Costs and benefits of innovative Eco-sustainable aquaculture practices

Authors: Cornelia Kreiß & Simone Brüning

The latest GAIN project developments on the impacts of eco-intensification innovations, found that novel feeds with commercially available emerging ingredients, could lead to farm profitability losses in most cases. This was especially true for diets combining different emerging ingredients, and in diets with smaller amounts of processed animal proteins (PAP) in addition to these new ingredients.

The most pronounced losses were found for seabream production. This was partly due to the decreased feed conversion rates when using novel feeds. The already high feed costs per kg of fish produced, when compared with trout and salmon, was also a factor in profitability losses. PAP feeds, however, were more promising from an economic point of view, especially for Atlantic salmon production.

What would you pay for high quality produced fish originating from European waters GAIN aims to work on eco-intensified production for seabream and salmon amongst others?

These results illustrate the demand for more affordable alternative ingredients, such as the upcoming GAIN-developed by-products. Consumer willingness-to-pay for more sustainable grown fish might also play a significant role in order for producers to stay profitable or to reach break-even.

Salmon farm in Norway.

Room for improvement was also identified for the valorisation of fish and shellfish by-products, especially for species with lower production volume and market-share of processed products, such as carp. The costs and benefits of the next generation of novel GAIN feeds, focused in adding value to by-products and side streams will be addressed in the upcoming work within the project.

Carp – King of Christmas or National Treasure?

By: Remigiusz Panicz

Poland is the biggest carp producer in Europe, and it is expected that in 2019 production will rise up to 21 000 tonnes. Based on available data carp sales increase every year, but without a doubt the peak is observed a week or two preceding the Christmas period.

Carp ZUT

More than half of Poles declare their willingness to purchase carp during this period. Remarkable is also the fact that during Christmas Poles consume as much as 90% of the annual fish consumption. Such situation is unique in the World. In Polish tradition, carp is a fish that reigns on Christmas tables, although other species also appear on it (e.g. herring, salmon, trout, lean fish).

Consumers value carp meat for its taste and aroma, but we should bear in mind that carp meat has also a high nutritional value. It’s a source of wholesome and easily digestible protein, health-promoting fat (essential fatty acids), vitamins and minerals. Sales are dominated by carps in live form or as carcasses, and increasingly as chunks or fillets.

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However, growing consumer awareness and the systematically increasing pace of life forces producers to search for new processing methods and to create more attractive products. Thanks to this, soon carp will be present in stores throughout the year. To overcome this challenge, Polish carp farmers will have to intensify and modernize production methods.

One solution could be combining traditional breeding in ground ponds with closed aquaculture systems. This system is currently being tested by the ZUT team together with other GAIN project partners. In addition to the breeding aspects, shortening the production cycle, supported by precision aquaculture (use of sensors, biomarkers, Big Data, IoT), the assessment of turning both by-products and side-streams into valuable secondary materials – while increasing profits and minimizing the environmental footprint – becomes crucial.

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There are several hundred carp-producing farms in Poland, which cover over 80 000 hectares of pond area. The fish farming sector employs over 5 000 people, with approx. 3 000 directly in carp farming. These farms may be interested in solutions developed in GAIN, especially those considering water availability reduction due to climate change.

Ponds are also a natural habitat for various birds, mammals and other animal species, which contribute to improving the environmental biodiversity and its attractiveness for tourism. Ponds are also important in water management – thanks to water retention they improve water balance in our country.

All of these aspects are a testament to carp being not only a King of Christmas but a National Treasure as well!

SZCZECIN LAGOON

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)!

Kreiss_Troutfarmer

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!