Saturday, January 30, 2016

Aquaculture – An Introduction

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, aquaculture is understood to mean “the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated.” (*1)

In Canada, aquaculture is a billion dollar a year industry. Canada is the fourth-largest producer of farmed salmon in the world and mussels are Canada’s top shellfish aquaculture export. The industry provides more than 14,000 full-time jobs (5,800 direct, 5,600 indirect and 2,600 induced), many of which are in remote and coastal locations. (*2)

Types of Aquaculture Activities

There are a number of types of aquaculture activities. These include the following (*3):

a) Freshwater (Lake) Cage Culture: in cage culture operations, hatchery-produced stocks are grown in floating cages under provisions of a lease.

b) Land-based Systems: in land-based aquaculture operations, hatchery-produced stocks are grown in tanks or ponds located on private property.

c) Bottom Culture/Enhancement- Intertidal Zone: bottom culture/enhancement in the intertidal zone consists of two distinct activities. Marine plants or sessile shellfish are managed under provisions of a lease. Alternatively, marine plants or shellfish are managed without a lease, and a fishing licence is required for harvesting.

d) Long-line/Cage Culture: long-line and/or cage culture operations operate in subtidal waters. Typically, they consist of floating-rope or net-cage systems that are anchored to the seabed. Such systems operate within the provisions of a provincial or federal lease.

e) Bottom Culture/Enhancement- Subtidal Zone: subtidal bottom culture and enhancement is virtually identical to bottom culture and enhancement activities in the intertidal zone. The principal difference is the location of the activities in the coastal zone and the governing jurisdictions related to the activities.

f) Enhancement/Sea Ranching: in sea ranching operations, the sea may be regarded as an aquatic pasture where the hatchery- reared fish are released, forage for food and seek shelter. To facilitate recapture, sea ranching is commonly conducted with migratory stocks, such as salmon, that return to their natal streams to spawn.

Aquaculture facilities and activities in Canada are regulated under a number of acts, legislation, regulations, and programs related to environmental management and shared use of aquatic resources. These instruments are administered by various federal, provincial and territorial bodies.

Federal Legislation in Place

Through the Fisheries Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada regulates the aquaculture industry in order to protect fish and fish habitat. The Act sets out authorities on fisheries licensing, management, protection and pollution prevention. The following regulations are relevant for aquaculture or will be amended to address barriers to industry growth while safeguarding the environment:

Aquaculture Activities Regulations: the Regulations clarify conditions under which aquaculture operators may treat their fish for disease and parasites, as well as deposit organic matter. They also impose public reporting on the environmental performance of the sector as well as specific environmental monitoring and sampling requirements.

Atlantic Fishery Regulations: The aquaculture industry is subject to these wild capture fisheries Regulations.

Fishery (General) Regulations: These Regulations set out Fisheries and Oceans Canada's authorities for approving the release of fish into fish habitat and the transfer of live fish to fish rearing facilities. They also support the Department's management of aquaculture in British Columbia in conjunction with the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations.

Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations: These Regulations authorize the Minister to close areas to recreational and commercial fishery harvests and to take other management measures when biotoxins, bacteria, chemical compounds or other substances are present in fish habitat to a degree that may constitute a danger to public health.

Marine Mammal Regulations: They set out authorizations for the management and control of aquatic mammals that cause a nuisance to fisheries activities.

Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations: At present, aquaculture operators are constrained by these wild capture Regulations and unable to use current farming practices.

Pacific Aquaculture Regulations (Amendments): These Regulations set out Fisheries and Oceans Canada's licensing and management authorities for aquaculture in British Columbia. The amendments establish fees for aquaculture licences in British Columbia and also enable payment by annual installments on a multi-year licence.

Pacific Fishery Regulations: These regulations set out Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s authorities respecting fishing in the Pacific Ocean and the Province of British Columbia.

Other federal departments are involved in the aquaculture business and its regulation.

Environment Canada uses the Species At Risk Act to support the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada including fish, reptiles, marine mammals and molluscs. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as competent Minister under the Species at Risk Act, is responsible for aquatic species at risk.

The Canadian Environment Protection Agency under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act provides governance respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.

Some of the most commonly cited environmental concerns include:
a) local nutrient pollution into water systems, by waste feed/feces;
b) local chemical pollution from use of chemical treatments; and
c) effect on wild fish, by escapees interacting with wild fish populations and through disease spread

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses the Health of Animals Act to support the management of animal diseases, including aquatic animals (e.g. finfish and shellfish). The program is delivered through the National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP) and the Health of Animals Regulations. The Agency uses the Feeds Act to govern the manufacture and sale of livestock feeds in Canada to ensure they are safe, effective and labeled appropriately. Similarly it uses the Fish Inspection Act  to regulate food quality, food safety and identity of fish and seafood products that are processed in federally registered establishments or imported into Canada.

Future Federal Legislation

Regulatory proposals that the Department of Fisheries intends to bring forward include:

Aquaculture Activities Regulations (proposed): The proposed Regulations would clarify conditions under which aquaculture-related husbandry activities are undertaken under the Fisheries Act and impose greater public reporting on the environmental performance of the sector.

Atlantic Fishery Regulations: The proposed amendments would enable shellfish farmers to better manage their growing areas by permitting harvesting and maintenance activities unique to them.

Fishery (General) Regulations: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with the support of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is proposing to amend these regulations to better align both organizations’ mandates and programs when it comes to fish health management. The proposed amendments would eliminate overlap and duplication and clarify roles and responsibilities.

Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations: The proposed amendments would enable shellfish aquaculture operations to manage their growing areas so as to further minimize health risks from consumption of bivalve shellfish.

Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations: The proposed amendments would enable shellfish aquaculture operations to harvest undersized (“cocktail”) oysters from their own lease areas, an activity currently prohibited under the existing Regulations. A licence provision to allow the on- and off-tenure maintenance activities of normal business operations would also be proposed.

Pacific Aquaculture Regulations (Amended): Published on May 20, 2015, the amendments to the Regulations establish fees for aquaculture licences in British Columbia and also enable payment by annual installments on a multi-year licence. Licences in the Discovery Islands remain limited to one year pending further scientific assessments and regulatory work in the area.

Provincial and Territorial Legislation

Many provinces and territories regulate aquaculture in their areas. For example, in Ontario the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act 1997, SO 1997, c 41 provides (*4) that no person shall engage in in aquaculture (defined as the breeding or husbandry of fish) unless the fish that are cultured:
(a) belong to a species prescribed by the regulations; and
(b) are cultured under the authority of a licence and in accordance with the regulations.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has issued an aquaculture issuing policy in accordance with the  Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act 1997. The policy governs how aquaculture licences, renewals, transfers, amendments, refusals and cancellations are issued. The policy's goal (and the regulations) is to minimize the risk of ecological damage from aquaculture activities.

The province regulates the culture of fish to minimize the risk of ecological damage resulting from aquaculture activities, such as fish escapes, which can alter aquatic ecosystems and native fish populations. These regulations protect Ontario fisheries by preventing:
a) the unauthorized introduction of fish into new waters
b) the spread of invasive fish species, fish parasites and fish diseases

Aquaculture Risks

Every agricultural sector has to deal with specific risks and issues. The risks resulting from the aquaculture industry are mainly environmental risks impacting the surrounding habitat and consumer health risks, as well as conflicts of interests between aquaculture facilities and neighboring fishery sectors.
While the main risks faced by onshore aquaculture facilities result from storms, tornados, diseases and predators, offshore aquaculture facilities are additionally subject to tsunamis, global warming, plankton blooming, and changes in sea level and water quality as well as other environmental impacts.
Risks caused by these impacts are mainly damage to the stock, but also damages to the facilities caused by storms, tsunamis etc.
Other risks that especially offshore aquaculture operators have to face are workers liability related risks, since operating aquaculture facilities offshore bares risks for workers and divers such as injuries and infections.
Diseases / Risks for the Stock
The most valuable asset of the aquaculture industry is the stock, thus threats to the stock pose the main risks faced by the facilities.
The most dangerous threats to the stock are diseases and parasites. Marine cage culture of Atlantic salmon in Chile, oyster farming in Europe (notably France), and marine shrimp farming in several countries in Asia, South America and Africa for example, have experienced high mortality caused by disease outbreaks in recent years, resulting in partial or sometimes total loss of production. Disease outbreaks also virtually wiped out marine shrimp farming production in Mozambique in 2011(*6)
However many of the threats to aquaculture livestock are a product of aquaculture itself, of growing candidate species in restricted areas and in numbers that, in their wild state, would not be found in such large numbers together. Indigenous species of the aquatic environment have developed various strategies to deal with the extremes of its constantly changing ecosystem, such as moving away from the threatening situation (for example plankton bloom). Such natural risk management strategies however operate against the meaning and purpose of aquaculture, which is to keep stock together and in controlled units of production.(*7)
A typical risk for all agricultural industries is the weather; however, aquaculture is possibly more exposed to the uncertain overall effects of global warming than any other farming sector. Fish farmers around the world are particularly vulnerable to weather related disasters, because of their location and their overall high levels of exposure to natural hazards, livelihood shocks and climate change impacts. Since there has been an increasing trend in the number of natural disasters in the past century around the world, exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards is increasing.
The types of disasters that affect the fisheries and aquaculture sector include natural disasters such as storms, cyclones/hurricanes with associated flooding and tidal surges, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, floods and landslides. Disasters of human origin affecting the sector have included oil and chemical spills and nuclear/radiological material.
The effects of disasters on the sector can include the tragic loss of life, the loss of livelihood assets such as boats, gear, cages, aquaculture ponds and broodstock, post- harvest and processing facilities, and landing sites.
Pollution, Chemical and Metallic Contamination
The aquaculture industry is prone to pollution from land and aquatic sources, and aquatic ecosystem degradation from farming, mining, industry and urbanization. Water pollution has increasingly threatened production in some newly industrialized and rapidly urbanizing areas. Agrochemicals, chemotherapeutants, metals, feed ingredients, feed additives and contaminants and organic pollutants, could pose chemical hazards. Metals of concern for public health include those usually grouped together as heavy metals, and some metalloids such as arsenic. Metals and metalloids are present in the aqueous environment mostly as a result of geochemical processes that cause them to enter into solution and so ultimately into watercourses and other bodies of water. They can also be introduced into aquaculture systems through certain cultural practices or as a result of pollution.
With the above-mentioned threats to the aquaculture industry and caused by the aquaculture industry often resulting in high costs, the demand for insurance increased eventually.
The term “aquaculture insurancedescribes all the various types of insurance that would normally be used to protect an aquaculture business operation. For a reasonably large aquaculture company, this would include insurance cover for buildings and equipment, employees, stock, livestock, liabilities, motor vehicles, vessels and divers, goods in transit, and other insurable interests.
Aquaculture has its very own industry-specific insurance challenges in the areas of the insurance of offshore operations, some aspects of employers liability, particularly for offshore workers, and employers' liability for divers, insurance of the end product, especially product recall and products liability and insurance of livestock. Generally the key perils that the owners of aquaculture facilities want covered by insurance are disease, infestations of parasites, predation, temperature fluctuations and plankton bloom, as well as the more typical hazards such as drought, storm, flood, earthquake, equipment and system failure, vandalism and manmade pollution. (*8)
World aquaculture production was 63.6 million tonnes in 2011, with almost 90% of this production in Asia. In the same year, Canadian production was 162,000 tonnes or 0.25% of the global total. In 2009, Canada ranked 20th in the world in terms of the value of its aquaculture production. With the world's longest coastline, and a skilled workforce. Canada has the potential for future expansion. However, the aquaculture industry in Canada faces economic and environmental challenges. (*9) The aquaculture industry is overseen by a combination of federal and provincial authorities. The federal government has jurisdiction over the regulation of fish products marketed for export and interprovincial trade; the protection of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries; and research and development. DFO is responsible for the application of the Fisheries Act, and Transport Canada grants authorizations for aquaculture facility plans under the Navigation Protection Act. The safety and quality of aquaculture products, feeds and veterinary drugs used by the industry are governed by other departments, including Health Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The complex legislative and regulatory environment may hinder the growth of the aquaculture industry. There are many challenges ahead.
(*1) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP) Handbook of Fishery Statistical Standards, Section J: Aquaculture.
(*2) Legislative and Regulatory Review of Aquaculture in Canada: Commissioner for Aquaculture Development.
(*3)Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Aquaculture Snapshot.
(*4) See section 47.
(*5) See FisPp.9.2.1
(*6) “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012”, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Rome 2012, page 26.  
(*7) “Aquaculture insurance industry risk analysis processes”, by P.A.D. Secretan, 2008, In M.G. Bondad-Reantaso, J.R. Arthur and R.P. Subasinghe (eds), Study on understanding and applying risk analysis in aquaculture, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, No. 519. Rome, FAO. pp. 229–245.
(*8) Ibid.

(*9) Thai Nguyen and Tim Williams, Industry, Infrastructure and Resources Division, 28 February 2013, “Aquaculture in Canada” Library of Parliament Research Publications.


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