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

Science and Research

Nature Sightings

As some of you may know from following our Facebook and Twitter posts, Manuel Sanchez Mendoza, our Research Assistant and Sea Turtle Conservation Program Field Coordinator, has one heck of a talented eye for photographing wildlife. As an Osa native, born and raised in the peninsula, Manuel has always been fascinated with wildlife, and although he has no formal training in photography, we like to think he has a natural-born knack for it. The past few weeks in particular have been very successful for Manuel and his camera, and we at Osa Conservation are excited to share his sightings with you! All of these photos were taken at or around our Piro Biological Center.

White-faced capuchin monkey (Cebus capucinus)

Great Curassow (Crax rubra)

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Community Outreach, Marine Conservation

Save the Gulfo Dulce: A firsthand account

Luis Daniel Montero is a kayak tour guide and a local activist

Luis Daniel Montero is a 22-year-old kayak tour guide and volunteer for ASCONA (Asociacion De Servicio Comunitario Nacional y Ambiental), a local non-governmental organization dedicated to community service and environmental conservation on the Osa Peninsula.

Along with a few other ASCONA volunteers, Daniel, as he prefers to be called, is part of an extremely passionate group of activists protesting an American business-owner’s proposal for a large marina development project on the Gulfo Dulce, a proposal met with considerable opposition among Osa residents and various conservationists on and around the peninsula.
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Marine Conservation, Science and Research

Osa Conservation Supports Research in Golfo Dulce: Different kinds of dolphins

A video still of a Pseudorca, or false killer whale, in Golfo Dulce

Brooke Bessesen conducted Marine research at the Osa in 2010 and 2011 as a recipient of the Greg Gund Memorial Fellowship. Check out her Golfo Dulce report on our website.

Jorge and I were always thrilled to see dolphins, as they are icons of the sea. Luckily, sightings were relatively common (only sea turtles were seen more frequently) and these graceful cetaceans graced our bow almost every day we were on the water. We observed many dolphin behaviors: foraging and traveling, mating and calf care, spyhopping and playing. But, of course, dolphins are not all same.

The most common delphinids seen in Golfo Dulce were Bottlenose dolphins (Turciops truncatus) followed by Spotted dolphins (Stenella attennata). Even though some Spotted dolphins don’t have spots, these two species are fairly easy to tell apart. Spotted dolphins are smaller in body size and have distinctly sickle-shaped dorsal fins. There are behavioral differences, too.

Most of the Bottlenose dolphins in Golfo Dulce appear residential and some even seem to show fidelity to certain parts of the embayment. This species tends to hang out more coastally, especially near river outlets, sometimes chasing ballyhoo and needlefish at the surface. While they occasionally converged into congregations of five to 15, the Bottlenose dolphins were usually seen in smaller groups of two or three.

Spotted dolphinsmigrate in and out of Golfo Dulce, generally using the deeper middle waters of the inlet. The average

A young spotted dolphin speeds along next to our research vessel

group recorded during our survey was five to 60 individuals; however, we recorded several sightings of scattered herds estimated to include 100 to 500 individuals. At times large groups of these gregarious cetaceans could be seen playfully flinging themselves into the air, a show-stopping riot of activity.

A sighting of False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) was also made during our study period while aboard the vessel of Project Golfo Dulce Wildlife. We followed about 30 individuals, adults and at least one calf, as they traveling and foraging between Sándalo and Playa Blanca in the upper half of the gulf.

It is also interesting to note that Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) have been reported inside Golfo Dulce.

A playful Bottlenose dolphin leaps into the air (insert shows the shape of a Bottlenose dorsal).

Dolphins are arguably the most delightful animals to watch. While seeing them is always a thrill, it’s even more exciting to be able to distinguish the species and have enough knowledge about behavior to fully enjoy their aquatic antics.

Miscellaneous

The Osa Recording Project

Recording a Stream Soundscape: Jeff Woodman, Luis Vargas & Leo Garrigues

By Karen Leavelle & Jeff Woodman

The Osa Peninsula is known for its high level of biodiversity and is one of the most “biologically intense” places on earth according to National Geographic. The Osa has over half of all species found in Costa Rica. This is evident in the over 400 bird species found here. That’s quite a few birds for such a small area. Well, its time then to make them heard; to record their songs, calls, mews, ooo’s, churrs, drumming and scolding notes and make them available for all to listen to.

That’s exactly what Jeff Woodman, board member of American Bird Conservancy and Amazon Conservation Association, Luis Vargas, ornithology student at the University of Costa Rica, and Tim Burr, recordist for more than three decades thought when they met at a recording workshop held by Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology last summer. Partnering with Friends of the Osa, The Osa Recording Project began in December 2009 when Jeff, Luis, and Tim joined Al Houghton, Bob Levy, and Bob Schallmann on the Osa Peninsula. There they met up with Liz Jones and Abraham Gallo from Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge and Kory Kramer, Guido Saborio, and Manuel Sanchez from Friends of the Osa to begin the somewhat daunting task of recording as many bird, mammal, amphibian, and insect sounds as they could. The first trip was highly successful

Jeff Woodman, Tim Burr, Luis Vargas and Bob Schallmann recording birds on the road from the Osa Biodiversity Center to Puerto Jimenez

prompting the group to once again descend upon the Osa for round two in mid April. The expertise of the group expanded significantly with the addition of Costa Rican birding experts Leo Garrigues, Gary Feliz and Oscar Herrera, and with Karen Leavelle with Friends of the Osa. Now Gary, Oscar, and Karen who reside on the Osa can simply walk outside and record when they wake up in the morning!

This recording group has travelled from Luna Lodge at Carate to Friends of the Osa’s Osa Biodiversity Center, out to Cabo Matapalo and Puerto Jimenez, Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge and everywhere in between. This group has even gone all the way over to the Rincon mangroves on the Golfo Dulce side where one can find the endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga and the Mangrove Hummingbird.

So why record all this wildlife?  Education, Education, Education. One intention is to create one or more CDs that could facilitate the training of aspiring local naturalists. Also, birders who come to the Osa can learn some songs before being inundated by the local avifauna when they get off the plane at Puerto Jimenez. Researchers and students will also benefit as well as local guides who work in this amazing environment. We also hope to have songs linked to the Friends of the Osa website along with a bit of natural history and images to allow folks to make visual connections with Osa wildlife.

Oscar Herrera, Lana Wedmore, Leo Garrigues, Tim Burr, Jeff Woodman, Gary Feliz & Luis Vargas at the end of a long recording trip.

We will of course keep you updated on this amazing project and gigantic undertaking as we progress.  Look out for more blog posts showcasing a particular bird species, its ecology and the bird’s song or call in its partially edited version. Final edits will be made by recording specialist Al Houghton out of New York.

Birds

Featured Bird: Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii)

friends of the osa Chestnut-mandibled Toucan on osa peninsula copywrite Sabine Bernert 2010The largest and possibly the most raucous of the five toucan species found in Costa Rica the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is a common inhabitant of the Osa Peninsula.  Its characteristic calls and large yellow and chestnut colored bill are unique to this bird and is only one of two toucan species found on the peninsula.   You can usually find them in forested and semi-open areas and trees in clearings feeding mainly on fruit and an occasional insect, lizard, snake or bird nestling.  Toucans will commonly feed their mate. It is typical to find them gathering in emergent trees at dusk and dawn repeating their call incessantly hopping from limb to limb making sure everybody knows they are there.  They bathe in hollowed out cavities high up in the trees where water has accumulated and nest in tree cavities or old woodpecker holes from January to June.   This photo was taken on the Friends of the Osa property at the Greg Gund Conservation Center, in a small clearing within secondary rainforest.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan call :