Fish farming is still the future

Conference day one
Alessandro Lovatelli, aquaculture officer, FAO, sets the scene at the Offshore Mariculture Conference 2014
Fish farm visit
Delegates visited the P2G fish farm on the final day of the Offshore Mariculture Conference 2014
Industry Database

The key theme to emerge from the Offshore Mariculture Conference 2014 was that aquaculture is still the future.

As conference chairman, Alessandro Lovatelli, aquaculture officer at the FAO, stated, “the maximum sustainable potential from wild capture fisheries has been reached, but aquaculture is growing”.

The 5th Offshore Mariculture Conference, held from the 9-11 April, attracted over 100 delegates from 18 different countries to Caserta, Naples.

Alessandro set the scene for this year’s conference, and said that to keep up with food consumption and the growing population, we need more fish for protein. It is predicted that the world population will grow to over 9 billion by 2050. Fish farms are expected to produce nearly two-thirds of global food fish supply by 2030, and the rise in seafood demand gives countries the opportunity to expand and improve responsible fish and shellfish farming practices, with increased focus on offshore mariculture.

Currently Asia is the only continent producing more fish than capture fisheries (54%), and, geographically, tilapia is the most widespread species for aquaculture production in the world.

The two day technical conference was opened by Pier Antonio Salvador, president of the Associazione Piscicoltori Italiani (API), who welcomed delegates to Naples and set the scene for the three keynote papers presented by José Aguilar-Manjarrez, Aquaculture Officer, FIRA and FAO, Paul Holthus founding President/CEO, World Ocean Council and Kathrine Hawes, principal at Aquarius Lawyers.

Offshore opportunity
José opened up the debate on spatial planning, an important tool in helping both public administrations and investors, in identifying and allocating the most appropriate areas for future aquaculture. He also made the point that we are running out of land, and there is increased pressure on freshwater resources. He said that the opportunity lies offshore, but many countries that have a coast are not practicing offshore mariculture.  Paul covered international ocean policy developments and offshore aquaculture – global and regional actions affecting the future of business. Finally, Katherine gave a lively presentation on the legal aspects of offshore mariculture.

A series of presentations followed, that concentrated on technological developments - most noticeably in cage design - and the interest in the Q&A session demonstrated the need for such developments to take place in order for the industry to be able to move further offshore.

The first day concluded with presentations updating delegates on the success and challenges of projects last discussed or nurtured from the 2012 conference in Izmir, Turkey. In particular Toby Baxendale, UK entrepreneur, discussed the successful partnership between himself and Neil Sims and Kampachi Farms. Delegates learned from their first-hand experience how to launch a viable mariculture project and how to seek investment.

The conference dinner was held on the first evening at the Historia Massa Restaurant, Caserta. All participants were keen to stay until the end to make the most of the excellent food at the early 19th Century historic restaurant, a popular eatery in Caserta old town, which provided further opportunity for networking and to discuss the day’s topical issues.

Fear mongering
The second day began with a presentation delivered by Neil Sims, who presented his paper on water quality monitoring via telephone from Hawaii. He gave delegates an outline of the Ocean Stewards Institute's white paper on water quality monitoring and the available science on water quality impacts around open ocean mariculture sites. He made the point that "fear mongering", mainly by NGOs badly affects the public's perception of aquaculture.

Mr Sims was followed by a presentation from Benen Dallaghan, who gave an interesting presentation on an organic salmon farming project in Galway Bay. Benen is responsible for GIS at BIM (Irish Sea Fisheries Board) and he explained to delegates the use of GIS as part of the site selection process for the proposed farm.

Yngvar Olesen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, discussed how feed supplies can be produced for an expanding aquaculture industry in the future. In his concluding remarks he noted that it is likely to be the industrial biotechnology companies that will produce the feed resources in 2040, and that the feed companies will likely continue to develop and optimise feed formulation. He also asked the question, will biotechnological companies take over feed producers, or will it be the opposite?

The afternoon session featured several speakers involved in renewable 'blue' energy. The interesting concept of multi-use platforms, and preliminary project results were presented, and research into Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) was also discussed.

The final presentations from Darko Lisac, Refa Med Italy, and Alessandro Galioto from Azienda Ittica San Giorgio, respectively gave an insight into the application of modern netting materials in offshore cages, and a case study on the Gaeta fish farm. A video of the farm in operation whetted delegates’ appetites in preparation for the technical visit to the P2G fish farm on the third and final day of the conference.

To conclude the conference, Marianne Rasmussen-Coulling, events director at Mercator Media, announced that plans are already being made for the Offshore Mariculture Conference 2015 that is due to take place in Mexico in June.

The visit to the P2G fish farm saw delegates heading out to sea to view the farm's core business; the intensive farming of sea bass, sea bream and meagre. Delegates had the opportunity to see the 72 floating cages where 2,000 tonnes of the three farmed species are produced, from fry purchased from qualified and certified hatcheries. Each batch of product produced at P2G can be fully traced and identified throughout the whole value chain through software which allows real time information on batch number, quantity, feed, farming days, temperature, etc.

After the visit to the cages and a boat tour, P2G hosted a fantastic seafood lunch in Gaeta, with a speech from the Mayor of Gaeta welcoming delegates to the town.

More information on the 6th Offshore Mariculture Conference will be announced soon.


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