Published on December 13th, 20124
The CINTERA Project – A Cross-Disciplinary Integrated Eco-systemic Eutrophication Research and Management Approach
The demand for farmed fish is strong and growing, a natural result of research by many prominent researchers and the Fish and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggesting that 24–36% of wild fish stocks have collapsed worldwide and that 68–72% of global fish stocks are overexploited or collapsed. We in Popular Social Science are happy to present the CINTERA project.
Capture fisheries have a strong impact on the ecosystem in which they operate and if ‘business as usual’ is continued, serious threats to global food security could be imminent given the downward trend of the capture fishing industry’s access to wild fish coupled with an increased global reliance on seafood for protein, largely driven by big emerging economies like India and China. Global fisheries policies have for decades mitigated commercial fishing efforts in an attempt to reduce the rate of fishing pressure on wild stocks.
Several solutions have been suggested to stop this downward trend of fish supply, including no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and moving from single species fisheries management to that of Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM). There has been, however, for several decades a more direct adaptation for ameliorating the juxtaposition between the increased demand for seafood and declining wild supply, and the necessity to find more efficient means of food production to feed a growing population, namely aquaculture, or farmed fish.
Aquaculture accounted for 46 percent of total global food fish supply in 2008 and is the fastest-growing animal-food-producing sector globally, even outpacing human population growth according to the FAO. The per capita supply of animal protein from aquaculture has also increased, from 0.7 kg in 1970 to 7.8 kg in 2008, reflecting an average annual growth rate of 6.6 percent although this growth rate is beginning to slow. This mitigation path by policy makers is still to be considered a de facto realization that the attempts to mitigate capture fishing efforts to reduce pressure on wild stocks is failing.
In both Norway and Chile, salmon aquaculture in particular has become a very important industry. In Chile, the industry grew rapidly between roughly 1980 and 2007. In 2007, however, the industry was struck by an infectious salmon anemia (ISA) outbreak, which resulted in the loss of 20,000 jobs and approximately US$ 3 billion in losses between 2008 and 2011. Salmon aquaculture is however poised to make a comeback in Chile in the near future and to spread into new areas that also constitute a pristine fjord ecosystem, like those of the untouched areas in the Magallanes district.
Concern over the potential impacts from aquaculture can and has provoked stakeholder resistance and conflict that can have real management consequences in the country. The post-ISA period did lead to the creation of a new institutional frameworks, laws and policies to manage aquaculture. The process by which these laws were produced, however, revealed the lack of adequate knowledge in key areas as well as institutional weakness; disagreement exists as to whether the resulting management system significantly enhances sustainability according to researchers.
In Norway, given that the areas where aquaculture are located are well established, one of the effects of salmon farming has been eutrophication, which is an increase in the rate of supply of organic matter in an ecosystem, such as uneaten salmon feed or feces from the animals. This increase in organic matter typically promotes excessive growth of algae which can be considered a form of pollution. The upsurge in Norway has been due to nutrient discharges to the Norwegian coast, which has increased since 1985, due to the growth of the fish farming industry.
In the pristine untouched areas of Chile, where salmon farming is poised to move in the near future, the water will lack these farming affected areas, and are therefore of great comparative value. This is because there at present is no scientific concept agreed upon for understanding how nutrient and organic wastes from aquaculture systems distribute and accumulate in ecosystems, and a poor understanding of how these nutrients and organic matter affect the structure and function of the ecosystem.
The CINTERA project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) was therefore designed to improve researchers – and stakeholders` – knowledge of ecosystem response to eutrophication and management of eutrophication in different marine fjord ecosystems and zones in both Norway and Chile.
The plan of the CINTERA project is to study this from a cross-disciplinary angle, with researchers from Political Science, Chemistry, Biology, Oceanography and Economy all looking at the topic from their respective angles, using mesocosm experiments alongside participatory stakeholder workshops.
This will give the CINTERA project a unique possibility to compare the impact of the initial phase of aquaculture in Chile with the impact of well-established aquaculture on the ecosystem in Norway. The project had its official start the summer of 2012, and is expected to deliver final results by the summer of 2015. If you would like to learn more about the project and the members that take part in its implementation, you can visit the Facebook page for the CINTERA project: https://www.facebook.com/cinteraproject