Bridging Silos: The Need for Collaboration in Aquaculture

Melanie Siggs offers her insight into collaboration and industry growth in light of climate change.

Melanie has worked internationally in strategic roles for both commercial and NGO organisations across the food and timber sectors, and has specialised in fisheries and aquaculture over the past 14 years. She is the Director of the Global Seafood Alliance, an international nongovernmental organization dedicated to advancing responsible seafood practices through education, advocacy and demonstration.

She joins the powerful speaker lineup at the Blue Food Innovation Summit in London this May, 23-24. (Register here),

How can different parts of the aquaculture industry form a climate resilient system?

Melanie Siggs

A great advantage of aquaculture is the range of species, and the fact we can closely manage growing conditions. For example, hatcheries can continually improve survival rates of juveniles, and pond or net/cage siting mean that we can select species that have greater resilience to climate change impacts.

Aquaculture can contribute to a wider climate resilient system too. Not only can it produce animal proteins usually with less GHGs than other animal proteins, but in many cases, it can be produced locally. Some species don’t need feed inputs, for example mussels, while kelp and seaweeds, which can be farmed, can remove carbon dioxide from the water creating buffering zones. The combination of opportunity is enormous.

There may be secondary impacts, for example, on soy or wheat production, but we are constantly increasing the portfolio of feed ingredients to create optimum aqua feed where needed.

How can blue food continue to grow in light of ocean changes caused by climate change?

Blue food is an integral part of planet appropriate food systems, particularly in light of climate change impacts and an ever-growing population. Investing science, research, and funding into understanding how to optimise those special, adaptive, lower impact aquaculture systems on a micro and macro level is critical, whether that’s RAS systems, fresh water, ponds or systems that look to use the vast opportunity the ocean and the water column presents.

Of course, blue foods include wild caught seafood, and we hear constantly that we have peaked in terms of what we can safely catch. Furthermore, FAO highlights that we waste at least a third of that catch. In my opinion it is imperative that we address this. We need to understand where 100% of every fish we farm or catch goes, and commit to use this information for socio-economic benefit. There’s no need for any waste, but in some cases, we have to work out how to capture and repurpose what is currently wasted economically. It goes without saying that farming or catching must be done in sustainable systems.

What will happen if we don’t work together?

When we collaborate pre-competitively to solve common challenges, we agree to pool resources, learning, research, investment, for collective benefit. We are greater than the sum of our parts. We see collaborations develop around us for that reason: greater agency, a bigger voice, scales of economy.

But of course, there are challenges to collaboration too. Agreeing on the rules of the game can be hard. Great leadership is key to successful collaboration, I think.  If we don’t collaborate, moving the dial on research, investment, even regulatory change where that might be needed, is likely to be far slower and fragmented, and time or money may well be wasted in doubling up of efforts. I don’t think we have time or money to waste.

Melanie will chair the panel ‘Producer Forum: Pioneering a Sustainable Future’ alongside leaders from MOWI, SEABOS and BIOMAR at the Blue Food Innovation Summit on May 23-24. View the full agenda.