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FAO leader calls for fundamental changes in aquaculture

Production systems Plankton

A fundamental shift in the aquaculture industry is required if we are to sustainably feed the growing global population, according to Árni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.

Mathiesen, who was giving a plenary address at the AQUA2018 conference in Montpellier, asked “what is required to make aquaculture more sustainable?”

Key to this, according to Mathiesen, is an increased focus on agroecology – a philosophy that involves transforming the means of food production by “reintroducing biological complexity into aquaculture systems, closely guided by knowledge co-creation and sharing processes that aim to maximise synergies”.

Using such a philosophy could, Mathiesen argued, help to address the chronic long term limitations faced by our current food production models.

“When we look to the future we must recognise that there are some constraints that both aquaculture and agriculture have to face up to,” he reflected.

“Due to the deteriorating state of soils, biodiversity loss, climate change etc, the sunlight driven primary production on land might be limited in the future. Therefore aquaculture cannot rely on land-based external inputs as it has done so far and will still do in the short term future.”

As a result, Mathiesen pointed out, it is now crucial to look to the oceans.

As he explained: “Since both the overall and per area primary production of the oceans is far smaller than on land the overall contribution to food and nutrition is much lower, we must look to the ocean’s vast expanse and the fantastic turnover of plankton – both bacteria as well as phyto- and zoo-plankton – to seek opportunites to utilise sun-driven primary production in the oceans.

“Doing this we must look to reposition marine aquaculture in the food pyramid and create an all-inclusive marine aquaculture, sun-driven, primary production food system for the long term future.”