TOWNSVILLE, Queensland, Aust.--As global fish catches fall off, aquaculture will need a full tackle box of biotechnology to meet an expected sharp rise in demand for seafood by the year 2025, said keynote speaker Yonathan Zohar at the 6-day International Marine Biotechnology Conference here.
"Aquaculture, now a $45 billion industry, is the only way to supply enough seafood because of the continuing collapse of commercial marine fisheries," said Zohar who is director of the University of Maryland's Biotechnology Institute's Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) in Baltimore, Md., USA. Even at its current rate of growth, however, aquaculture will still need to triple or quadruple output to meet demand, he said.
Biotechnology from COMB and other science centers is already improving aquaculture, Zohar said. But to bring fish production onto a par with farming of other livestock, new molecular and biotechnology tools will be required. "Seafood is the only commodity that is still at the stage of hunt-and-gather farming. Compare it with chickens and we are way behind the curve," he observed. Whereas people have improved the genetics, health, nutrition and reproduction of other livestock through centuries of husbandry and science, time may be far shorter for improving seafood crops, he said.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 60 to 70 percent of fisheries in the world's oceans are threatened by over fishing. One out of every four fish eaten in the world is raised by aquaculture. There has been a 10 percent annual growth rate in the world aquaculture for several years in sequence, according to the FAO. The agency estimates that, between 2015 and 2025, aquaculture will have to produce one out of every two fish consumed in the world, but assuming the marine fisheries will stay the same.
Often illustrating with current research work underway, Zohar explained a list of "bottlenecks" or issues that biotechnology is helpi
Contact: Steve Berberich
University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute