Offshore Mariculture 2017, day one roundup

Day 1 Round Up Day 1 Round Up

Here are the highlights from day one of the conference presentations, including sessions on developments and nutrition.

Over the horizon

There’s no mistaking the passion for this business among those taking part in Offshore Mariculture at Ensenada in Mexico, a part of the world where this approach to farming the world’s seafood has already made an impact. According to those in the industry, the future lies offshore, where environmental impacts are minimal and cages can be submerged to allow them to weather the worst weather that can be thrown at them.

Shifting aquaculture offshore ticks all the right boxes in terms of efficiency and environment – but there are still barriers.

“Aquaculture must still up its game,” commented the FAO’s Árni Mathiesen, speaking via a video link to participants in Ensenada at the opening session, commenting on recent developments in the industry. “This is a modern industry and there's still much to learn. Sub-Saharan Africa needs more fish. Investment and capacity are needed.”

He warned that the sector must avoid producing products that are not as nutritious as wild-caught fish. According to Neil Sims, offshore mariculture is pushing the boundaries – quite literally pushing them over the horizon.

“The industry needs to show investors success and scale. Offshore aquaculture works - and works really well. It has improved performance, excellent parasite control, minimal environmental impact,” he added, commenting that less stressed fish in better health are all great for the bottom line.

Potential

Totoaba has huge potential, raised at a remote location in the Sea of Cortez by Earth Ocean Farms, which supplies it to the domestic market. As an endangered species, it cannot be exported unless a CITES permit is obtained for it –which would open it to the Asian market.

Yellowtail is an increasingly important species for mariculture, in demand for sashimi, and it’s one of the high-value species poised for a breakthrough as one of the big cultured species. Baja Sea raises yellowtail, going from a standing start to proof of its concept in just two years.

Baja Aqua Farms works with wild-caught bluefin caught by its purse seiners, which is them raised in its cages not far from Ensenada. The company has built itself a significant presence, with a rolling programme of production, as well as seasonal frozen production with a Japanese vessel chartered to take its fish direct to the Japanese market.

Maya Fish has established itself on the eastern side of Mexico, coping with the challenges of offshore mariculture in the Gulf of Mexico to raise red drum for the US market with production encompassing all stages of the process from hatchery to fattening in deep water and processing.

Nutrition

Introduced as “The largest walking nutrition database alive,” Albert Tacon of Aquatic Farms ltd delved into the industry’s background, detailing the origins of feeds with trash fish that quickly developed to formulated feeds.

“Producing one day's feed is easy – 365 days of constant quality is a different matter,” he added, commenting that producing feed in volume and to constant standards is the challenge.

“The problem is not today – the problem is tomorrow,” he said.

According to Allen Davis, the future is in soya, commenting that with a world availability of 6.7 million tonnes of fishmeal, compared to a global production of 270 million tonnes of soya, there is no doubt where the future lies.

Alejandro Buentello added further that there is every reason for producers to switch for feeding their cages with baitfish and switching to formulated feeds, as this is 1.7 times more economical than baitfish, available throughout the year, prevents pathogen activation.

"A formulated diet is better for the environment, nutritionally dense, sustainable, more efficient – and more cost-effective", he finally added.

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