Most aquaculture systems have not achieved the levels of efficiency seen in terrestrial food production systems
Aquatic or blue foods can be made more environmentally sustainable than they are now, according to a recently released paper.
The report, titled Environmental performance of blue foods, was one of five initial scientific papers published as part of the Blue Food Assessment (BFA). The BFA is a collaboration between Sweden-based Stockholm Resilience Centre, United States-based Stanford University and the non-profit EAT.
The authors of the paper analysed reporting data from more than 1,690 fish farms and 1,000 unique fishery records worldwide.
The paper noted that seaweeds and farmed bivalves, such as mussels and oysters, generated the fewest greenhouse gas and nutrient emissions and used the least land and water. Capture fisheries also resulted in few nutrient emissions and use limited land and water, according to the paper.
Capture fisheries refers to all kinds of harvesting of naturally occurring living resources in both marine and freshwater environments.
The paper added that greenhouse gas emissions in such fisheries ranged from relatively low, such as for sardines and cod, to relatively high for flatfish and lobsters, compared to farmed fish.
Capture fisheries had the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved management and optimising gear types, according to the paper.
Many subsectors among blue foods such as carp and milkfish, also had the potential to improve their environmental performance through improved farm management, reduced feed conversion ratios and innovative technological interventions.
Patrik JG Henriksson, co-author and researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, said in a statement by BFA:
Most aquaculture systems have not realised the levels of efficiency seen in terrestrial production systems, leaving substantial opportunities for optimisation and improvements in efficiency and sustainability.
The statement by BFA added that the research filled gaps in previous studies on the environmental stresses associated with food production, which often excluded blue foods.
Even when blue foods were included, they were typically aggregated, overlooking the vast range of species that belonged to them.
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