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

Volunteers and Visitors

Treefrog Breeding Frenzy!

Cesar Barrio-Amoros holds a PhD in biology and is a notable taxonomist, herpetologist, author, and photographer. Following his experience in the Osa, reflected below, Cesar has planned to lead a reptile and amphibian workshop at Piro Biological Station next May or June, the beginning of the wet season.

I have traveled throughout most of Latin America in search of amazing herping spectacles. In the Galapagos, I saw marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and Galapagos giant tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra). I witnessed an astonishing diversity of poison frogs in Peru and made some interesting scientific discoveries on the Tepuis of Venezuela. My curiosity has now led me to one of the tiniest countries: Costa Rica. Here, the herpetological diversity is bewildering and vibrant. Due to Costa Rica’s intense biodiversity, it is not difficult for a photographer to capture nearly all of the herping species in a matter of years.

DSC03038

The gliding treefrog (Agalychnis spurrelli) was on the top of my herping list after learning about it on a BBC documentary. I have actually seen the individual species in the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands. However, I never saw one of those impressive reproductive aggregations where thousands of frogs gather in a pond and lay millions of eggs in just a few nights.

I was envious of the photographs my colleague, Manuel Sanchez, captured while working at Osa Conservation’s Piro Biological Station in the Osa Peninsula. I immediately scheduled a visit to see the event. When I arrived, Manuel informed me that the area was full of frogs, thousands were laying eggs in amplexus (amplectant pairs).

Around 6:00AM the next morning, we left for our journey along with herpetologist intern and researcher, Michelle Thompson. At the site, we noticed some bushes moving and, upon further investigation, realized there were a few frogs still laying eggs. The great wave was the previous night so only about 10% frogs remained.

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Still, it was a breathtaking sight because they were completely surrounded by millions of eggs! Michelle and I were amazed — this was quite an experience for a herpetologist. Next time, I need to arrive a few days in advance in order to catch the whole spectacle!

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research, Uncategorized

Honoring Two Familiar Faces

In addition to celebrating a great year in 2012, Osa Conservation recently honored two staff members as outstanding employees of the year. If you have visited us here in Osa, these are most likely familiar faces. Thanks Agustín and Manuel for all of your hard work and for being such integral and exemplary members of the Osa Conservation team.

 Agustín Mendoza
Augustín has been working with OC for five years on our land stewardship and maintenance team but has lived in Osa for 38. He grew up in Cerro Arbolito a remote property part of the OC conservation properties. He and his wife Annia live at the Greg Gund Conservation Center. When he is not working he can often be found helping Annia cook, leading students and researchers on tree identification hikes, and playing his guitar. He is incredibly passionate and is always exploring, seeking new learning opportunities, and sharing amazing videos of his jungle encounters. Augustin is an invaluable member of the land stewardship team, a dedicated conservationist and  natural leader.
Manuel Sánchez
Manuel Sánchez was born next to the Piro River and truly has the Osa in his blood. Before he began to work with Osa Conservation, Manuel was already learning these forests like the back of his hand, and helping his father protect turtle nests on Piro beach. In the last two years as a full-time staff member, Manuel’s strong work ethic and deep knowledge of wildlife have become one of our organization’s greatest assets. Manuel has been a critical component of our sea turtle monitoring program and this past year he visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to learn new research techniques to train our staff and volunteers on data collection and nest protection. Manuel has learned English and wildlife photography on his own volition and his aptitude for both are unmistakable – just check out our Facebook photo albums for proof!

Sea Turtles

Birth of a Sea Turtle: Notes from the beach

A Green sea turtle nests on Pejeperro Beach

With the same clumsiness as their mothers, the small reptiles descend slowly down the sloped beach. One by one they go, leaving behind a trail of life in the sand.

Seven weeks ago, after a journey spanning hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometers, an adult olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) pushed through the foaming waves on Pejeperro beach in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, to begin an ancient, unique and exquisite journey.

Read More »

Birds, Volunteers and Visitors

It's not too late to sign up for the Holiday Birding Tour!

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SPEND YOUR HOLIDAYS IN THE RAINFOREST!

DECEMBER 17-22

Space is still available on our Holiday Birding Trip, so join us for spectacular birding through the tropical forests of the Osa Peninsula! This five-day trip includes extensive birding, forest hikes, and nightly talks and excursions with our staff of biologists and conservation professionals.  The trip culminates in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count—where you, along with thousands of other citizen scientists throughout the Americas, can participate in the longest running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations.

The Osa Peninsula is the wildest, yet most under-birded, corner of the country.  It is home to over 460 species of birds, including the healthiest population of Scarlet Macaws in Central America, Red-capped Manakins, Yellow-billed and Turquoise Contingas, and even the Harpy Eagle.  Osa Conservation’s birding trips are led by resident ornithologist, Karen Leavelle, as well as trained naturalist guides who are intimately familiar with the bird species and tropical ecosystems of the Osa.

Your participation in the Holiday Birding Tour directly supports OC’s avian conservation and education programs. We invite you to be part of our mission to conserve the Peninsula’s globally significant biodiversity and we hope to see you on one of these fantastic trips!

For more information on our Holiday Birding Tour, or to see a trip itinerary, please visit our website at www.osaconservation.org/ConservationTrips.html. For trip registration or questions please contact Emily Angell at emilyangell@osaconservation.org or Karen Leavelle at karenleavelle@osaconservation.org.

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

Georeferencing Trees in the Osa Peninsula

Peltogyne Purpurea: An endemic species of Costa Rica and Western Panama, now very scarce because of overexplotation for its valuable timber.

Visiting a tropical forest can be overwhelming because of the enormous number of species found there, especially if you are talking about the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. This diversity is especially evident amongst plants which, as immobile organisms, are easily observed.  This same diversity, however, can be distressing for a person interested in identifying a species if they don’t have previous knowledge of the area.  This is why, for the last six months, I have been working at Osa Conservation’s Piro Research Station and Greg Gund Conservation Center identifying trees on site, georeferencing various individual trees of distinct species, and creating a digital catalog of the most common species found on the trails (among other things).  Osa Conservation is using all of this information to educate researchers and visitors about tree diversity in the Osa rainforest and for their forest restoration program.

With over 700 species of trees in the Osa rainforest, identification can seem very complicated for those without experience in the field.  A digital collection indicating the most significant characteristics of various species allows for easier recognition of species.  There are many simple characteristics that aid in identification, including the type of leaves and the position of the stem, the presence or absence of secretion, translucent dots, glands, or pubescence (“hairs”) which together can facilitate the recognition of families, genera and even species.  We’re also adding photographs and dried plant samples to this information to help us compare and verify the species with which we are working.

Georeferencing various trees at Osa Conservation will give researchers and education groups interested in finding and studying a certain species the ability to locate it effortlessly and, once there, see the living specimen and characteristics that are impossible to detect in a photograph or  plant sample (ie. trunk or secretion).  Georeferencing individual trees is also assisting Osa Conservation’s forest restoration program, which is carried out in partnership with NRDC and the Wisconsin Natural Resource Foundation.  Georeferencing allows us to easily locate and observe the fructification process of certain tree species whose seeds we collect and nurture on site in the OC nursery, better enabling us to restore degraded habitats with native species.

Within a determined site, there are generally groups of very common species while others may be very scarce.  For the more common species, and for the majority of individuals who are curious about tree identification yet lack previous knowledge, a digital catalog will be very useful; for the scarcer species, and for those individuals with more knowledge in the field (ie. researchers), georeferencing is fundamental, as locating the trees would otherwise be very difficult.

Sea Turtles

Cleaning the Beach for Sea Turtles

August 7th represented the second Day of Beach Cleaning along sea turtle nesting beaches in Osa.  With the participation of around 150 volunteers from the community, local hotels, personnel from Osa Conservation Area, Frontier volunteers and Osa Conservation employees, we were able to collect waste along 12 km of beaches, from Carate to Matapalo.

Starting off early in the morning to take advantage of low tide, the groups divided up throughout the area with plastic bags, gloves, sun screen and lots of water.  The day of cleaning continued past noon, when the participants came together at the Piro Biological Station to have lunch and end with a soccer game.

As with every year, the majority of the waste found on the beaches was plastic bottles and pieces of Styrofoam, which shows us how businesses and consumers still have to work towards being more environmentally responsible.

We hope that this clean-up will help the sea turtles in their difficult journey from the sea to the beach and back again, a journey that, although short, implies a great physical effort on their part which they undertake with the goal of conserving their species.

Thank you to the following participants:
Lapa Rios, Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso, the Bellanero family, Hacienda Rio Oro,  ISEAMI, Lookout Inn, Finca Exótica, Luna Lodge, La Leona Lodge, ACOSA, FRONTIER, the community and Asdrúbal Cordero.

Birds, Volunteers and Visitors

Go Wild, Go Birding!

International Migratory Bird Day 2011

Just to set the scene… the following is a bit of what I wrote to you last October 2010 in recognition of a well known day that pays homage to migratory birds all throughout the Americas.

“Have you ever sat and marveled at the wonder of bird migration; the journey that birds undertake between their winter and summer homes?  Well if so, you’re not alone, and it is a cause for celebration!  Each year hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) in support of migratory bird conservation.

International Migratory Bird Day is officially recognized on the second Saturday in May in the US and Canada in celebration of migrants coming home to breed, while in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean IMBD is celebrated on the second Saturday in October when migrants are returning home for the winter.  Here in Costa Rica IMBD is actually celebrated in April as migrants are starting their journey north.

There are almost 350 species of birds that migrate between their nesting grounds in the north to their wintering grounds in more favorable climates somewhere south.  Unfortunately many migrant bird species are declining facing many threats on their wintering and breeding grounds as well as on their migratory routes.  International Migratory Bird Day was thus created as not only a day to celebrate migrant birds but as a call to action in their conservation.

Migratory Woodthrush. Photo by Frericks

Each year IMBD celebrates with a particular theme.  Last year we celebrated the Power of Partnerships and brought you some of the many partnerships Osa Conservation has related to bird science and conservation.  This year’s 2011 theme is Go Wild, Go Birding orVive Salvaje, Observe las Aves.”

The focus of Go Wild, Go Birding is to reach out to youth and adults to experience and learn about birds, bird watching and conservation.  Some of the many program and educational activities that folks are engaging in are:

*  IMBD Festivals

*  The International Conservation Walkathon,

*  The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and

*  The CBD 4 kids which is a half day CBC, and

*  The Big Sit which is 24 hours of birding around the world.

Educators are also including birding activities in their classrooms such as

*  Workshops in helping birds at home

*  Go Birding Geocache

*  Making bird masks

*  Leading a bird walk

Truly the amount of bird activities one could dream up is countless!  We here at Osa Conservation conducted our first annual Osa Peninsula Christmas Bird Count last December which was a great success and are planning to continue our new tradition this year.  Many people got involved who now have a new interest in birds and birding. We also initiated our new avian monitoring program which will monitor, in part, abundance of both resident and migratory birds on the Osa.  We plan to expand our birding program and educational activities in the near future – so keep an eye out.

So we here at Osa Conservation say “Go Birding, Go Wild” and there truly is no better place to do so than here on the Osa Peninsula.  With well over 400 species of birds in this little corner of Costa Rica there is plenty to keep you busy for quite a long time

And remember that because there is more than one officially recognized date, everyday, including today, is International Migratory Bird Day.

For more information visit Environment for the Americas.  IMBD 2011 artwork was designed by John Muir Laws and Genevieve Margherio.

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

Sea Turtle Conservation Program: October Update

We’ve completed another month of the sea turtle conservation program on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica and we’re getting close to the end of the nesting season. After 4 months of tireless work by our field coordinators, field assistants and volunteers, we have registered a total of 1233 sea turtle nests, between Piro and Carate (Fig. 1). As I mentioned earlier, for logistical reasons, we cannot gather daily information from all beaches and visits to Rio Oro beach have been very limited, so this number of sea turtle nests should be considered a minimum; i.e., the actual number of sea turtle nests on these beaches is higher than reported here.

Figure 1. Total nests registered, according to month, beach and species. CM: Chelonia mydas agassizii, DC: Demochelys coriacea, EL: Eretmochelys imbricata, LO: Lepidochelys olivacea

Of these 1233 recorded nests, we know that at least 242 (20%) were predated. Of predated nests, 43% were by humans, while the remaining 57% were predated by dogs, pigs, crabs and other animals. We can reasonably estimate that approximately 10,600 eggs have been illegally removed between Piro and Carate for human consumption (assuming that each nest had 100 eggs and they were all taken).

If we focus on the Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), the most common sea turtle species on the Osa Peninsula, not taking into account the Rio Oro data, as the data that we have doesn’t appear to be representative of the real situation, we can see that during the 2010 season, Carate beach is where we find the greatest amount of illegal harvesting of eggs (Fig 2). Throughout the season, more than 50% of reported predation is caused by humans, a situation that hasn’t occurred on Piro and Pejeperro beaches.

Figure 2. Percentage of Olive Ridley sea turtle nests predated by humans and other animals according to month and beach.

Remember that you can help us save sea turtles that visit the southern part of the Osa Peninsula in several ways: 1) tell others about our project and the importance of protecting sea turtles, 2) by volunteering with sea turtles or 3) by making a donation to support our sea turtle program or the other conservation work that Friends of the Osa does on the Osa Peninsula.