Climate Action

These deepwater fish farms could help natural stocks recover

Aquaculture is rapidly becoming one of the most sustainable and popular methods of fishing. Image: Netflix / Our Planet

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of the Environment

“Our relationship with the oceans has not been a happy one," says Marine biologist Neil Sims.

"But there is a need for optimism. Let’s start to think of solutions.”


One such solution that Sims and his partners have been pioneering is a unique take on a rapidly growing food sector: aquaculture.

Image: Netflix / Our Planet

What is aquaculture?

The farming of fish, seafood and aquatic plants, aquaculture already accounts for about half the fish we eat globally.

But such farms are usually located in coastal waters, and the faecal waste produced by the fish, and chemicals used in the farming process, can impact the environment.


So start-ups like Sims’ Hawaii-based Kampachi Farms are basing themselves offshore. Kampachi breeds sushi-grade fish in pens 70 metres deep, 6 km from the coast.

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Offshore farms benefit from strong currents and deeper waters which help to dilute and wash away excrement.


Pablo Konietzko is the director of Earth Ocean Farms, which breeds red snapper and totoaba in submersible aquapods off the coast of Mexico.

Image: Netflix / Our Planet

He says: “We are in open sea conditions, where the currents are very strong, the waters are very pure and where the fish are in their natural habitat, without any issues relating to densities or pollution.”

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Overfishing

More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, and, according to the UN, almost 90% of marine stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

But fish accounts for 17% of all the animal protein we eat globally – going up to 26% in the poorest and least developed countries.

To maintain food security, as well as the livelihoods of the 60 million people who work in fisheries and aquaculture – and those of the 200 million whose jobs are connected with the sector – it’s vital to find a way to fish sustainably.

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“The world population is growing at an extraordinary rate and this healthy protein, fish, also has to start coming from other sources,” says Konietzko. “What we’re doing is trying to contribute our grain of sand and help the sea, providing sustainable farmed fish.”

Sims believes we could eventually produce up to 100 times the current level of seafood production from offshore aquaculture.

And Konietzko adds: “Aquaculture has already overtaken the number of fish that are caught at sea. I don’t know if it will ever replace it totally, but I do think it’s going to give the sea a breather, so it can come back and produce the quantities it used to.”

Read more about the inspiring pioneers finding creative solutions to the climate crisis here: https://wef.ch/pioneersforourplanet

About the series: Each week we’ll bring you a new video story about the people striving to restore nature and fighting climate change. In collaboration with @WWF and the team behind the Netflix documentary #OurPlanet. #ShareOurPlanet

Read more about it here.

Want to raise your #VoiceForThePlanet? Life on Earth is under threat, but you can help. People around the world are raising their voice in support of urgent action. Add yours now at www.voicefortheplanet.org

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ActionIndustries in DepthFood and WaterNature and Biodiversity
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