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Veta la Palma Fish Farm at One with Nature

by the Fish Site Editor
08 June 2009, at 1:00am

SPAIN - It is rare for a farmer to appreciate the predators that eat the animals he raises. But Miguel Medialdea is hardly an ordinary farmer, writes Lisa Abend for TIME.

Looking out on to the carpet of flamingos that covers one of the lagoons that make up Veta la Palma, the fish farm in southern Spain where he is biologist, Medialdea shrugs. "They take about 20 per cent of our annuel yield," he told TIME. "But that just shows the whole system is working."

Located on an island in the Guadalquivir river, 10 miles (16km) inland from the Atlantic, Veta la Palma produces 1,200 tonnes of sea bass, bream, red mullet and shrimp each year. Yet unlike most of the world's fish farms, it does so not by interfering with nature, but by improving upon it.

"Veta la Palma raises fish sustainably and promotes the conservation of birdlife at the same time," says Daniel Lee, best practices director for the U.S.-based Global Aquaculture Alliance. "I've never seen anything quite like it."

With wild fish stocks declining precipitously around the globe and aquaculture has emerged as perhaps the only viable way to satisfy the world's appetite for fish. But most fish farms create as many problems as they solve.

The ecologically sound practices benefit more than the farm's fish and the people who eat them. By reflooding those drained lands, Veta la Palma transformed itself not just into a fish farm, but, somewhat unwittingly, into a refuge for migrating aquatic birds as well.

the Fish Site Editor