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Seafood market in Borneo. (Photo: Mary Turnipseed/UCSB)

'Hybrid' category should be acknowledged in stores: NCEAS

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Thursday, August 09, 2012, 04:00 (GMT + 9)

Most fish currently for sale at grocery stores is both wild and farmed even though it may be labelled "all wild, never farmed," according to an article produced by a working group of the University of California at Santa Barbara's (UCSB) National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). The group recommends that when a combination of seafood production techniques are used, this be acknowledged in the marketplace with the term “hybrid” so as not to mislead consumers.

The article notes how in recent years, as much as 40 per cent of the Alaskan salmon catch originated in fish hatcheries.

NCEAS is calling on national and international organisations and governmental agencies to use the term "hybrid" when applicable. The article is in press with Marine Policy and available online.

"Farming fish and shellfish is generally a different way to produce seafood from fishing," said Dane Klinger, first author and a PhD student at Stanford University.

Parrotfish. (Photo: Mary Turnipseed/UCSB)

"While fisheries traditionally interact with their target population only at the time of capture, aquaculture, in its 'purest' state, controls the entire lifecycle of the organism, from egg to harvest. However, many common types of seafood are produced using techniques from both fisheries and aquaculture," he elaborated.

Mary Turnipseed, second author and a former postdoctoral fellow at NCEAS, stressed that while seafood production is a critical part of global food security, the way organisations study and talk about it often obscures how to increase the supply of sustainably produced seafood to feed a rapidly growing human population.

“We need to start collecting more accurate data on how seafood is really produced in today's world, and a first step will be through replacing the old farmed-fished dichotomy with a farmed-fished-hybrid classification scheme," she explained.

The authors reviewed several cases of fisheries that are augmented by aquaculture. For example, hatcheries stock scallops in New Zealand waters and eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the authors.

In aquaculture, fishing may be involved in production: for instance, bluefin tuna farms obtain their stock by fishing and also fish for feed -- and use 10-20 kg of fish for every kg of tuna raised.

While the primary source of information about the world's fisheries and aquaculture enterprises is the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the authors point out that the reporting of data from many countries to the FAO is incomplete.

For the 52 per cent of countries that do submit adequate data, "adding a hybrid production category would help elucidate their national understanding of domestic seafood production, as well as enhance global understanding of an important food sector," the article reads.

The article ends by stating the urgency of adding the hybrid category.

"Without these data, transformations in the market for a critical food and livelihood source for billions of people could occur, with global analysts and policymakers being the last to know," it reads.

By Natalia Real


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