Offshore Aquaculture in the Crosshairs for Aquarium Panel

Offshore aquaculture remains a point of concern for chefs, retailers and scientists who took part in a panel discussion at last week's Cooking for Solutions seminar at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. The debate centered on how to deal with the demand for the big three species - shrimp, tuna and salmon.

The panel was moderated by Kristine Kidd, food editor for Bon Appetit magazine.

While Paul Johnson, owner of the Monterey Fish Market, said the move toward offshore aquaculture is an environmental disaster, both he and Rick Moonen, chef at of rm Seafood in Las Vegas, supported land-based recirculating aquaculture systems.

Corey Peet, the aquarium's aquaculture research manager, was quick to mention that aquaculture is here to stay. "You can't paint all aquaculture with a broad brush. There is a role aquaculture can play in the long-term environment."

Kidd mentioned the magazine's readers continue to demand recipes for salmon. "They love salmon," she said. But with the wild fisheries on the West Coast shut down, the panelists were asked whether farmed salmon was a sustainable alternative.

"Can there be sustainable farmed salmon? There isn't any real solution for farmed salmon," said Peet. "There are possibilities. Inter-trophic systems deal with waste. When you solve one problem, you create another. There are niche [salmon] producers, but again, with those you produce problems with energy. Even with boutique producers, it's unclear whether they'd get off of the red [Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch] list."

During a discussion about shrimp, the Marine Stewardship Council's Brad Ack, regional director-Americas, mentioned the wild shrimp harvests in the United States are slow to move into the sustainability arena because of a lack of demand, in addition to the significant costs associated with changing operations to allow them to be certified sustainable.

Moonen aptly summed up the discussion of what seafood to eat and what to avoid by saying, "There's a lot of stress in eating. If we're all taking a step in the right direction, we'll all feel a little better. The average consumer doesn't want to worry about it all."


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