Waters off B.C. have strong potential for development of commercial shellfish and seaweed aquaculture that can also help salmon farmers.

World Economic Forum launches aquaculture drive

The waters off B.C. have strong potential for development of commercial shellfish and seaweed aquaculture that can also help salmon farmers say scientists

By SeaWestNews

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and Hatch Blue, an aquaculture-focused accelerator program, to raise interest and investment for projects that create sustainable seafood and provide jobs for coastal communities.

“It’s great to see that aquaculture is a focus area of WEF’s latest ocean solutions initiative. Hatch will be helping the forum to find and evaluate opportunities within restorative and regenerative forms of aquaculture,” said Georg Baunach, managing partner of Hatch.

The WEF’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, which was held last month, included the launch of a platform that aims to identify operations – including aquaculture operations – that can accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Billed as the forum’s “second sprint” it aims to find solutions that will help protect the ocean, and everything that lives in it.

“There are many projects and initiatives to encourage regenerative terrestrial agriculture – for example soil restoration business models – while precious few relate to aquatic habitats,” said Baunach

“This is something we are keen to address, as – when done well – the culture of bivalves and seaweeds, for example, is inherently restorative. They require no inputs, they improve water quality and are net producers of benefits.”

“However, there are too few businesses with business models that focus on ocean health as part of their operations – while farmers are being encouraged to regenerate the soil, why don’t we encourage aquaculture operators to do the same in the water? We will be working to promote and monitor innovative companies that apply to the challenge, then help to evaluate which of these should go on to receive further support from WEF – who will help them to connect with the right investors and expert advisors,” he added

The waters off B.C. have strong potential for development of commercial shellfish and seaweed aquaculture that can also help salmon farmers, said a study last year by scientists from the Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Enabling conditions suggest that development of a seaweed aquaculture sector in B.C. could provide numerous environmental and economic benefits to the region, including enhanced nutrient removal, habitat for commercially and recreationally important fish and invertebrate species, and novel employment opportunities,” said Dr. Seth Theuerkauf, aquaculture scientist at The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

This study follows another by Dr. Stephen Cross the former Industrial Research Chair for Sustainable Aquaculture at North Island College (NIC) in B.C. which showed that seaweed aquaculture can also play an important role for B.C.’s salmon farmers.

“The kelp-growing study involving over 40 fish farms showed good potential in growing seaweed within salmon farm tenures,” said Dr. Cross.

The analysis found that excess nutrients from a fish farm could act as a fertiliser for kelp, supercharging the plant’s growth. In addition to kelp providing additional revenue, it will also absorb much of a farm’s waste, and act as a carbon sink.

There are more that 630 seaweed species in B.C.’s 20,000 km of coastline – the world’s most diverse – making it conducive for incredible production and market opportunity, said Dr. Cross.

At the moment, seaweed harvest in the province is mostly from the wild, totalling roughly 800 to 1,000 MT per year.

B.C.’s farmed oyster harvest totalled 7,700 tonnes in 2017 and accounted for more than one-third of the provincial shellfish harvest. Oyster sales in B.C. generated $29 million in wholesale value in 2017 and represented about half of the shellfish aquaculture industry’s value.

“There exists growing interest in seaweed aquaculture in BC, which is consistent with the identified high Restorative Aquaculture Opportunity Index (RAOI) score identified for development of seaweed aquaculture in this region in this study,” Dr. Seth Theuerkauf told SeaWestNews.com by email.

(Image shows Georg Baunach, managing partner of Hatch)