The Vast Void Between Demand and Sustainability

GLOBE - The President of SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, Karl Andreas Alms, crouches over his laptop, opens one of his presentations and finds an illustration.

It shows one red curve and one blue one. He then indicates the point where they meet each other, then frowns and says the message he cannot repeat often enough: There is a huge gap between world demand for fish and what we can harvest from the world’s natural stocks. The figures are clear: If we don’t do something about the over fishing, the stocks of wild fish will be dealt a death blow, reports Science Daily, from materials provided by SINTEF.

At the same time, the world’s population continues to grow – and with it the global demand for food.

“On a global basis today, we have an average annual consumption of 15-16 kilos of fish per person,” says Almås. “If we are going to continue consuming at this rate, we need to double the production of farmed fish within the next 20 years. Doing this in a sustainable manner will be a major challenge.”

Balancing act

As well as expressing his concern, the president is also optimistic. As the head of Europe’s largest research institution for fisheries and aquaculture technology, he knows more than most about the conditions in the sea and how this can be achieved.

According to Almås, there are two main parts to the work towards sustainable aquaculture, but they are closely connected:

One is to develop technology for more selective and gentle capture of species in the sea to enable natural growth in the stocks and only capture the quality we actually want. This must also occur without the fishing fleet using large energy consumption.

The other is to increase the efficiency of the aquaculture sector. The president’s figures show that the difference between fish production in 1980 and that which we will require in 2030 is a full 60 – 70 million tonnes of farmed fish. This means among other things we must stop using fish as feed for farmed fish. Fish caught at sea must be human food. Therefore, we need to find feed alternatives that can be captured lower in the food chain. Plant oils and proteins may be utilised as ingredients for feed in the aquaculture industry, and this is an area some research scientists are working on. Another alternative is to convert natural gas to bio proteins, so-called single-cell proteins.

Last, but by no means least, we need to succeed in finding some new species of farmed fish and develop technology that enables a smarter and more cost-effective production of the fish species we are already farming.

If Almås achieves his visions of technological development and knowledge transfer, there will be few quiet days for he and his colleagues at SINTEF SeaLab at Brattørkaia in Trondheim Harbour. However, they are already well on the way to finding solutions for the challenges.

Ellen Hardy

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