Tagged: Aquaculture

What do clam diggers do in winter?

Working Loagy Bay Grant

Harvesting clams in Wellfleet when winter is still months away. Photo by Flickr user Beth Knittle [bknittle], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Boston Magazine’s Supply Chain series — “where we go behind the plate to get a feel for the day-to-day of Boston’s most relied-upon restaurant purveyors” — recently featured a “winter edition” that checks in on some folks who’d been previously profiled.

First up, Cassandra Landry revisits the Woodburys, who provide Boston restaurants with clams in season. And when the cold and snow and ice arrive? As Pat Woodbury tells it,

Winter is my summer vacation! We harvest up through New Year’s. Things get difficult out on the flats this time of year, because where we grow—and in most of Wellfleet—is intertidal. We get ice and the temperature makes it difficult, so we stop, and we’ll be off until spring. It’s a unique time of our season. The first month we pick up the pieces that we’ve left during the season, try to figure out where we are and analyze how the year went and what our next move is. Another part of our business is research and design, so during the year, we got a grant to design a clam-sorting machine. We built it and tested it, and over the winter we’re going to be rebuilding a machine we have in our shop that sorts sizes of clams, and then build a clam-counting machine. Fun stuff like that.

For more from Woodbury (like why harvesting clams in the dead of winter is not a smart idea), along with two additional interviews and some links, head here.

A cleaner fish farm?

Salmon farm

A salmon farm in the Bay of Fundy. Photo by Leigh Angel [revafisheye] via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Last Thursday, NPR ran a very interesting story from Dan Charles that featured the efforts of Thierry Chopin, a Canadian marine biologist, to develop fish farms that are less polluting that most. As Charles reports,

[Chopin’s] approach involves creating a whole ecosystem around a fish farm, so the waste generated by the salmon gets taken up by other valuable seafood commodities, like shellfish and kelp….

[T]here are rafts made of black PVC piping, sticking out of the water like catwalks. They are home to cultivated seaweeds and mussels — species that thrive on fish waste.

“What we are doing is nothing more than recycling the nutrients,” Chopin explains. “Instead of looking at them as waste, we look at them as nutrients for the next species.”

One of the best things about the story is Charles’ nuanced approach—he’s thoughtful enough not to present Chopin’s work as the solution to all the environmental downsides of farmed fish. As Charles describes, Chopin’s “integrated multi-trophic aquaculture”

addresses the mostly localized problem of water pollution, but it doesn’t address other problems with aquaculture: the spread of fish parasites, the escape of caged salmon, or — worst of all — the need to harvest wild fish to feed the salmon. That’s a big problem for inland aquaculture as well.

The full story is worth checking out; find both audio and text versions here.

Food for 9 Billion: Catfish farming in Vietnam

Photo by T-Oh! & Matt via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Yesterday Marketplace ran yet another installment in the ongoing public-media project, Food for 9 Billion. In it, reporter Sam Eaton takes a close look at Vietnam’s pangasius aquaculture, AKA catfish farming. As Eaton describes,

Jose Villalon, who heads the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program, says pangasius may be the perfect factory fish.

It grows fast. It can breathe air through its mouth if things get too crowded. And, unlike carnivorous fish like salmon, it thrives on a mostly vegetarian diet.

“When you look at ponds like this and you see the production output of them and you see how the fish are feeding efficiently,” Villalon said. “This is going to be how the future will receive its marine protein.”

Intensive systems like this can feed a lot of people, but there’s also the potential for things to go terribly wrong. Rivers get polluted. Diseases run rampant. Forests and wetlands get bulldozed into new ponds. This is why Jose Villalon and WWF are here in Vietnam working with big producers like [Duong Ngoc] Minh [head of Vietnam’s largest catfish farming operation]. They hope to create a new model for industrial-scale fish farms that puts the planet on equal footing with profits.

“Right now we’re at this transition where aquaculture’s being produced in traditional ways and it’s not yet being asked to be responsible,” he said.

It’s a fascinating story, so check out the full audio or print version, along with photos and a video teaser, at Marketplace’s website. Then head here to learn about the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program on pangasius.