As we headed into the auditorium for the main event, I heard the woman express her skepticism. “I hear the word ‘aquaculture’ and immediately have a negative reaction,” she said. “It’s tough to associate aquaculture with sustainability. But I recognize we need solutions.” The event was hosted by the Science for Nature and People Partnership at the California Academy of Sciences and featured notable speakers on sustainable aquaculture. Paul Greenberg, the author of the popular books Four Fish and American Catch, headlined the event.
Audience members listened to speakers articulate how we could produce fish and other seafood in a way that met the needs of a growing global population while not depleting wild fisheries. The SNAPP working group on sustainable aquaculture is examining open water aquaculture as a sustainable option. Speakers, including the working group’s Principal Investigator and SNAPP Board member Ben Halpern, outlined possible ways that fish can be raised offshore with small footprints and little impact on tourism, subsistence or recreational fishing or wild fish populations. At the same time, the expert panel acknowledged that there is much we don’t know about the environmental impacts of offshore aquaculture. Speakers also described work underway to develop high-protein vegetarian fish feed, so aquaculture doesn’t have to involve feeding fish to fish.
As Greenberg said, “The predominant model of fisheries has been to delete and replace. When one fishery is gone, we move on to the next. How can we have aquaculture that keeps the ocean intact? We need an aquaculture that can take us from ‘delete and replace’ to ‘restore and augment.’”
Many in the audience mentioned to me afterward that the event had influenced their thinking – seeing that aquaculture is a part of our future, and scientists and conservationists can play a vital role in shaping whether it is a damaging industry or one that restores and augments the ocean.
This is the kind of tough issue that the SNAPP model of interdisciplinary expert teams addresses. It is a model based in science but it is aimed at real-world solutions, helping people lead healthy and productive lives in concert with nature.
I am always inspired when our supporters and friends take the time to share their thoughts on SNAPP’s work – because much of this work affects you and our world. I’d appreciate your questions, comments and even skepticism. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this update of SNAPP’s work for a more sustainable future.
SNAPP Executive Director