowledge about individual stressors and its use in management. In the project, we also investigated the sources of knowledge used in management, and provided an overview of the knowledge base and evaluation criteria used today.

Although there is a great deal of knowledge about the environmental impact of aquaculture, there is still much that little is known about, at least if direct and precise regulation is the goal. Although a lot of knowledge is used in management today, there is also a lot of knowledge that is not used well enough.

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where are you going now?

At this year’s AquaNor conference, the Minister announced that more indicators would be evaluated in the traffic light system, where sea trout, mortality and emissions were mentioned. But perhaps this is a good opportunity for the authorities to also think in the opposite direction, towards more direct and local regulation of environmental impacts?

The project has identified several stressors that we believe should be included in management to a greater extent or in better ways, including particulate organic waste on hard bottoms, escaped cleaning fish, anti-fouling agents (copper), and lice removal agents.

It is also pointed out that one needs more knowledge about lice; Even if you have a lot of knowledge today, you still do not have good enough knowledge, given the importance that lice have gained through the traffic light system.

In any case, one faces some important trade-offs when the Aquaculture Committee’s proposal is studied in more detail and perhaps implemented. The heavy focus on lice, and the resulting treatment-related deaths, has been a major challenge to fish welfare. Future regulations must strike a better balance than today between consideration of farmed fish and consideration of environmental impacts.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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