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.

Combating bycatch

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?

Refe­ren­ces

  • 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