Aquaculture for all

Saving the Environment with 'Fish for Trees'

Nutrition Water quality Food safety & handling +5 more

BRADENTON, US - More than 50 per cent of the fish consumed in the U.S. is produced in fish farms, and yet most Americans are oblivious to the wide gap in social and environmental principles practiced by the world's aquafarmers.

Regal Springs Tilapia, the world's largest aquafarmer, has been making a difference in painfully poor Honduras, Indonesia and now Mexico by giving villagers tools to save the environment and save themselves.

To date, $500,000 has been returned to these communities for re-investment in schools and community-owned fish farms through a program dubbed "Fish for Trees." It aims to transition villagers from tree cutters to fish growers, in an effort to save the environments of Indonesia, a country that has lost 72 percent of its original forest, and Honduras, which has lost 37 percent of its forest.

Now people of all ages plant tree saplings to reverse brutal deforestation in these two countries where the villagers earn less than $4,000 annually.

Additionally, Regal Springs is a trendsetter for environmental standards. It practices quality control by analyzing its crop in on-site labs, feeds the tilapia organic grain and uses reprocessed fish oils for bio-diesel fuels to run company vehicles.

"It's gratifying to be part of a company that takes its environmental and social responsibilities seriously," says Freek Huskens, who heads Regal Springs Indonesian operations. "We're in these communities for the long term. Their successes - whether educationally, environmentally or socially - become our successes."

Unfortunately, not every aquafarmer takes such care. The result is often fish farmed in waterways contaminated by industrial waste, sewage and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. Fish absorb chemicals from these uninhabitable waters, which in turn can cause serious health risks. This is why Regal Springs is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to set standards for tilapia farming.

In January 2009, the World Wildlife Fund unveiled plans for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, a third-party group that will audit and certify fish farms that meet stringent requirements.

Until these standards are enacted worldwide, which is expected this year, consumers need to be wise and purchase tilapia and other seafood produced only by fisheries committed to the industry's best practices.

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