We asked Zintro fishing industry experts to provide an overview of the issues that keep them awake at night, whether it is ocean acidification’s impact on the shellfish industry, tighter regulations on the fishing industry, or new innovations in making the industry more sustainable and balanced for long-term effectiveness.
Marcos Riera, founder of the group Innfish Technological Innovation, is optimistic about the future, even though the changes to his industry sets off alarm bells. “It is a fact that global warming is affecting the pH of the oceans and endangering the viability of some species. It’s also true that the commercial fishing pressure and inappropriate regulations are not only putting risk on the sustainability of some fisheries, but creating an unbalanced situation on ecosystems,” says Riera. “Yet, international institutions, the industry, and consumers in developed countries are concerned and focusing efforts and attitudes towards sustainable living, particularly fishing and fish consuming.”
Riera is working with fisheries and fish processing companies to increase the efficiency of the fishing business. “There is a lot to be done to get good results out of smaller catches, and that is what we all need: to reduce and rationalize the pressure on the oceans while maintaining the fish markets and the social economy linked to this activity,” he says. To get such results, Riera identifies three main areas:
• Optimization of catches: There is no doubt that regulations have to be improved and adapted to the fishing reality, Riera portends. “As a principle, we deeply agree that most of the fish caught should end up on the market, not only finding value for catches, but using all of the commercial fish species in the net (smaller and bigger sizes). This is a matter involving regulations, product design and marketing, efficient on board processing and freezing, integral port facilities, and so on,” he says. “Something that should be immediately avoided is throwing back dead fish into the ocean due to a low processing capacity or lack of quotas.”
• Guarantee fish conservation though the market chain: “There is a lot to be done on cold chain and hygienic guaranties. Any improvement in this areas means extended shelf life of the seafood product and, therefore, more sustainability and efficiency of the industry,” Riera says.
• Create an extraordinary value out of the catches: By adapting seafood products to market requirements with appropriate processing, ideal sizing, and improved packaging, Riera says that some companies are gaining in competiveness. “Getting the highest value out of processing byproducts is a clue to success and sustainability, and our experience says that more and more of this will be a competitive factor,” he points out.
Micha Eshchar, an expert in process engineering, says that ocean acidification is a result of ex-aquatic processes rather than human activity that takes place inside the water body. “Ocean acidification is attributed to the rise in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Since the atmosphere is in equilibrium with seawater, such a rise also raises the concentration of CO2 in seawater; consequently, this lowers seawater pH and creates a phenomenon called ocean acidification,” he explains. “We need little proof that acidification affects aquatic flora and fauna. As water pH drops, the solubility of carbonate rises and it’s harder for shells and other calcareous-dependent organisms to form their structure. Decreased pH may reduce building of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) structures in many organisms that are important to the food chain of commercial fish.”
Eshchar thinks that the implications of ocean acidification are already observable. “The system we’re talking about is dynamic and has a huge moment of inertia, like the volume and the buffer capacity, hence the slow reaction of the oceans. But, the consequences and outcomes of acidification are still on their way – even if the rate of CO2 emissions drop, which probably will not the case.”
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