Women in aquaculture

By: Caitlin Stockwell

I am Caitlin, a Californian living in Canada studying salmon aquaculture at Dalhousie University. Some of the questions I get asked all the time is “why did you leave California?” and “why come to Canada?” And the answer is simple: my education.

Canada is one of the top producers in salmon in the world, and a large percentage of exported salmon is farm raised. So, what better place to study aquaculture than in Canada? It seems like a simple solution, but how could I be successful in a field mainly dominated by men?

Email after email, I contacted professors to see if there was any availability for a new graduate student, and got no response at all, or rejections with responses of “not enough funding” or “no more space for new students”. It was discouraging, and I was about to put my efforts on hold until the following school year when I met my current advisor, Dr. Jon Grant, at a benthic ecology conference. He gave me the opportunity to follow my interests of fish behavior and apply them to an expanding field of aquaculture.

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Now two years later, I have been to two provinces performing fish behavior studies. There is always one thing I can rely on when going to a new site, all of the site workers are male. I have visited or worked at 4 different aquaculture sites in two different provinces and every site is mainly dominated by men, and I have more often than not been the only woman around. This has inspired me to continue to pursue my passion for improving fish welfare in aquaculture while at the same time continuing to push the next generation to pursue their dreams despite the societal norms.

Are we eating more fish than we know?

by: Andre Lopes

The GAIN project found that some of the most popular seafood in Europe have a higher consumption than reported in official statistics. The report, based on seafood consumption data from previous work and from retail sources was focused on ten European countries and a large number of seafood products.

In addition to demand data, new supply statistics were considered to include other sources of seafood, which include subsistence and illegal fishing. This showed that for cod, salmon, or tuna, consumption may be much higher than previously estimated.

The report states that salmon, the most consumed farmed aquatic product in the EU, has a consumption of 2.21 kg per capita, significantly higher than the 1.30 kg per capita estimates based on supply data. This means that each European consumer eats almost one extra kg each year of salmon unaccounted for in official statistics.

Similar numbers were determined for tuna, cod, trout, and other common fish products. Total consumption of seafood in Europe can be as much as 4.3 kg per capita for farmed products and 8.9 kg per capita for wild-caught products. This means that as much as one million metric tons per year of seafood can end up on consumers’ plates without ever being recorded in official statistics.

By the way, how much is the fish?*

By Cornelia Kreiss:

To produce a good seafood product according to ecological, welfare and human health aspects we also have to consider the economic side of the coin. The use of sustainable alternative feed, close monitoring of the production conditions or the valorisation of side-stream products is beneficial for a more sustainable production, but will also come at a cost. How high is this cost? Which production benefit or who (the consumer?) will compensate for these costs? What about the whole sector impact?

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These are very important questions for farmers and the seafood industry in general, which we seek to answer within GAIN. In order to do this on farm-scale we use a so-called “typical farm approach” implemented by the agri benchmark network headed by the Thünen Institute in Germany. This is a micro-economic tool which allows to portray the typical production of a farmed species according to real costs, techniques and other inputs: all of it in great detail. In the end we can estimate, which market returns per kg fish should be achieved in order to stay (as) profitable (as before)!

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Sustainable production methods themselves already benefit the farmer, resulting in better quality fish that needs less feed to grow to the same size, or achieving higher water quality which might also allow for higher stocking densities. However, such benefits do not always outweigh the full costs that adaptations towards sustainable production might involve. As long as follow-up costs of environmental impacts are not part of the market price (which is admittedly not an easy task to determine!), price differences are at the expense of sustainable products and need a transparent justification.

Originating from Germany, where public awareness and willingness to pay for more sustainable seafood products is higher than in other countries, I am convinced that a good market transparency is the way forward and I am excited to be part of this aim in combination with more sustainable seafood production within GAIN.

*The fish bought by the electro trashers band “Scooter” in the 1990’s and being the name giver for their song “How much is the fish”, cost 3.80 Deutsche Mark and supposedly lived for at least 18 years, which seems to be a quite good deal!

Women in Aquaculture Science

By Jessica Petereit

Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m currently working as a PhD student in Aquaculture at the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven.

During my Master thesis on marine biodiversity and conservation, I realized that the increasing world population couldn’t be sustainably feed by wild caught fish alone, which sparked my motivation to give my contribution to the field of sustainable seafood production.

Feeling the urge to work in an area where I can actually contribute to move forward to more sustainable outcomes, I started looking for job postings in aquaculture and was lucky to be accepted in the GAIN project.

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Preparing eppendorfs in the lab at AWI.

I know from colleagues in other institutes that aquaculture research and production is mostly male-dominated. Despite this fact, from my experience at AWI we are equally distributed in the aquaculture science department. Even though the experimental facilities lack the presence of women completely (so far!) I’ve never felt uncomfortable.

Despite this, many women in the field work in supporting the hands-on work before experiments start, therefore seeing women, even though they are not directly employed in the facility, is not uncommon.

I helped with the set-up of all my tanks for the experiment, built tubes and ventilation systems mostly on my own and was responsible when the fish arrived. All staff members were very helpful and patient, despite my short experience with aquaculture at that stage.

From my experience I don’t think women will have any problems in aquaculture science in Germany as long as they do not mind to catch and sample fish, maintain and clean tanks or to get dirty while building new tank equipment.

Beer from oysters

By: Joshua Kyle

Walled City Brewery is an independent brewery in Londonderry which prides itself in providing patrons with a ’taste of the North West‘ by crafting local, authentic, premium quality, flavoursome beer and food. Inspired by Guinness’ suggested serving of oysters with stout, the challenge was laid down to the brewers to develop a beer using local Lough Foyle oysters and so Foyster Stout was born.

As with all great challenges, research was needed before jumping into the beer-making by looking to other breweries such as Maine’s ’Out-To-Sea‘ imperial stout in the USA or Dublin’s own Porterhouse’s beer, ’Oyster Stout‘.

A sustainably sourced supply of oysters was required for the beer and that’s why we selected the Lough Foyle Irish Flat oyster—the Loughs Agency, operated jointly by Ireland and Northern Ireland, has worked extensively on this species, as have members of the GAIN team. The oysters were sourced from licensed farmers—it is vital for us and for our customers that we use the best ingredients from sustainable suppliers.

The use of the oyster had a dual purpose in the brewing process. Firstly, the flesh was used in the mashing process which extracts natural sugars—the flesh gives a fantastic marine essence to these sugars. Secondly, the shells contain a high amount of calcium carbonate which is used as clarifying agent of the beer. This ensures every part of the oyster is used and nothing is wasted.

The Walled City Brewery launched the beer on 12th October, 2019 which was widely well received. It will be going on sale as a seasonal beer and Foyster Stout will be available in selected bars and restaurants in the city. We’re grateful to the Loughs Agency for their support in our development of this new beer which will help raise awareness for the Flat Oyster.

The Future of Aquaculture

By: Remigiusz Panicz

The Future of aquaculture’ was the overarching motif of the international conference held in Kudowa Zdrój, Poland between 25 and 27 September of 2019. Fish farmers, scientists and other stakeholders had a unique opportunity to participate in the science-grounded lectures and follow-up discussions both devoted to the aspects and problems of the aquaculture sector

Among these current and future concerns, are animal welfare, the diversification of aquaculture, certification models, climate change and diseases risk. GAIN’s partners Remigiusz Panicz, Jacek Sadowski and Piotr Eljasik, from ZUT introduced participants of the conference to the GAIN project, its objectives and provided its vision on common carp eco-intensification.

 

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This species, whose culture has a long tradition in Poland, currently struggles due to numerous factors: water scarcity, unfavorable policy, and market uptake. The freshwater farmed fish sector seeks for viable solutions to keep carp farming on a profitable level.

During the conference an interesting voice was raised regarding precision aquaculture: a direction which is unavoidable in order to cope with the aforementioned factors. Aspects of macroalgae culture in Polish coastline waters was also presented and discussed: this interesting idea is developing into a new project being launched in Poland this year.

Numerous aspects of circular economy in the Polish aquaculture sector were also raised and discussed openly: energy efficiency, regulations, and management of by-products and waste streams, and pertinent questions related to carp meat supply throughout the whole year.

The eco-intensification and precision aquaculture work developed in GAIN, coordinated with the efforts of stakeholders, might bring solutions for the future of carp farming in Poland.

The day of a fish

By Caitlin Stockwell:

Have you ever wondered what the day of a fish looks like? Or what leads to their decision making? Well I have always been curious, and I turned that curiosity into a career path.

I am a PhD student at Dalhousie University studying fish behavior in aquaculture using acoustics. Now what does that actually mean? There are many ways to study fish behavior from putting tags into a fish and tracking an individual’s movement, to using sound to track an entire populations movement. I use both in my research to help understand different aspects of where fish swim and why.

 

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To make a complicated technology simple, I use acoustics (sounds in the water) to send a sound signal up into the cage and, depending what type of sound is returned, will determine the amount of fish and their location in the cage. This information can be extremely useful to fish farmers as it can help them determine when to start and stop feeding, as well as how their fish respond to other environmental conditions (such as storms or harmful algae blooms).

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The aim of studying fish movement is to help farmers better understand their fish and assist them in mitigating any stress that could impact the fish’s well-being. By providing this information, we can help make happier, healthier fish to help feed our growing population.