Q&A conducted by Ambassador Valentine Thomas & Atlantic Sapphire
Human societies face the enormous challenge of having to provide food and livelihoods to a population well in excess of 9 billion people by the middle of the twenty-first century, while addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on the resource base. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a unique, transformative and integrative approach to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path that leaves no one behind. Food and agriculture are key to achieving the entire set of SDGs, and many SDGs are directly relevant to fisheries and aquaculture, in particular SDG 14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) (source). To put into perspective humankind's dependency on fisheries, by 2030, the world will eat 20 percent more fish (or 30 million tonnes live equivalent) than in 2016. Aquaculture production that year is projected to reach 109 million tonnes, a growth rate of 37 percent over 2016. According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, that makes aquaculture the fastest growing segment in food (source, source).
In December I visited the Monterey Bay to take a deep dive into California Fisheries. As part of that trip, I met with Pete Adame of Lusamerica Seafood. Last week Pete helped us to understand the generally agreed upon framework for sustainable aquaculture (learn more here). Today, I'm interviewing the team from Atlantic Sapphire to show you evidence of a sustainable aquaculture operation in action. The land based Bluehouses in Hvide Sande, Denmark and Homestead, Florida are the fish farms of the future using zero antibiotics or hormones, and growing 100% parasite free fish in large bodies of recycled water where the salmon swim healthy, happy, and stress-free.
1- What does sustainability mean to you?
At Atlantic Sapphire, preserving our environment while feeding the world has been our driving passion. Atlantic Sapphire redefines sustainability standards to ensure we are always going above and beyond. Today, the food sector is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our world (source). A greener planet begins with ocean-safe, sustainable seafood that keeps oceans blue and the planet green. And that’s exactly what we do. At Atlantic Sapphire, we’re passionate about the sustainable, bio-secure environment we’ve created with our innovative Bluehouse. Bluehouses are better for fish, for people, and for the planet we all share, compared to some other sources of protein.
2- Can a fish farm have zero ecological impact?
Creating a fish farm with zero ecological impact is certainly a possibility that we strive for. While we currently do not have zero ecological impact, we have been able to significantly reduce ours by raising our fish on land to avoid contaminating our oceans. By creating a U.S. Bluehouse in Florida, we were able to eliminate airfreight transportation and reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
3- How does all of this work?
Much like a greenhouse, our Bluehouses create the ideal living environment for our fish with the perfect current, temperature, and salinity for health and well-being at each stage of growth. We achieve this using a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS). This technique ensures the water is continuously purified by a state-of-the-art filtration system and the fish are free to swim against strong currents, as they do in the wild. The most important factors to farm salmon at scale are a stable source of fresh and saline water and a well-developed and regulated system to discharge non-toxic water. Our Florida Bluehouse has access beneath the Florida surface to both freshwater (which makes up for less than 5% of our needs) and saline water (not suitable for drinking or irrigation) that has not been polluted or exposed to industrial activities. Because our salmon is raised on land, it will never have contact with sea lice or be exposed to wild fish diseases. This allows them to grow strong and healthy in a humane way.
4-The salmon industry is known for creating a lot of pollution, can a fish farm really be sustainable considering the amount of waste?
The Miami Bluehouse has a unique water source bringing a new level of purity to the product. Our water source is naturally purified through limestone rock in a sustainable ancient artesian aquifer. The water is more than 20,000 years old and has never been exposed to man-made contamination such as microplastics. We recycle over 99% of the water. The waste from our farm is also treated naturally through the Boulder Zone that is more than 3,000 feet underground. Not only that, but our fish trimmings and by-products can be processed into fish oils and protein powders. We’re excited to form relationships with Florida agriculture partners, using our innovative fish farming operation to enhance the strength of traditional farming in the state.
5- Salmon are carnivorous. They are fed a meal produced from catching other wild fish and other marine organisms. Salmon farming leads to high demand for wild forage fish. Salmon require large nutritional intakes of protein and farmed salmon consume more fish than they generate as a final product. How can that be considered sustainable?
Our salmon eat an all-natural, antibiotic-free diet, rich in vitamins, minerals, soy, and wheat. Our feed includes fish meal and oils sourced from trimmings and by-products that would otherwise become food waste. Our use of by-products minimizes pressure on scarce marine resources and furthers conservation efforts. We're always striving for more sustainable methods, including working with our feed suppliers to incorporate microalgae and insect meal options.
6- What are the advantages of farming on land opposed to in the ocean?
Raising fish on land means we don’t have to use antibiotics or hormones, no risk of escapes, and minimizes contamination of our oceans. For this reason, we claim Bluehouse Salmon as ocean safe. In our Denmark facility, we have proven that innovative onshore technology can produce delicious salmon. In our Florida facility, we further support the environment by bringing our salmon closer to the largest market for our fish. We consider it a win-win-win – for our oceans, for our customers, and for us.
7- What is the role of fish farms today?
Nearly 80% of assessed fish populations cannot withstand further fishing (source). Though consumers may turn to farmed fish, wild fish are also effected by the wastes, hormones, parasites, pesticides, and antibiotics associated with sea-based fish farming. Our land-based Bluehouses release zero contaminants into our oceans, offer zero escapee risk, put no pressure on wild fish populations, and cause no harm to sea lions or other adjacent species.
8- How does your salmon compare nutritionally to wild salmon?
We see our salmon as a superfood. Compared to wild salmon, our fish is higher in Omega 3s and lower in mercury. Like all salmon, Bluehouse is a low-calorie protein source that is also low in saturated fats.
9- How do they compare on taste?
Bluehouse Salmon is sushi-grade and delicious grilled, seared, baked, or raw. The flesh is firm and pink, with a rich, mild buttery flavor that pairs well with spice and sauce flavor profiles from around the world. Expert tasters compare the taste of Bluehouse Salmon with Scottish salmon — some of the highest-rated salmon in the world. Our salmon is rich in heart-healthy fats that are both good for your body and forgiving for the chef. It tends to come out moist and delicious even with slight overcooking.
10- Do you use any antibiotics? Is there a history of disease outbreak? If that happened, how would you control it?
Our fish are antibiotic and hormone-free with no history of disease. Our closed system in Florida enables us to operate with different schools of fish.
11-What are the big barriers to more responsible farms like this opening?
The biggest barriers to more responsible farm openings up like this are funding, technology, site location, and expertise. Before settling on our Florida location, we conducted an extensive nationwide search to find the best location to create our U.S. Bluehouese. We were fortunate to find a location in Florida that allows us to maintain and an ideal environment for our fish while also significantly reducing our environmental impact by utilizing Florida's natural platform.
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