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As the Global Aquaculture Alliance(GAA)’s GOAL 2013 conference wound down last Thursday, participants packed up, got a final night out in Paris, got one last glass of good wine and prepared to transition from speaking French back to English — or, for some, the home tongue of the next country on their itinerary.

But even now, after a weekend to get over the jet lag, the message of the annual aquaculture conference remains: Farmed seafood is more relevant to the modern market than ever before.

From Alaska to Norway to Malaysia, fishing has been and remains a critical part of the economy and culture of many nations worldwide. It will also remain a critical source of the world’s seafood, no doubt helping to feed us all for generations to come.

But if the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is right, the world’s wild seafood resources won’t be enough. Ole-Eirik Lerøy, chairman of Marine Harvest, in his keynote speech on the conference’s first day, noted the FAO predicts that by 2030, the world will have to produce 40 million metric tons more seafood in order to keep up with the food needs of growing populations.

“There won’t be more wild fish in the ocean,” he said. “It has to be done by aquaculture.”

He’s right: Aquaculture will be key in the coming decades to addressing needs for protein, and the seafood industry would be wise to prepare for that now.

As many GOAL panelists confirmed, looking into other corners of the world is a good start. Northern Africa and the Middle East hold vast potential for aquaculture. While political instability and a lack of infrastructure compared to other more industrialized regions have hampered development, aquaculture operations do exist there, and could grow with enough assistance.

Seeking alternate forms of feed for cultured seafood is also a good idea. Using fish to feed fish, while a natural thing to do, carries significant risk, since a lot of fishmeal is taken from the oceans to feed farmed fish, but there are alternatives. Panelists spoke about using everything from plant-based proteins to insect meal, trends that are bound to gain traction as the prevalence of aquaculture grows.

Finally, as investors work to build larger and larger operations, they must keep an eye on disease. Scientists appear to have nailed down a cause for early mortality syndrome, or EMS, but not before the bacteriological infection ripped through shrimp farms in southeast Asia, and there’s still no quick and easy answer to it. Salmon farms in Chile were similarly devastated by infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, before the illness was brought under control. Seafood farmers will need to be more vigilant in the future to stop these outbreaks before they start.

Again, aquaculture is not, nor will it ever be, the only source of the world’s seafood, but in only the past 30 years, it has established itself as a cornerstone of the industry. We hope to see aquaculture firms, with hard work and perhaps a little luck, working hand-in-hand with the wild seafood industry to help feed the world for the next 30 years, and beyond.

SeafoodSource served as media partner with the GAA for GOAL 2013. To see our coverage of the event, click here.  

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