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Captive bluefin tuna inside a transport cage. The cage is being towed by a tug from fishing grounds in Libya to Tuna farms in Sicily.

Sustainable Aquaculture

Greenpeace seeks to ensure clean and healthy oceans for the future, and part of this is working to improve the standards of international seafood trade. As wild stocks decline, the demand for farmed shrimp, salmon, tuna, tilapia and other marine finfish is on the rise. Therefore, due to its sheer size and its impacts on the oceans, the aquaculture industry is an important part of the overall picture.

Aquaculture is not a solution to overfishing. Traditional forms of aquaculture can and do make substantial contributions to food supplies in areas of the world where food needs are acute, but these need to be sustainable.

Many modern aquaculture practices emphasise the unsustainable production of species for high-value export markets. Rapid development and expansion of intensive aquaculture for species such as salmon and shrimp has, for example, resulted in widespread degradation of the environment and the displacement of coastal fishing and farming communities.

Unsustainable aquaculture also negatively impacts on the food supplies and food security of developing coastal countries. Aquaculture development often blocks access to common lands, used by local people for fishing and cleaning (collecting of seafood from the ground), and takes away traditional food sources, for use in fishmeal and oil production for aquaculture production. 

What are the main problems with aquaculture? 

Unsustainable aquaculture can devastate our oceans and the environment and impact on local people's food and security.

Some examples include:

  • the extraction of marine species from oceans, including wild juveniles vital for future stock growth, increasing the burden on wild fish stocks and having major food security implications;
  • fishmeal and so-called 'trash fish' used for feed production - often the main food for local people - taken for use in aquaculture ponds;
  • the release of organic wastes (that, for instance, act as plant nutrients for harmful algal blooms) and toxic effluents into the oceans;
  • the destruction of coastal ecosystems, displacement of coastal communities and depletion of fresh water sources to build aquaculture ponds.

What kind of aquaculture is sustainable?   

There are no species that are sustainable as such. The sustainability of a species depends on its feeding and lifecycle habits, as well as the farming operation. Only species that are plant eaters, who can breed in captivity, and whose farming does not produce high levels of nutrient output can be cultivated sustainably.

There are a number of conditions an aquaculture operation must adhere to in order to be sustainable. Among other things, an aquaculture operation can only be regarded as sustainable if it:

  • is continually moving towards plant-based feeds originating from sustainable agriculture;
  • does not use fishmeal or fish-oil-based feeds from unsustainable fisheries and does not represent a net loss in fish protein yield;
  • does not use wild-caught juveniles;
  • only cultivates species that are native in open water systems, and then only in bag nets, closed-wall sea-pens or equivalent systems (if there is cultivation of non-native species, it must be restricted to land-based tanks);
  • does not result in negative environmental impacts in terms of discharges and effluents to the surrounding areas;
  • does not result in negative effects to local wildlife (plants as well as animals) or represents a risk to local wild populations;
  • does not use genetically engineered fish or feed;
  • uses stocking densities that minimise the risk of disease outbreaks and transmission;
  • does not deplete local resources, for example, drinking water supplies and mangrove forests;
  • does not threaten human health;
  • supports the long-term economic and social well-being of local communities.

Achieving sustainability requires adhering to a full set of measures and cannot be reached through simply implementing one or two. 

How can consumers be sure that the products they buy come from sustainable and fair aquaculture?

No current certification scheme covers all of the issues essential to ensure products come from sustainable and fair aquaculture operations. It is the responsibility of retailers to ensure that the products they buy come from operations adhering to the conditions described above. Retailers must, until a reliable certification system is in place, communicate to their customersthe sustainability of their products.

In turn, customers must also challenge their retailers to ensure that their supplies stick to all of these conditions. Unless consumers can be assured that products come from sustainable operations, they should not buy them.

The Greenpeace report, Challenging the aquaculture industry on sustainability, offers advice to the industry on becoming sustainable, and provides guidelines to retailers and seafood suppliers on how to ensure they only buy aquaculture products from sustainable operations. 

The latest updates

 

The harsh reality of longline fishing

Blog entry by Eoin Dubsky | 17 November, 2011 1 comment

The world’s appetite for tuna exceeds our oceans’ capacity for production. Over the past several decades, vessels from far away nations (commonly referred to as Distant Water Fishing nations or DWFNs) have become reliant on tuna...

Illegal tuna fishing in Libyan waters... How could it possibly be?

Blog entry by Sebastian Losada | 9 November, 2011 3 comments

(Or: Talk about ethics) Oil, arms, timber trade… and tuna . Crises, particularly civil unrest, can be a perfect environment for making profit, as lack of control paves the way for some unscrupulous operators to the detriment of...

Standing up - in court - for the oceans

Blog entry by YuFen Kao, Greenpeace East Asia | 8 November, 2011 3 comments

My name is YuFen Kao, and I believe that here in Taiwan, the future of our oceans deserves a public debate. As an oceans campaigner here, I am currently involved in a court case stemming from a peaceful protest conducted when the...

Return to sender

Blog entry by Sarah King | 31 October, 2011 2 comments

Return to sender: Clover Leaf’s canned oceans destruction doesn’t belong on Canadian supermarket shelves As part of our campaign to defend our oceans , Greenpeace paid a visit to Canadian tuna giant Clover Leaf Seafoods’...

AquaBounty salmon smells fishy

Blog entry by Caroline Jacobsson | 28 October, 2011 2 comments

The thought of having fish sticks for dinner made from genetically engineered fish is rather unappetizing - so you are not likely to ever see it announced on today’s menu at your local bistro. Yet US company AquaBounty is currently...

Hope for Pacific oceans, Pacific people, Pacific lives

Blog entry by Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific | 18 October, 2011 8 comments

© Paul Hilton/Greenpeace As a Pacific Islander onboard the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza (Spanish for Hope), I cannot help but feel that there is hope despite the plight facing our magnificent Pacific Ocean. This vast oceanscape...

Nauru Comes Through

Blog entry by Steve Connolly, on board the Esperanza | 14 October, 2011 1 comment

Recently the Esperanza and crew had a short stop in Nauru, a small Pacific island country between Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. Our stop here happened to come just days after Nauru called for the closure to longline fishing in...

Ending pirate fishing for the future of the Pacific

Blog entry by Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific | 4 October, 2011 2 comments

Pohnpei is a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the Central Pacific, the largest and most populated island of the Federated States of Micronesia. Much to its green lush beauty is down to the rain that falls every day and the...

Victory! John West changes its tuna

Blog entry by Simon Clydesdale | 26 July, 2011 6 comments

Our international campaign to clean up tinned tuna has had another victory! After more than 51,000 emails, a lot of negotiation and some interesting stickering initiatives , John West is the last of the major UK players to shift...

Defending the Pacific

Slideshow | 20 June, 2011

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