Securing biological marine diversity with innovative aquaculture
Facing the major challenges of environmental degradation and climate change, the EU has set a roadmap for an environmentally friendly and resource efficient future with its Green Deal (see blog post „The Green Deal as a New Growth Strategy for Europe“). With the SEAWATER Cube we address two goals of the action plan, the so called „From farm to fork“ strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Below we provide a detailed overview of the „EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030“ goals and how our concept helps to achieve them.
The EU biodiversity strategy
Biodiversity forms the basis for human wellbeing.
“Nature provides us with food, medicines or building materials; it offers us recreation and is therefore also important for our well-being and health. An intact ecosystem ensures clean air and clean water and is an ally in the fight against climate change. Tranforming waste into new resources, pollination, fertilization of crops – this and much more would be simply unthinkable without an intact ecosystem.“
However, due to human activity, biodiversity is now exposed to enormous pressures. The EU therefore obliges its member states to do the following for the period from 2020:
- contain the loss of biodiversity;
- maintain or restore their ecosystems.
With this, the European Commission aims to set a good example in the global negotiations on the containment of the loss of biological diversity and the protection of ecosystems and to rebalance the disturbed relationship between human and nature.
Due to the SEAWATER Cubes as a closed-loop aquaculture, various points of contact arise in the context of the „EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030“:
Restoration of the good environmental status of marine ecosystems
A large part of the fish and crustaceans used for human consumption is produced or caught using methods that directly or indirectly threaten the biodiversity of natural waters. Overfishing means that more fish is taken from the oceans than can regrow to meet global fish consumption. In addition, industrial fishing trawls devastate the underwater habitat.In use, they destroy seabeds and the biodiversity that has grown there over decades. Left behind in the water as ghost nets, they form prisons for many marine creatures who get caught in the nets in search of food and die in agony.
The SEAWATER Cube is a way to breed fish independently of the seas and can help to restore balance to the seas. By reducing human intervention, the creatures in the sea can follow their natural behavior again. If fish production is shifted from the sea to the land, the natural ecosystem can recover and the extinction of threatened species is prevented.
Bycatch is also a fundamental problem in the industrial fishing industry and leads to the extinction of endangered species and the reduction of ecological diversity. Bycatch means that along with the target species, other unwanted species (e.g. dolphins, rays and whales) are also caught. In most cases, these are injured or killed during capture and are then thrown back into the sea. According to WWF, up to 40% of the world’s fish catch is lost as bycatch every year.
Since closed aquacultures operate independently of the sea, there is no bycatch associated with this type of fish farming. Only those fish are bred and killed that are needed. TThere is no impact on the natural waters and its living beings. Some critics note at this point that fish are also caught in the sea for fish feed for circulatory systems, which are then processed into fish meal and fish oil. In our plant, however, we use feed in which the animal components come from slaughterhouse waste and leftovers from food production.
Reduction of environmental pollution
In traditional fish production (catching and aquaculture in net cages) there are several factors that contribute to marine pollution. On the one hand, fishing nets disposed of in the sea are one of the largest sources of plastic pollution (46%). On the other hand, in marine aquacultures food residues and excretions from the animals find their way into the surrounding water, regardless of the environment. This eutrophication (= over-fertilization, oversupply of nutrients) creates an excessive amount of algae (phytoplankton), which cloud the water and deprive organisms at the bottom of light. On the sea floor, these algae also lead to excessive oxygen consumption, so that species such as starfish and mussels die off.
The sophisticated and multi-stage filter technology of the SEAWATER Cube ensures that fish excretions can be filtered, collected and fed to a targeted recycling process. By decoupling the system from the environment, no excretions of the animals get into natural waters. In addition, our feed model almost completely prevents unused pellets from entering wastewater. In total, 99% of the process water can be recycled through water treatment. There are various uses for the wastewater (500 l per day): discharge into municipal wastewater, use in biogas plants, or use as fertilizer for plants in the coupling with aquaponic.
Avoidance of antibiotic use
Antibiotics are frequently used as active ingredients for the targeted control of bacteria in traditional animal husbandry. They are used to treat sick animals or are often also used prophylactically to limit the outbreak of diseases in poor living conditions. Traditional aquaculture in net pens has been heavily criticized in recent years due to excessive use of antibiotics. In the body of fish, antibiotics are only partially metabolized. The residual products end up as excretions in the natural waters. There they promote the development of resistance. Antibiotic-resistant germs are a major threat to human health.
The filter technology and automation of all processes in the SEAWATER Cube ensure high water quality and that the animals grow up in healthy conditions and without stress. This completely avoids diseases and the use of antibiotics. Growth-promoting substances are also not used. Thus, the waste water from our plant is also uncontaminated and has no negative implications for the environment and the health of humans and animals.
As the previously listed points show, with the SEAWATER Cube we can make a major contribution to achieve the goals of the „EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030“. Fortunately, people are also becoming more aware of the issues and current problems surrounding the marine ecosystem. If we recognize that we ourselves are the cause of these problems, is this the first step on the way to restoring biodiversity. In the second step, everyone can make a contribution. Start-ups and companies by offering innovative solutions and consumers by critically questioning their consumption behavior and switching to environmentally friendly products.
Detailed information on fully automated fish farming in containers?
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)-The state of world fisheries and aquaculture, Rome (2018)
- European Inland Fisheries Advisory and Commission (EIFAC) Technical Paper 49 – Flow-through and Recirculation Systems. Report of the working group on terminology, format and units of measurement, Rome (1986)
- EU-Kommission, Naturschutz – Biodiversitätsstrategie der EU bis 2030: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12096-EU-2030-Biodiversity-Strategy, retrieved on 13.04.2021
- https://www.stiftung-meeresschutz.org/themen/fischerei/grundschleppnetze/, retrieved on 20.04.21
- https://www.wwf.de/themen-projekte/meere-kuesten/fischerei/ungewollter-beifang, retrieved on 20.04.21
- Lebreton, L., Slat, B., Ferrari, F. et al. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. Sci Rep 8, 4666 (2018).
- https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/wasser/gewaesser/meere/nutzung-belastungen/eutrophierung#eutrophierung-was-bedeutet-das, retrieved on3.04.2021
- Umweltbundesamt, „Antibiotika und Antibiotikaresistenzen in der Umwelt“, Dessau-Roßlau (2018)
- Picture source: ©borisoff – stock.adobe.com