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'Holistic 'Aquaculture On TV Tonight

by Ellen Hardy
24 April 2008, at 1:00am

CANADA - A ground-breaking project by Dr Thierry Chopin of the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and Dr Shawn Robinson of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St Andrews, is about to be featured on TV.

The innovative Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) project will be part of National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth series, which charts and investigates the global impacts of changing food production and sustainability issues. The project will feature in tonight's 'Dangerous Catch' episode. The programme investigates the effects of over-fishing and the potential of environmentally responsible aquaculture practices.

Dr Chopin and Dr Robinson are working with the salmon industry in New Brunswick to encourage the creation of 'whole ecosystem' farms. The system involves multiple marketable species instead of just producing a single species of fish/seafood.

This integrate approach is more holistic, although not new. The idea stems back to ancient China where such aquaculture techniques where common place.

“What we are doing is relatively simple with salmon, mussels and seaweeds. We will make it a little more complicated with sea cucumbers, sea urchins, worms and all these things. But really, it’s nothing more than recreating a balanced ecosystem, with species selected for their environmental functions and their commercial value, explains Dr Chopin.

Evaluating Change

And this process has added benefits as farming filter-feeding shellfish alongside salmon not only significantly reduces nutrients released from the fish pens, but also the possibility of virulent diseases like infectious salmon anemia.

Reports from Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, suggest the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, can consume and inactivate the anemia virus with no ill effects to edibility of this shellfish. The programme also looks at off-shore fish farming in Puerto Rico and evaluates the gloable benefits and impacts of this type of aquaculture

The programme's creators say that aquaculture still has a lot to learn and both scientific development and effective regulation have lagged behind booming entrepreneurship. Further progress will require innovation from all directions if the sector is to remain sustainable.

 

'Dangerous Catch' airs this evening in North America.  For more information go to www.pbs.org/strangedays.

Ellen Hardy