This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

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

 

Europe's monster boats plunder Pacific tuna stocks

Blog entry by Nathaniel Pelle | 14 November, 2014 3 comments

We usually refer to them as Pacific Island nations, but territories like Kiribati are more like vast ocean nations. Kiribati (pronounced 'Kirr-i-bas') is a nation of 33 coral atolls and reef islands dispersed over 3.5 million square...

Drastic action needed to stop FADs plundering our oceans

Blog entry by Lyn Drummond | 21 October, 2014

Greenpeace has taken drastic action to highlight overfishing which is driving the decline of tropical tunas and killing a range of other marine species. The use of man-made floating objects called Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in...

Enough is enough; we need to reclaim our seas and fisheries now

Blog entry by Duncan Williams | 3 December, 2013

The Western and Central Pacific is the world's largest tuna fishery , with millions of people depending on it for food and their livelihoods. It is also an economic lifeline for many of our region's small island states. But there is...

The "longline" of suffering and destruction

Blog entry by Sari Tolvanen | 20 November, 2013 1 comment

Tuna longline fisheries are one of the most scandalous fishing businesses on the planet, operating mostly out of sight and out of control. Longlining is the fishing method that catches the big valuable tunas aimed at fulfilling the...

Koreans demand sustainable tuna too

Blog entry by Jeonghee Han | 11 June, 2013

On Monday morning in Seoul, Greenpeace Korea held the 'Worst Tuna Brand Awards' to highlight the wasteful and destructive fishing methods used to fill the cans of tuna lining Korea's supermarket shelves. This year's winner, making them...

Defending Indonesia’s seas and fishermen's livelihoods

Blog entry by Sari Tolvanen | 31 May, 2013

This month has seen a myriad of oceans activities in Indonesia - Greenpeace’s newest campaign to defend our oceans. Our flagship the Rainbow Warrior has been documenting underwater life and fishing activities in the Banda sea as part...

Creating a debate on sustainable tuna fishing is the first step towards change

Blog entry by Oliver Knowles | 22 May, 2013 1 comment

Our second ship tour of the Indian Ocean as part of the campaign for sustainable tuna fisheries ended last week. Combined with last year's tour, Greenpeace has been patrolling the region for illegal and unsustainable fishing practices...

United we sail – Mauritian fishermen, Greenpeace protest against overfishing

Blog entry by Oliver Knowles | 6 May, 2013 5 comments

This week, politicians, scientists and fisheries managers from around the world are coming to Mauritius to attend the annual Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting. This organisation is charged by governments to protect tuna...

Floating freezers full of tuna, but where did it come from?

Blog entry by Francois Chartier | 3 May, 2013 3 comments

On the shimmering blue high seas, there is a grey area. Known as transshipping, this common practise of transferring fish catches from one vessel to another is also a loophole, as it can lead to fish from illegal sources getting into...

Ending the overfishing crisis

Blog entry by Aaron Gray-Block | 18 April, 2013 3 comments

Less than six months after sailing through the Indian Ocean last year, Greenpeace has returned to the region to help end overfishing and create sustainable tuna fisheries that bring real economic benefits to coastal communities. ...

1 - 10 of 88 results.

Categories