Our oceans have been a source of food for thousands of years, and currently, seafood accounts for 17% of all animal protein, by mass, consumed globally. It is estimated that seafood consumption is increasing 3.1% annually and is projected to increase 27% by 2030. While ocean harvest has decreased annually this increase is, sustained by the aquaculture sector, which is expected to grow by 62% during the same period. California is the top seafood consuming state in the US and low estimates suggest that the US imports >70% of our seafood with Southeast Asia producing 90% of the world’s seafood. While the data shows that fish farming and especially shellfish farming are the most sustainable forms of animal agriculture,……………… exactly what is sustainable marine aquaculture for California? (Watch the video in the link to find out!)
Our lab is focused on marine aquaculture species that require nutrient inputs from low trophic food sources. Low trophic marine aquaculture is defined by species that eat at the lowest levels of the food system such as species that consume zooplankton and phytoplankton like microalgae, seaweeds, and kelps. We are excited about the future for seaweed and kelp farming and interested in species that thrive in polyculture or integrated multi-trophic aquaculture such as growing edible seaweeds alongside marine invertebrates such as red abalone, clams, mussels, oysters, and sea cucumbers. These types of aquaculture systems are important for the growth of sustainable seafood, not only for animal feeds and human consumption but when done correctly provide a variety of ecosystem services allowing our coastal ecosystems and working waterfronts to thrive.
Aquaculture isn’t just growing aquatic plants and animals in water for food (sustenance aquaculture). We can also grow endangered species using those same methods (Conservation Aquaculture). Our laboratory has been developing non-invasive methodology to understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on endangered abalone. Below is a video we produced of Dr. Sara Boles conducting an ultrasound examination on Red abalone. You can read more about our research in this recent publication Evaluation of gonad reproductive condition using non-invasive ultrasonography in red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) in Frontiers in Marine Science.