Carp aquaculture in Poland: an ancient tradition established by monks (part 2)

By: Wesley Malcorps, Piotr Eljasik, Richard Newton, Jacek Sadowski and Remigiusz Panicz

After the conference it was time to go into the field and meet some of the farmers in the center and north of the country. This area of Poland is relatively flat with some hills, and large water bodies, making it an excellent habitat for carp. In late February farmers are preparing to move their fish into ‘production ponds’, which they will occupy until the next winter. At that time carps are transferred to deep (approximately 2.5m) ponds to hibernate. This cycle is repeated in the second year until the fish reach a harvesting size of 1.5 kg to 2 kg.

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The carp sector faces many challenges, such as strict regulations, predators and consumer preference for other fish. Despite that, there are also many opportunities, such as better carp processing into multiple products and  eco-intensification using novel formulated feeds. GAIN is exploring the sector to assess the impact of different innovations to support the sustainable growth of the industry: we are also looking forward to contribute and collaborate with everyone involved in the sector.

Carp aquaculture in Poland: an ancient tradition established by monks (part 1)

By: Wesley Malcorps, Piotr Eljasik, Richard Newton, Jacek Sadowski and Remigiusz Panicz

On February 17th UoS colleagues arrived in Poland to start data collection on the carp aquaculture value chain together with Polish partners from ZUT. The main goal is to gain insight into industry practices and collect value chain and life cycle assessment data from Polish carp farming value chain.

ZUT has a large network in the sector and proposed to meet the industry players at the 25th National Conference of Carp Breeders and Training for Fish Producers. This event took place between the 19th and 21st of February 2020 in Slok, a small town in the centre of Poland- this was an excellent opportunity to talk with stakeholders and introduce them to the GAIN project.

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The Polish carp sector is considered ‘extensive’: traditional, functioning in large ponds (few hectares up to a few hundred hectares) with low feed or other inputs, while also exposed to predation from birds and other wildlife – as a result, these ponds are characterized by their natural production capacity. Intensification strategies like pond fertilization and feed application (e.g. grains or formulated feeds) are uncommon. This natural and traditional way of producing carp dates back to the middle ages where monks constructed earthen ponds to provide food for the communities. Such carp farming systems are unique to Eastern Europe and produce only a small share of the global carp production.

The majority of carp is farmed in China, using different production systems, of which some are considered ‘intensive’ – with high stocking densities, pond fertilization and formulated feeds. Most of these ponds use polyculture strategies where multiple species maintain the balance in an ecosystem – waste of one species is used as a feed input for the other.

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Richard presenting on Chinese carp aquaculture, while Piotr translates in Polish.

Richard Newton substituted Wenbo Zhang (unable to travel from China due to the Coronavirus) and willingly gave the presentation while providing some interesting insights in the development of aquaculture in China and in particular the diversity in Chinese carp farming systems. Polish carp farmers were curious about it.

(end of part 1 – expect part 2 soon)

Surrounded by innovation

By: Meredith Burke and Catilin Stockwell

Over the past few decades, technological advances have completely revolutionized our society. It has influenced the way we live our lives, from the way we watch TV, to the way we conduct our scientific research. However, the aquaculture industry has fallen by the wayside. Big data, collected and distributed to our hands in the form of apps, have begun to dominate our world, so why is this not the case in one of the fastest growing industries in the world?

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Farming fish with the Atlantic Canada in the background

Atlantic Canada has recently emerged as a global leader in ocean technology, as well as playing host to one of the largest aquaculture companies in the world, Cooke Aquaculture. We have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by innovation. We are able to work side by side with the developers, as well as the consumers, to field test new technologies, and optimize their performance prior to commercialization.

However, aquaculture is still a relatively young industry, often operating in remote places, so introducing the use of technology has been difficult. Through research projects, we have been able to merge two key industry partners: ocean technology via InnovaSea, and salmon aquaculture, through Cooke, in order to improve management practices.

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Meredith’s research focuses primarily on using real-time sensors to study water quality parameters, like oxygen and temperature, to understand how they vary through a farm, and what may influence these variations. At the same time, Caitlin uses acoustic telemetry to track fish movement in order to understand fish behaviour and improve welfare management. These two projects together allow us to provide a more holistic view of fish farming to create a more sustainable industry.

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We hope that our work will help inform other aquaculture industries throughout the world, to become more innovative, improve farming practices, and ultimately create happier and healthier fish, with the ability to feed a growing population.

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.

Do we know how much fish we eat?

by: Andre Lopes

The GAIN project found that some of the most popular seafood’s in Europe appear to have a higher consumption than that reported in official statistics. The report, based on seafood demand data, 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, including subsistence and illegal fishing. This showed that for cod, salmon, or tuna, consumption may be higher than previously estimated.

We found that salmon, the most consumed farmed aquatic product in the EU, appears to have 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 appears to eat almost one extra kg each year of salmon unaccounted for in official statistics. Although an extra 900 grams of salmon eaten annually by each person only corresponds to an extra meal every two months, if this gap is scaled up to the European population the numbers are of concern.

Similar numbers were determined for tuna, cod, trout, and other common seafood products. Total consumption of seafood in Europe could be as much as 4.3 kg per capita for farmed products and 8.9 kg per capita for wild-caught products.

Taken on aggregate, the mass balance gap for aquatic products, i.e. from fisheries and aquaculture combined, means that as much as one million metric tons per year of seafood could end up on European plates without being recorded in official statistics.

The most likely reason for this substantial discrepancy between supply and demand data are flaws in the datasets—collectively, this introduces substantial uncertainties for policy outcomes. The GAIN project makes a number of suggestions for improvements in this critical area—without good data, there are no good decisions.

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 turbot blood samples.

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.

Women in aquaculture science

By Gabriella Pereira:

I started my life in aquaculture science as an intern while undertaking my undergrad ten years ago. I took my undergrad course in Aquaculture Engineering at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil, the same institution where I also took my M.Sc. degree in Aquaculture.

At that time, I was the first girl in a microbiology laboratory lead and run by men. In general, this was also normal: there were fewer female professors at the university when compared to the number of male professionals. In comparison to nowadays, this ratio in faculty staff has shifted to almost half in Brazil.

Afterwards I applied for a Science Without Borders program from the Brazilian Government and took my PhD in the UK, more specifically at the University of Plymouth. After four years my PhD´s supervisor invited me to participate as a Research Associate Post Doc in a project financed by Innovate UK. That was officially my first career position.

In the UK, during the 5 years spent there (4 years PhD and first year Post Doctorate program), I could also see a change in the female/male ratio in biology school. However, in aquaculture there are still more men as undergrad and master students, a tendency which is also transparent in early career scientists.

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Gabriella working at the lab with Pirarucu’s (Arapaima gigas) samples.

A few issues and questions have contributed to this scenario. Planning personal life is the main one. For example, the aquaculture environment where you work with live animals is difficult to plan: when is the next experiment? When will it start? Fish supply is just one key point that we could mention. The lack of opportunities and facilities focused in pregnant women or who have month-old babies is another issue. In some cases, they are unable to attend conferences or courses due to this.

In this context, an interesting contribution comes from Brazil’s curriculum vitae platform: now it’s allowed for women to add to their CV the time spent in parental leave(1) where their contribution decreases drastically due to their crucial parental role. This is a huge step forward in Brazilian academic society, due to the fact that the role of mothers, parents and caretakers is traditionally seen as non-productive time (or leisure) by society (and academic society as well). As we move towards decreasing trends in birth rates, the role of children will hopefully be better valued by society.

As a young woman and researcher working in the aquaculture sector, I believe that we have our space in several roles in the industry and academia. However, until there is still sexism (and unfortunately this includes men and women), we should debate gender equality in the Aquaculture environment. I will be the first one to keep raising this flag.