By Oli Valur Steindorsson
Aug. 4, 2011
Sustainable fishing practices are vital today, in an era where global consumer demand for fish is rising and controversy is raging over the threatened status of various fish species. At Umami Sustainable Seafood, which operates facilities in Croatia and Mexico, my colleagues and I have implemented a variety of practices to sustainably fish and farm Bluefin Tuna. Yet these practices, which I outline in this essay, are not applicable to us alone. They could be adopted by many seafood companies to ensure the sustainable use of different fish species-not only of tuna-whose population levels have been the cause of concern in recent years.
For example, in cases where the catch of a particular fish species has not been limited by law, fishing companies should encourage the relevant marine authorities to adhere to catch levels scientifically required to permit the replenishment of the species. This goes for “catch and kill” and for farming alike. Investment in technologies to spawn farmed fish in captivity, with the ability to release fry back into the natural environment, will further contribute to the species’ replenishment.
In the case of aquaculture companies like Umami, the locations of farming sites are key to environmental and economical success. A perfect site will take care of excrement, shelter the pens from weather and be located in the vicinity of natural sources of feed. It will have no industrial production nearby or natural predators to the farmed fish. Additionally, with careful consideration, farm sites can be positioned in pristine environments so they offer natural shelter against most storms with water temperature, salt and oxygen levels favorable for sustainable growth. Last but not least, investment in the development of “closed cycle” farming technology will result in an economically viable farming business built around an in-house breeding program that will help to reduce the world’s demand on wild populations. Ideally, the fish would be fed only its natural feed, with no chemicals, drugs or additives. Via this approach, it may be possible to maintain a feed-conversion ratio measurably lower than the ratio required in the wild.
The ideal farming process will have minimal impact on the environment. No pesticides, hormones, fertilizer or other non-organic products should be used in the farming process, including feed. Additionally, the location of the farm should take into consideration the natural currents and flow of the surrounding waters in order to remove natural impurities from the area.
If the business practices outlined above are adopted on sufficiently wide scales, everyone will be able to enjoy a piece of sustainably grown fish on their plate. Sustainability practices represent a major step in keeping the prized fish stocks thriving-and on our tables as well.
Oli Valur Steindorsson is CEO & Chairman of Umami Sustainable Seafood. A native of Icelandic fishing village Akranes, Steindorsson moved to Tokyo at the age of 19 to pursue a career in the global seafood industry. Through his experience in Japan, he has established a wide network of customers and contacts in the seafood trade. He can be reached at [email protected].