Saturday, September 13, 2014

New England Aquafarmer has moved to Please join the aquaculture discussion there!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Aching Feet and Cool Seafood Eats

Here at the Boston Internation Seafood Show, I'm finally sitting down to have a Pepsi after being on my feet and chasing down tastings of the free seafood of every type and sort being peddled by producers, wholesales and processors.

I had shrimp, octopus, and Atlantic salmon, with sweet and sour and hot sauces as well as this nice cold Pepsi.

I'm here for two preset interviews with Brian O'Hanlon of Cobia farm Open Blue in Panama, and Chilian Atlantic Salmon farmer Scott Nichols, director of Verlasso.

"We are excited about a new hatchery we are building on site," O'Hanlon told New England Aquafarmer. "We would like to build in redundancies and consistencies we figured out in the smaller old hatchery."

"The hatchery we use is a closed containment Recirc. System with broodstock 2 generations old before we allow eggs and spermage to produce our fingerlings for farming," Scott Nichols explained to New England Aquafarmer.

I was interested in these two farms because of their efforts in producing fish with a keen eye to sustainability--closed system recirc. facilities and contained farm technology that maintains a 0-percent release ratio.

What's unique about both for me is both farms are led by Americans who took their know-how and technologies out of country because of the slow-to-start policies in place and consumer attitudes in the air around aquaculture. Both are moving in the right direction these days but taking forever to catch up with the rest of the world, where we import 95-percent of our seafood consumed here in the U.S.A. Over 70 percent of that is farmed overseas and growing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Notes on upcoming issue of Aquaculture North America

Hello folks,

I'm working on several stories for the next issue of Aquaculture North America, due in members' mailboxes March 1st.

Looking at the ongoing effort by U.S. shrimp producers, fishermen and farmers, to petition the federal government for relief from subsidized shrimp imports from seven countries.

USDA's latest numbers on farmed Catfish and Trout production numbers for the last quarter. Expect to have continued tightening of the catfish production output as farmers continue to be squeezed by Asian imports and high feed prices.

Also covering stories in Massachusetts, California, Texas and Belize to name a few spots.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

As the New Year comes and the inauguration for the second term of the Obama administration happens later this month, I thought I'd write a story for my Canadian publisher, Capamara Communications, in their trade mag Aquaculture North America on the successes the administration has had in establishing a domestic seafood farming sector int he U.S.

The article appears below:

WASHINGTON D.C.--With the Obama Inauguration for a second term in January, a look at the aquaculture policy successes of the first four years of the administration shows significant momentum in establishing new policies for the industry among other positive developments.

Under the first Barack Obama presidency the first National Aquaculture Policy (NAP) was adopted, along with the coordination of aquaculture and other marine stakeholders under the president’s National Ocean Council’s (NOC) Draft Implementation Plan, indicating a serious effort to push the domestic seafood farming sector forward, say aquaculture policy makers and industry members.

Aquaculture professionals say there has been a change in how aquaculture is perceived at least on the policy level over the last four years.

“I can see that starting to happen slowly now,” said Sebastian Belle of Maine Aquaculture Association, at the December Northeastern Aquaculture Conference and Expo.

NAP was the most significant and most headlined aquaculture development under Obama’s first term, 

Dr. Michael Rubino, the Director of Aquaculture at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, told Aquaculture North America but there were other accomplishments made on-the-ground that were important as well.

“There was a fair number of the sort of nots in bolts things that happened too,” he said. “Certainly when Jane Lubchenco was appointed as NOAA director they asked us to look at everything we are doing, stakeholders and all, on aquaculture.”

The NOAA went around the country and got input at several public meetings as well. 

“The federal government hadn’t done that in 10 years, and we got a broad economic view. NOAA policy was addressed on the kind of things we do as far as marine stewardship and engagement,” Rubino said. “Going back 40 years, there have been several commissions, all the way up to the establishment of the National Oceans Council in 2004, and others in between. They all have had aquaculture components, all saying the same thing. Aquaculture has to be done sustainably, with trade policy and good science behind it.”

It’s fair to say that the adoption of the NAP came out of all of those commissions over the years enhanced by the efforts under Lubchenco to get NOAA officials out to different regions of the country to add their voices and interests to the dialogue around framing the new policy.

In the summer of 2011, the United States National Aquaculture Policy was announced, making headlines as the first of its kind in a country that has 95,471 statute miles of tidal shoreline and 200 nautical miles from those coasts out to sea as part of the Exclusive Economic Zone, according to NOAA.

The new aquaculture policy and its components, which reflect the public comments received after draft policies were released on February 9, focus on:
  • encouraging and fostering sustainable aquaculture that increases the value of domestic aquaculture production and creates American business, jobs, and trade opportunities;
  • making timely management decisions based on the best scientific information available;
  • advancing sustainable aquaculture science;
  • ensuring aquaculture decisions protect wild species and healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems;
  • developing sustainable aquaculture compatible with other uses;
  • working with partners domestically and internationally; and,
  • promoting a level playing field for U.S. aquaculture businesses engaged in international trade, working to remove foreign trade barriers, and enforcing our rights under U.S. trade agreements.

Policy components

“Coming out of the policy, we asked what can we do under the current funding limitations? Three things, because we are on the marine side ... oysters, clams, muscles, and fin fish. Aquaculture also works towards fishery restoration--from salmon on the pacific coast and oysters on the East,” Rubino said.

The shellfish industry came out strongly on saying they were the here in the now as far as marine aquaculture goes because so much legislative hurdles still exist until fin fish farming in marine waters can get going, he added. 

“A major component of our work is in the National Shellfish Initiative,” said Rubino. “And it must be a regional approach.”

For example, the NOAA aquaculture director said the shellfish initiative in Washington State which worked to streamline the permitting process in Puget Sound was a good example of working the federal policy on the ground to build better relationships between commercial and non-governmental-organization (NGO) shellfish interests and enhance the wild fishery.

The Washington Shellfish Initiative is an agreement among federal and state governments, tribes and the shellfish industry to restore and expand Washington’s shellfish resources to promote clean-water industries and create family-wage jobs.

On Dec. 9, 2011, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled the state wide initiative, including a $200,000 federal grant to help the state restore the native Olympia oyster. The state departments of Health and Ecology will also award $1 million to help local health carry out programs to identify, inspect and fix failing septic systems to keep pollution out of sensitive habitat areas. “Commercial shellfish and enhancement industry work together well out there,” said Rubino. “There is a similar effort in California, with commercial shellfish and restoration NGOs, and NOAA working together as they did in Washington State. On the East Coast, everyone has established oyster policies already but there are the same permitting issues.”

Rubino also points to the work NOAA has done on alternative feeds as another component of its recent efforts under the new national policy.

“On the research side we have worked on with the Soy industry to develop alternative feeds to fish meal feeds,” he explained. “Putting back together the ‘rubiks cube’ of fish feed when adding or replacing fish meal feed. We have collectively worked with the aquaculture and Soybean industries to do this. We are working with the United States Department of Agriculture on alternative feeds, and issued a report on the alternatives, often involves commingling ingredients.”

The second Initiative the Technology Transfer Initiative. 

“Milford labs have done a lot of work on probiotics and algae in shellfish hatcheries,” he said. “We are now working to push that research and technology out to the aquaculture industry.”
The third initiative, under the National Ocean Policy, is to improve the regulatory environment for aquaculture without hurting environmental stewardship, he added. “We are starting to do work on that specifically on shellfish, which is way ahead of finfish aquaculture here in the U.S.,” he explained. “Setting out with ‘who does what when,’ with permitting and applying that at the core district areas. We also want to set up one-stop-permit shops. Once we get our work done on shellfish, same people will work on fin fish, using Washington State, Hawaii and Maine as examples.”


Neil Sims, founder and executive of Oceans Stewards Institute and founder and owner of Kampachi Farms in Hawaii.
“The biggest thing accomplished over the last four years was developing a regulatory framework under the national [aquaculture] policy. NAP is a good start, but they have to go out and establish a regulatory  framework. Why has it taken four years to do this? States have offshore aquaculture regulations of their own. What have they been doing? The entire industry has been sitting here waiting. I know academics can’t get funding for their aquaculture research because they are told ‘your just gonna just ship it over seas.’ I think NAP is a start but it hasn’t turned into a regulatory framework.

“Let NOAA regulate the industry with their fish biologists. They seem to think that sustainably raised seafood will just arrive from farms over seas and without our environmental standards.”

As reported in the January/February issue of Aquaculture North America

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Probiotics fighting disease fish and shellfish

My girlfriend swears by her probiotics to help maintain a healthy stomach and whole body "betterness." I take them occasionally when healthy just isn't what I'm feeling. 

But a team of researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Milford Marine Labs have found that naturally-occurring bacteria isolated from the digestive glands of adult eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and northern bay scallops (Argopecten irradians irradians) may be used as potential probiotic candidates in oyster larviculture.

Two related research studies published in the Journal of Shellfish Research identify a new probiotic bacterium, designated OY15, which has been shown to significantly improve larval survival in pilot-scale trials during the first two weeks of life, the most critical stage for the organism when mortality rates are among the highest.

Known to the public for their use in yogurt and other foods to improve human digestion and health, probiotic bacteria isolated from other sources can also be used to improve survival, nutrition and disease prevention in larvae grown in shellfish hatcheries. 

With shellfish aquaculture being the name of the game on the Cape and The Islands, this sort of news should interest the shellfish farmer looking for alternatives to the usual antibiotics to fight bacterial disease.

Antimicrobial drugs approved for use in aquaculture in some countries, but not the US, have traditionally been used to treat bacterial diseases, but overuse of antibiotics can result in the development of resistant strains of bacterial pathogens. The use of probiotic bacteria has become increasingly popular for improved nutrition, healthy digestion and disease prevention and is used in human foods like yogurt and in pet foods.

Hatcheries produce shellfish seed to supplement natural seed, which is often limited by loss of habitat, contamination from pollution, climate change and other factors. Bacterial diseases caused mainly by pathogenic bacteria such as Vibrio are a major cause of mortality in hatchery shellfish, particularly at the very early larval stage. This can lead to significant financial losses to commercial growers and to production of farmed shellfish, which accounts for 25 percent of the total world aquaculture product.

As demand for environmentally-friendly aquaculture grows, the use of probiotics for disease prevention and improved nutrition in shellfish aquaculture is also growing. While a number of research studies have shown promise, development of probiotics that can be used in aquaculture is a multistep process requiring fundamental research and full-scale trials, Milford Lab researchers explained.

“The objective of the first part of this study was to isolate and evaluate new probiotic bacteria which, when incorporated into foods used in shellfish hatcheries, might significantly improve larval survival,” said co-author Diane Kapareiko, a microbiologist at the Milford Laboratory, in a statement. The second part of the study was to test the new probiotic candidate on the survival of oyster larvae in pilot-scale trials during their first two weeks of life.

The Milford scientists isolated 26 candidate probiotic bacteria from oysters and scallops of which 16 had an inhibitory effect against a known shellfish-larval pathogen (B183) of the Vibrio species of bacteria. Further screening for safe use in culturing the oyster larvae and their microalgal feed indicated which probiotic candidates would inhibit growth of the pathogen most effectively and therefore could confer a protective effect upon oyster larval survival.

Lab studies indicated that survival of two-day old oyster larvae during two-week pilot scale trials improved when supplemented with the probiotic candidate OY15 strain.  Four treatments were conducted: a larval control with no bacteria, a pathogen control with larvae and pathogen B183 only, a probiotic control with larvae and probiotic candidate OY15 only, and a combination treatment comprised of larvae and both probiotic and pathogen.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Just had surgery on my right foot.
Trying to get back to writing blog, and some stories for my editors now.
Have patience, I'll have something up by the end of the week.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Dream Job

As I'm always reminded during these tough economic times in America, I am blessed to be working in the job I went to college for and now, thanks to my Canadian publisher, covering the aquaculture industry I left my corporate tech news desk to do.

As I'm never one to sit on my butt and let life pass me by, I'm trying to envision my next career move, say in five years. Covering the aquaculture industry now for 4 years, I've come across several jobs I might want to end my career on over the next 20 years. One of which I'm writing about for the next issue of Aquaculture North America, due to subscribers by the end of the month.

Coral Gables, Fla.-based AquaSol is a one-stop-shop for aquaculture consulting services. The company has consulted and offered project management services to clients in New Caledonia, Oman, The Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Suriname, Switzerland, Vietnam, Uganda, Turks & Caicos, United States, and Venezuela.

While working at a shellfish hatchery on Martha's Vineyard island in Massachusetts, geting my hands dirty in the industry I wanted to write about, I was told by hatchery manager Rick Karney early on that the real money is in consulting. Even back then, around 2002, I was thinking beyond just writing about the industry to actually having my hand in making aquaculture work better for the consumer, fish farmer and whole saler alike. 

Tom Frese, the CEO and president of AquaSol, is essentially doing the job I would some day want to do on the media side of things. The company is staffed by folks who have varied experience in the aquaculture business. They provide a plethora of aquaculture related services, including site search & analysis, feasibility studies, environmental impact studies, social impact studies, technology transfer, marketing plans for farm-raised products, financial feasibility analysis, business plans, due diligence, project management, farm design, hatchery design, processing plant design, feed mill design, strategic planning, farm management, development of national aquaculture development plans, sustainable community-based fish farming projects. 

As I say in the story I'm currently writing, aquaculture consulting and startup management has become a niche all its own as firms look for that extra edge in an increasingly competitive international industry.

AquaSol is meeting that demand.

Another possibility I'd be most interested in is lobbying for the industry in Washington D.C. Some of that work is being done by already existing lobbying groups representing the huge Soy Feed industry which sees a huge value in aquaculture. But there is still a gap between traditional commercial fishing, environmental NGO lobbies and those that represent, solely, the aquaculture industry. One group that tried at that job was the Ocean Stewards Institute, an aquaculture advocacy group. Because of financial constraints they had to drop the law firm that was representing them in Washington D.C.

One of these days, maybe in the next five, aquaculture media consulting, or aquaculture lobbying might be something I'd dip my toe in. Until then, I am happy where I am, writing for a tested and successful publisher in aquaculture media, Capamara Communications and their two trade pubs--Aquaculture North America and Hatchery International.