These days the number of fish farms has risen considerably. However, if early on aquaculture seemed to offer a good solution to limit the abuse of resources and to satisfy an ever increasing demand for fish, today some of its critical points should not be underestimated. Let's have a look at a few successful fish farms that are dedicated to reduce their impact in production.
This very topic will be discussed at length at the Water Workshop "Allevato, si ma come?" (Aquaculture... yes, but which kind?) at 6 pm, Saturday, 28th May 2011, where the new consumer guide of the Mangiamoli Giusti series on aquaculture will be presented.
After a promising debut, just when aquaculture seemed to be a good solution to satisfy the increasing demand for seafood products, this kind of farming began to show its dark side. Aquaculture, or rather the sea-water farming of fish, mollusks, algae or crustaceans occupies a large part of the food market. In fact, the latest FAO report, namely The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010, reports that 45% supply of the world's seafood supply comes from fish-farming systems.
The Impact of Fish Farms
While impact on the environment varies greatly according to the type of animal being farmed and the relevant systems employed, there are certain critical elements common to all cases. The biggest and often most frequent problem is that the farmed species are fed with flour mixtures, the production of which relies heavily on non-farmed fish, which, in turn, creates a problem for fish stocks at sea. There are only a few cases in which one kilo of farm-raised fish is produced from one kilo of wild fish once it is fished, processed and transformed, hence a ratio of 1:1. Generally the ratio is higher, as in the case of salmon farming, for example, at 1:5, or even 1: 22.
Another aspect to be considered is the fact that many fish inevitably escape from their containments on the farms. This aspect is virtually unavoidable and dangerous as it forces the farm-raised fish to compete with wild fish and inevitably weakens their genetic makeup. Also not to be overlooked is the modification of natural habitats caused by farming systems not only due to fugitive fish but also as the natural ecosystems are disturbed or, worse yet, destroyed. A good example of this type of destruction can be seen in the mangrove forests in the south-east Asia, which are being destroyed to make room for intensive shrimp farming.
Non va trascurata, inoltre, la fuga di animali dai sistemi di allevamento, una situazione quasi impossibile da evitare e pericolosa perché porta gli esemplari d'allevamento a competere con quelli selvatici, impoverendone il corredo genetico. Da non tralasciare, infine, la modificazione degli habitat naturali causata dai sistemi di allevamento, sia perché gli esemplari che sfuggono ai sistemi di contenimento possono contribuire al sovrasfruttamento delle risorse, sia perché per far spazio agli allevamenti spesso gli ecosistemi vengono devastati, come accaduto alle foreste di mangrovie del Sudest asiatico, rimpiazzate dagli allevamenti intensivi di gamberi.
And yet there are realities in which these problems have been addressed, and attempts are being made to find new ways to resolve them, whether in part or in full. For example, the issue of fish feed and the pressure it puts on fish stocks can be resolved by raising specific, primarily herbivore fish such as in the case of the Tinca of Ceresole, a Slow Food Presidia.
Solutions to alleviate the pressure on stocks can be found in non-herbivore fish, without force feeding them to increase the growth rates, as done at the Fonda sea bass farm in Slovenia. Another good example is the trout farm called Biotrotadolomiti, which raises trout at 1,000 meters in natural, alpine habitats, without the use of disinfectants or antibiotic feed, with respect for the normal growth periods and other aspects that contribute to the animals well-being and that of the ecosystem in which it is raised.
The problem with residues and pollutants can be dealt with by increasing the number of times the water is changed, as done at the fish farms of Aqua in Liguria. At Aqua attention is placed on the quality of the fish feed and the water, which is not cooled - often the water in fish farms is warmer than the surrounding waters, which causes further imbalances of the ecosystem - and is frequently changed (200 times a day) within the cages.
In addition to the farming practices, it is important to keep in mind the various other steps in the food chain that contribute to guarantee a quality product. The producers at Agritrutta, for instance, apply high standards regarding animal well-being and are committed to maintaining a short production chain. Not only do they closely track the steps taken from producer to consumer, but they also consider the freshness of the product to be an important factor. After all, oday's society should not create stock or increase its warehouse stock of fish, but should fish fresh trout according to the orders it receives.
translation by Carmen Wallace
At Slow Fish 2011
The Slow Food Tinca of Ceresole Presidia will have a booth in the Slow Fish Market 2011.
Irene Fonda, of the Fonda fish farm, and Roberto Co, of Aqua of Lavagna, will be presenting their respective products at a Taste Workshop entitled "L'acquacultura di qualità" (quality fish-farming) at 6 pm on Friday, 27 May 2011.
Agritrutta's trout can be sampled at the Taste Workshop "Il benessere della Trota" (the well-being of trout) at noon on Sunday, 29 May 2011.
Aqua di Lavagna - www.aqualavagna.it
Agritrutta - acquadolce.net
Biotrotadolomiti - www.biotrotadolomiti.com
Fonda - it.fonda.si