Sea Change – Supply challenges and climate changes are forcing the U.S. seafood industry to adapt

March 2015, By Sherry Daye Scott, QSR Magazine

California-based fast casual Slapfish, which serves a range of premium seafood items—including a Bowl of Shrimp either chilled or fried—partners with Aquarium of the Pacific to develop and maintain a sustainable sourcing plan.

California-based fast casual Slapfish, which serves a range of premium seafood items—including a Bowl of Shrimp either chilled or fried—partners with Aquarium of the Pacific to develop and maintain a sustainable sourcing plan.

Though U.S. consumption is well below other proteins today, seafood will likely be an increasingly important part of the American diet in the years to come. The country’s population is predicted to grow by 89 million between 2010 and 2050 to 401 million people. More people require more food—and land limitations mean the beef, pork, and poultry industries can only produce so much volume.

Increased domestic consumption will have a direct impact on restaurant operators who serve finfish and shellfish. On one hand, more Americans eating seafood means the potential for increased sales. On the other, it also means the potential for higher wholesale prices. And while space limitations largely don’t affect the seafood industry, it has its own challenges to contend with, especially in the U.S.

For starters, more than 90 percent of the seafood the U.S. consumes is imported from countries with their own growing demand for protein. China, the global seafood producer and processor leader, is experiencing a rise in its middle class. China used to be a net exporter of seafood, but now it’s a net importer. The same is true of other seafood-producing countries in Asia and South America.

“If I am a buyer of seafood,” says Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association (MAA), “global demand is going to make it harder for me to source.”

In addition, climate changes are forcing suppliers to reevaluate their sourcing practices and invest in new practices, like aquaculture. These challenges have all levels of seafood stakeholders looking at new ways to approach the present—and future—state of the seafood industry.

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How Will Cod React to Global Warming? Researchers Subject Fish to High CO2 Levels to Find Out

May 8th, 2014, By Eva Tallaksen, undercurrentnews.com

cod in high co2Scientists in Tromso, Norway, are exposing cod broodstock to high CO2 to find out how the fish will cope as the seas get warmer, and more acidic.

“The idea is to find out, how will ocean acidification affect aquaculture and wild fish?” said Christopher Bridges, zoology professor at the university of Dusseldorf.

It is hoped larvae scooped from five tanks at Nofima’s national cod breeding center will soon yield some clues.

Each tank contained 60 cod broodstock averaging 3-5 kilos in size, exposed to different levels of temperatures and acidity. The fish spawned March and April, and their larvae, which hatched in the past two weeks, are currently being tested.

“The key aspect will be to look at the larvae’s survival rate,” said Bridges.

If global warming continues as some scientists think, the oceans’ CO2 levels could reach 1,000 to 1,200 ppm (parts per million) by 2100, up from just under 400ppm today.

That would take the seas’ pH level down to 7.8, from 8.1 today.

Most the research into the seas’ growing acidity has focused on the impact on fish eggs or larvae, or on habitats. But few have so far focused on its impact on broodstock, said Bridges.

Bridges is one of the scientists involved in the project, which is led by the publicly-funded German Bioacid initiative. Cooperating in the project are Germany’s Geomar and Alfred Wegner Institute, working in Norway under the EU FP7 support project Aquaexcel using the facilities of Nofima.

In two of the tanks, the cod were kept at normal acidity levels (400ppm), but one tank had a temperature of 5 degrees Celcius, and the other 10 degrees. In two other tanks, the fish were exposed to CO2 levels of 1,200 ppm, again with one tank at 5 degrees and the other at 10 degrees.

These four tanks all used broodstock from farmed fish, bred by Nofima’s center. A fifth tank was filled with fish from the wild, but these were caught too late to be used for the experiment.

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One of the Smartest Investments We Can Make

Ensia.com. By Jane Lubchenco and Mark Tercek, April 14th, 2014

For centuries, coastal wetlands were considered worthless. It’s time to acknowledge the environmental and economic value of restoring these ecosystems.

For the past 25 years, every U.S. president beginning with George H. W. Bush has upheld a straightforward, three-word policy for protecting the nation’s sensitive and valuable wetlands: No Net Loss. And for a quarter of a century, we have failed in this country to achieve even that simple goal along our coasts.

According to a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States is losing coastal wetlands at the staggering rate of 80,000 acres per year. That means on average the equivalent of seven American football fields of these ecosystems disappear into the ocean every hour of every day. On top of that, we’re also losing vast expanses of sea-grass beds, oyster reefs and other coastal habitats that lie below the surface of coastal bays.


Rising sea levels make coastal wetlands increasingly important as a buffer from erosion. Under the right circumstances, wetlands are even capable of building up coastal lands.


This isn’t just an environmental tragedy; it’s also an economic one. Coastal wetlands and other coastal habitats provide buffers against storm surges, filter pollution, sequester carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change, and serve as nurseries to help replenish depleted fish, crab and shrimp populations. The result is reduced flooding, healthier waterways, and increased fishing and recreational opportunities. To reap these benefits, we must reverse the trend of coastal habitat loss and degradation by protecting remaining habitats and aggressively investing in coastal restoration.

The good news is that such investments can pay off handsomely. To determine the extent of the economic contributions of these fragile and fading ecosystems, the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America analyzed three of the 50 coastal restoration projects NOAA carried out with funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The results were very positive. All three sites — in San Francisco Bay; Mobile Bay, Ala.; and the Seaside Bays of Virginia’s Atlantic coast — showed strong average returns on the dollars invested.

Only part of this benefit came from construction jobs. Real, long-term benefits also accrued to coastal residents and industries in the form of increased property values and recreational opportunities, healthier fisheries, and better protection against inundation. Rising sea levels make coastal wetlands increasingly important as a buffer from erosion. Under the right circumstances, wetlands are even capable of building up coastal lands because they trap sediment coming downstream from rivers, creating new land where additional marsh vegetation can grow.

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Nervous Nemo: Ocean Acidification Could Make Fish Anxious

By Douglas Maine, December 6th, 2013  Livescience.com

Ocean acidification threatens to make fish, like this juvenile rockfish, more anxious.

Ocean acidification threatens to make fish, like this juvenile rockfish, more anxious.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being absorbed into the sea, has made many worry because of the problems it will likely create, such as a decline in shellfish and coral reefs. But humans may not be alone in their anxiety: Ocean acidification threatens to make fish more anxious as well (and not because they are reading about ocean acidification on LiveScience.com. At least so far as we know.)

A new study found that after being placed for a week in an aquarium with acidic seawater — as acidic as the oceans are expected to be on average in a century’s time — juvenile rockfish spent more time in a darkened corner, a hallmark of fish anxiety, and the same behavior exhibited by fish given an anxiety-inducing drug.

“They behaved the same way as fish made anxious with a chemical,” said Martin Tresguerres, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

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