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Sea Around Us project newsletter, issue 52, March/April 2009 Bailey, Megan; Sea Around Us Project Mar 31, 2009

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Sea Around UsThe Sea Around Us Project NewsletterIssue 52– March/April 2009Integrated Multi-TrophicAquaculture: The way of thefuture?by Sarika Cullis-SuzukiDr. Thierry Chopin explains the role of seaweeds in IMTA to Cullis-Suzuki. . Photo by John Badcock. Continued on page 2 - IMTAI spent the last weekof April on the east coastof Canada, investigatingIMTA, Integrated Multi-TrophicAquaculture, at CookeAquaculture, off the shores ofNew Brunswick. I spoke tovarious scientists studyingIMTA, and was even able to goout on a boat to inspect theunderwater setup and getanswers to my manyquestions.IMTA is a way of farmingmultiple marine organismsfrom different trophic levels atthe same time. The goal is tocreate a balanced system,essentially mimicking whatalready occurs in the ocean.In the case of CookeAquaculture, the primaryharvest is Atlantic salmon. Yet,in addition to salmon, theycultivate mussels to filter theorganic nutrients, andseaweeds to absorb theinorganic nutrients thataccumulate from the salmonwaste and feed. Even seaurchins and sea cucumbersare included in the system,working to consume macroparticles that fall to thebottom of the salmon netpens. In an attempt to reflectwhat ` naturally’ occurs in thesea, they incorporate all ofthese players into theirfarming—the mollusks, theseaweeds, theinvertebrates— creating ahealthier farming system…and more commercialproduct. Sounds great so far.So the question thenbecomes: is this whereaquaculture should beheaded?Here, on the west coast ofCanada, we are alreadyfamiliar with some of theproblems of salmon farming.Such problems extend to theeast coast as well, includingthose associated withfishmeal, waste, lice, disease,and escapees. CookeAquaculture tries to mitigatewasteful feed by usingremains of other fish in theirfishmeal (bones, guts, etc.),and by decreasing the actualamount of fish in their feedaltogether; in fact, today, theynow claim to use less than 1pound of wild fish for everypound of farmed salmon.Waste from salmon nets istaken very seriously. Bypositioning an underwatervideo camera below thenets, the amount of fish feedcan be controlled, i.e.,feeding is stopped as soon aspellets begin accumulatingon the bottom. In this way,fish feed waste is minimized.Any other waste from thesalmon nets is moderated bynutrient  ` scrubbers’, musselsand seaweeds that arepositioned down-flow of thePage 2Sea Around Us – March/April 2009The Sea Around Us project newsletter ispublished by the  Fisheries Centre at theUniversity of BritishColumbia. Includedwith the FisheriesCentre’s newsletterFishBytes, sixissues of thisnewsletter arepublished annually.Subscriptions are freeof charge.Our mailing address is: UBC FisheriesCentre, Aquatic Ecosystems ResearchLaboratory, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver,British Columbia, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Our faxnumber is (604) 822-8934, and our emailaddress is SeaNotes@fisheries.ubc.ca. Allqueries (including reprint requests),subscription requests, and address changesshould be addressed to Megan Bailey, SeaAround Us Newsletter Editor.The Sea Around Us website may be foundat www.seaaroundus.org and contains up-to-date information on the project.The Sea Around Us project is a scientific collaborationbetween the University of British Columbia and the PewEnvironmental Group. The Trusts support nonprofit activitiesin the areas of culture, education, the environment, healthand human services, public policy and religion. Based inPhiladelphia, the Trusts make strategic investments to helporganizations and citizens develop practical solutions todifficult problems. In 2000, with approximately $4.8 billion inassets, the Trusts committed over $235 million to 302 nonprofitorganizations. ISSN 1713-5214   Sea Around Us (ONLINE)... I wasstruck withthe size ofthe net inrelation tothe numberof salmon—put simply: Ididn’t seemany fish inthe nets!IMTA- Continued from page 1nets, as well as invertebrates thatlive below the nets. By taking upwaste matter, the scrubbersaccomplish two goals at once:they filter the water, and theygrow quicker (enabling moreefficient harvesting). Regardingsealice, Mr. Cooke explained thatthey do not consider it as big aproblem as out west—althoughwhether or not that has to dowith the extremely low wildAtlantic salmon stockpopulations was not clear.Later that day, while diving in themussel farm and salmon nets, Isearched the water for debris;though I never made it to theocean floor to inspect theamount of waste buildup, I wasstruck with the size of the net inrelation to the number ofsalmon—put simply: I didn’t seemany fish in the nets!The nets themselves, set up in aseries of large rings in the ocean,are not fixed, meaning they arerotated, as in land-based farming,allowing certain areas to be leftfallow. Also, the nets contain acomparatively low count ofsalmon per net (hence mydisappointingly uneventful dive),thereby reducing both theinception and spread of diseaseamongst organisms. In order toexecute an operation like this, alot of space is needed.But the spread of disease fromfarmed fish to wild Atlantics (well,what’s left of them), is still areality, and a significant caseagainst allowing the replication ofsuch a system on the west coastof Canada. And escapement,although said to be low, cannot becompletely prevented withoutclosed containment. However, byfarming Atlantic salmon on theeast coast, this avoids culturing analien species, and they usegenetic stock from wild salmon inthe area.Glenn Cooke, founder of CookeAquaculture, was very candidabout the operation, agreeing thatthere remain problems to workthrough; his company is still in theinitial stages of the system,though moving fast. Back in 1985,when the company was juststarting off, Mr. Cooke remembersthat taking the larger ecosysteminto consideration was simply notdone, let alone incorporatingother creatures into theharvesting plan.  “Things are verydifferent now,” he reflects. Today,his company has been lauded as amodel in progressive aquaculture,and has received numerousawards. Employing 1,500 people,Cooke Aquaculture is no longer asmall operation; indeed it hasbecome a thriving, big business.But Mr. Cooke still feels that bybeing a locally-owned familycompany, this operation is moresustainable than most large-scalefish farm companies. Certainly, asa New Brunswick native, and as aparent raising his children in thiscommunity, he feels much moreaccountable for his business, andhis actions:  “For example: if I werea large company from Spain, withno interaction or connection tothe place where I was farming, Iwouldn’t feel the sameresponsibility to that community.”Mr. Cooke acknowledges that, ifhe wants to live comfortably in hisown neighbourhood, communityinvolvement and acceptancearen’t just desirable, they’reessential.Back at the restaurant, I sampledfreshly-harvested seaweeds andmussels; but for some reasoncouldn’t bring myself to try thefarmed salmon. At least, not yet.Perhaps it’s simply the west coaststigma that goes along withfarmed salmon; but, there are stilla few issues that need to beworked out under the water.Future or not, IMTA certainlyoffers fish  for thought.

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