Aquatic Health, Marine Conservation

Aquaculture: A Sustainable Solution to the Global Seafood Crisis?

By: Clara Gomez

The world’s seafood stocks will have completely collapsed by the year 2050, scientists say.  According to a study done by a group of economists and ecologists, the growth of the human population combined with unsustainable fishing practices and the devastating loss of biodiversity will lead to the collapse of fish populations in the next 35 years, if trends continue on their current path.

If the idea of losing all of the world’s fish scares you as much as it scares me, then you’re wondering how we disrupt the current “trend” of unsustainable overfishing.  One option is through the use of aquaculture.  Aquaculture, also known as fish or shellfish farming refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes and the ocean.  

Although the global community is just beginning to think of aquaculture as a potential solution to the dilemma of depleted oceans, the fact is that it’s not a new practice. In fact, although historians say that the cradle of aquaculture existed in China 4,000 years ago, recent archaeological evidence (2003) suggests that the Gunditjmara tribe of Australia already had a system to raise and cultivate eels in in the southeast of the country 8,000 years ago.  The system was so efficient (after being designed as an alternative method for procuring food) that traditional practices remained stable throughout history!! Or at least not until Stephan Ludwig Jacobi appeared on the scene, at some point in the early XVIII century.

Thanks to Jacobi and his article ‘Von der künstlichen Erzeugung der Forellen und Lachse’, aquaculture became a part of mainstream science due to the success based off of his experiments in the external fertilization of trout and salmon. Not only in terms of self-sustainability, but also of commerce at an industrial level. From then on all manner of projects and investments began, and thus was born the second generation of aquaculture─ the modern aquaculture we all know today, and which is currently reinventing itself to adapt to a society increasingly aware of its impact on the environment.

Part of this shift in the way aquaculture utilized is the utilization of what’s called Integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture.  While it sounds complicated, it’s an idea that involves the raising of diverse organisms within the same farming system, where each species utilizes a distinct niche and distinct resources within the farming complex.  This allows the fish to be raised in a much more biodiverse, nature-like setting. Additionally, this system utilizes a circular economy–the idea that the waste from one product serves as nutrients for another.  So, raising plants and fish together both cuts down on cost and waste. This current of change, in conjunction with the holistic approach that Osa Conservation has in regards to conservation, is what prompted the organization to plan the future fusion between a multi-trophic aquaculture project (still in development), and its already successful sustainable agriculture program. A large number of scientific publications (many published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) support these projects, and the tropical climate of Costa Rica is perfect for local breeding of sea creatures.  What’s the harm in trying?aquaculture, circular economy

If successful, this new project of integrated, multi trophic aquaculture would be extremely beneficial in the following three areas:

Ecology:

The integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture system mimics the relationships among organisms in the natural world (not just by raising aquatic organisms and terrestrial plants together, but also by using one organism’s waste as input for others).  It also ensures both the optimal use of resources and the reduction of water pollution and eutrophication levels.

Economy:

This new and improved system of aquaculture represents a positive step towards the self-sufficiency of Osa Conservation, and as such also represents a reduction of costs in terms of food imports from San Jose. Likewise, the implementation of a new food cultivation system could mean new employment opportunities for locals.

Pedagogy:

Not only is the integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture system is easy to understand, but it has the potential  to include human waste as part of its cycle. That means that both the system’s facilities (eg tanks external fertilization, duck ponds, rice fields, etc) as food produced through it (eg shrimp species, and native fish) have potential to serve as educational material for both the local community and visitors of Osa. What better way is there to learn about aquaculture, than to see how everything works and then personally taste the final product?  Adopting a system of aquaculture in the Osa will allow OC to expand upon its teaching capacity and further embody its own standards of sustainability.  

 

Sources

1.“Aborigines may have farmed eels, built huts” ABC Science Australia:http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s806276.htm

2.“Analysis of the Aquaculture Market in the Costa Rican Metropolitan Area. Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (2010): https://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-121410-115309/unrestricted/Analysis_of_the_Aquaculture_Market_in_the_Costa_Rican_Metropolitan_Area.pdf

  1. “At a Crossroads: Will Aquaculture Fulfill thePromise of the Blue Revolution?” (SeaWeb Aquaculture Clearinghouse report, PDF): http://www.seaweb.org/resources/documents/reports_crossroads.pdf
  2. “Biomass Accumulation and Water Purification of Water Spinach Planted on Water Surface by Floating Beds for Treating Biogas Slurry”Journal of Environmental Protection (2013, PDF): http://file.scirp.org/pdf/JEP_2013111911133739.pdf

5.“Contribución de la pesca y la acuicultura a la seguridad alimentaria y el ingreso familiar en Centroamérica” Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación — FAO  (2014,PDF): http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3757s.pdf

6.“Culture of Fish in Rice Fields” (FAO, WorldFish Center. 2014) PDF:http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/a0823e/a0823e.pdf

7.“History of Agriculture” FAO Corporate Document Repository. http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/009/ag158e/AG158E01.htm

  1. FAO “Animal-Fish Systems: Integrated Fish-duck farming”

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/Y1187E/y1187e14.htm

9.“Food from the sea. Remarkable results of the experiments in cod and lobster,(Pittsburgh Dispatch. aquaculture, 1890): https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3798097/food_from_the_sea_remarkable_results/

  1. Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture: What it is, and why you should care…..

and don’t confuse it with polyculture. (2006, PDF): http://www2.unb.ca/chopinlab/articles/files/Northern%20Aquaculture%20IMTA%20July%2006.pdf

11.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Atmenistration (NOAA): http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/what_is_aquaculture.html

  1. All Seafood Will Run Out in 2050, scientists Say (Charles Clover, 2006)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1533125/All-seafood-will-run-out-in-2050-say-scientists.html

Miscellaneous

Mango Time! A story of natural and human history

By Andrea Johnson

A mango tree in the Osa

Mango season arrived for Osa Conservation in June. The trees at Greg Gund Conservation Center have been dropping their luscious fruits for several weeks now in a display of bounty almost reckless to those of us from northern climes who grew up with scarce and pricey supermarket exemplars.

Sometimes the mangoes drop unprompted, perhaps with a light push from the breeze. Often they fall half-eaten and accompanied by a telltale rustle of leaves as white-faced capuchins (Cebus capuchinus) take their pick of the crop, or flocks of red-lored parrots (Amazona autumnalis) and chestnut-mandibled toucans (Ramphastos swainsonii) descend for another feast. Best for those of us consigned to wait below, every new rainstorm (for the rainy season has arrived as well) also brings a rain of whole, perfect fruits.

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Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Ensuring Permanent Protection of Osa

Alex Henríquez (General Manager or Trust of Banco Nacional de Costa Rica), Ana Lorena Guevara (Vice Minister of Environment), Carlos M. Rodriguez (Representative, Conservation International), Manuel Ramirez (Executive Director, Osa Conservation)

In a historic moment for conservation in Costa Rica, Osa Conservation (OC) and Conservation International (CI) signed the world’s first public-private Biodiversity Trust Fund in San Jose, Costa Rica on August 8TH.  Both OC and CI each contributed $500,000 to the Fund, which was matched with a $1 million contribution from the Costa Rican government through FONAFIFO, establishing an initial Trust Fund of $2 million to protect private lands in the Osa Peninsula, where Osa Conservation works.  The Biodiversity Fund has matching commitments from the German Cooperation Agency (KFI) and the World Bank, with the goal of increasing the Fund to $25 million in five years.  This national fund serves as a model for collaboration between governments, private organizations and citizens working together to protect lands that have a high level of biodiversity under threat of disappearing.

Most public protected area systems around the world are too small or isolated to functionally sustain broader ecosystems.  Typically, protected areas lose large predators first, setting off a series of cascading ecological effects that degrades the ecosystem. The linking of national parks, reserves and private protected areas is integral to the creation of biological corridors that can mitigate this effect.  In recognition of this, in 1996 Costa Rica created FONAFIFO, the National Forestry Financing Fund, to support public-private partnerships for forest conservation. Each year, FONAFIFO provides financial incentives to private land owners who maintain their forests through the well-known payments for environmental services program.

However, FONAFIFO identified the need for an addition to this system—a maintenance compensation scheme that will provide financing to permanently endow the long term protection of private lands, significantly adding to the conservation value of public lands, such as Osa’s Corcovado and Piedras Blancas National Parks.  OC’s new Executive Director, Manuel Ramirez, was directly involved in the establishment of the fund.

It is our hope that this trust will continue to be expanded for the benefit of all of the biological wealth in the Osa Peninsula!

Environmental Education, Miscellaneous

Osa Peninsula Butterfly Workshop

This August 16-19, La Leona Lodge organized a workshop about frugivorous (that means fruit-eating) butterflies with entomologist and curator of Lepidoptera, José Montero of INBio (National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica). This workshop was attended by several people in the area, including naturalist guides and employees of La Leona Lodge. José taught us about the methodology that he has been using in different parts of the country with great success for several years and now La Leona Lodge has begun to use, in order to generate information about butterflies of the Osa Peninsula.

Frugivorous butterfly trap on the Osa Peninsula

Frugivorous Butterfly Trap

The methodology used by José consists of traps that are placed in the canopy and the understory that attract butterflies with fermented fruit. Fruit is placed in these traps during the first week of each month. All butterflies captured during this period are identified, which gives a pretty good idea of the species richness in both strata of the forest, if sampling is performed at adequate intervals.

Jose shared with us some of his vast knowledge of frugivorous butterflies of Costa Rica, which, he tells us, make up between 40-50% of all Costa Rican butterfly species. He also told us how the species richness of frugivorous butterflies has greater variation vertically than horizontally; i.e. there is a greater difference between the canopy and the understory of the same site, than there is between different sites at similar heights.

Not content to talk only about butterflies, José also gave excellent lectures on the concepts of diversity, evenness, dominance and beta and gamma biodiversity, all fundamental concepts in the work he has been doing.

I would like to thank La Leona Lodge, especially Ifigenia Garita, for the opportunity to have participated in this activity. I also want to thank José Montero his great willingness to teach and share his knowledge.