The Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) is calling on UK aquaculture to embrace and further develop a new conceptual framework that could underpin a sustainable future for the sector.
As part of her recent Master’s dissertation research at the University of St Andrews, SAIC CEO Heather Jones has created a new definition of a sustainable approach to UK finfish farming. This was developed following 35 hours of interviews with dozens of aquaculture experts and stakeholders, with a combined 828 years’ experience, drawing on deep knowledge of aquaculture at national to global level.
Among its key themes, the definition touches on the important role finfish farming plays in providing a high-quality source of protein as an integral part of the food system. The top issues to be addressed under the sustainability banner are environmental concerns – including minimising carbon emissions; prioritising animal health and welfare; and the key contribution feed sustainability makes to helping achieve national targets for Net Zero.
The definition has been endorsed by the SAIC board, which includes respected individuals from across aquaculture and academia. It is already being adapted and adopted by a variety of organisations with an interest in the sector.
While the definition is initially specific to finfish production in the UK, SAIC said it would be interested in collaborating with the UK shellfish and seaweed sectors, and also with global aquaculture sectors about developing the definition for their circumstances.
‘Sustainability is a loose concept that a lot of people use, but it can mean very different things. Given its central role in the future of aquaculture, it was imperative to provide a considered, all-encompassing definition, with a high degree of consensus, of what it means for finfish farming in the UK. It was particularly important to ensure it was informed by insights from many of the people who best know the sector,’ Heather Jones said.
‘With so much buy-in already, we hope this will become a foundation stone of our work to enhance the environmental and economic sustainability of the finfish sector. But, it is not an answer in itself, so we want the Scottish Government, sector companies, academics, and the wider stakeholder community to build on this starting point.’
The development of a definition for sustainable finfish farming comes ahead of Marine Scotland publishing its ‘Vision for Scottish Aquaculture’ in the next few months, which will outline the sector’s direction of travel for the years ahead.
‘Ultimately, it is all about consumers having confidence in the quality of the food they eat – in this case, salmon and trout. Like any good definition, it should evolve and improve over time and there is potentially broader value from this research through the creation of definitions for other sectors within aquaculture, as well as globally. We would encourage anyone with an interest in doing this to get in touch,’ Heather Jones commented.