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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

 

Defending our Pacific Ocean: Rainbow Warrior arrives in Taiwan

Blog entry by Sari Tolvanen | 3 January, 2011 16 comments

The new year has started with a big bang for Greenpeace and the oceans over here in East Asia and the Pacific. There's a pile of coinciding historical events including the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace, the final voyage of the Rainbow...

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Image | 5 December, 2010 at 9:30

The world’s last relatively healthy tuna fishery in the Pacific Ocean is in jeopardy of being wiped out. Now is a critical time to put in place measures to stop this happening.

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Blog entry by Dave W. | 25 November, 2010 4 comments

Let’s be clear, environmental campaigning is usually hard graft, with long hours and many frustrations. It can involve long hours sitting in a boat somewhere cold, or hot, just waiting for something to happen. It might mean attending...

Ocean destruction in tuna tins

Slideshow | 24 November, 2010

What's hiding inside your tuna tin?

Blog entry by JulietteH | 23 November, 2010 8 comments

You know that colourful tin of tuna you drop into your supermarket basket every week? Ever wonder what’s in it? Probably not; in a matter of decades, tuna has gone from being exotic mystery to an almost generic foodstuff, as ubiquitous...

All About Greenpeace and ICCAT 2010

Publication | 19 November, 2010 at 15:29

Government leaders and fisheries managers are gathering in Paris, France for the 17th annual ICCAT meeting, which will decide the future of the iconic Atlantic bluefin tuna. Greenpeace is demanding that this year's ICCAT meeting produce a...

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Sign the petition for a global network of marine reserves

Greenpeace Comments on 2010 ICCAT Carry-Over Report

Publication | 19 November, 2010 at 8:53

Greenpeace briefing on the data compiled by the ICCAT Secretariat in document COC-303/2010.

Tinned Tuna & Fish Aggregation Devices

Publication | 17 November, 2010 at 16:06

Greenpeace report on genetic testing of tinned tuna from around the world, showing how tuna is being mixed following the unsustainable use of fish aggregation devices.

Greenpeace Policy Statement on ICCAT 17

Publication | 14 November, 2010 at 11:50

In advance of the 17th annual ICCAT meeting, Greenpeace released its policy briefings to contracting parties, detailing the recommendations for outcomes of the tuna summit. The Eastern stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna is heavily over-exploited,...

Princes responds to your letters with empty words

Blog entry by Nina Thuellen | 14 October, 2010 6 comments

Nina, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, writes about the latest developments in our efforts to protect one of the world's most important fish. As part of our campaign to save the oceans, Princes tuna, an industry leader...

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