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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.

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ISTOCKPHOTO.COM Sustainable Seafood: AN EVER-EVOLVING LANDSCAPE [ BY TWILIGHT GREENAWAY [ Having spent time below the surface of the ocean, divers are more likely than most other people to care about the various impacts of our seafood choices. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to decipher what it means to eat seafood sustainably. For one, the seafood industry isn’t static. A great deal has changed in recent years, leaving many consumers with questions such as these: Is wild seafood always a better choice than farmed? What’s the carbon footprint of my choices? And where should we turn to find the latest science-based information? While wild seafood is still popular with many consumers, Ryan Bigelow, outreach manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, sees the commercial fishing industry as too successful for its own good. “It’s one thing to go out and catch a fish with a pole and line; it’s entirely another thing to go out with satellite tracking, sophisticated radar and nets that are large enough to catch a small plane," he said. "We’re so good at it now that fish don’t really stand a chance. “It makes a lot more sense to move away from that — at least to some extent," he continued, "and focus on farming, which can be done in controlled situations.” Farmed seafood, however, has gotten a bad rap among ecologically minded consumers — and for good reason. Escapes, disease and pollution were often commonplace in the early days of the industry. “The American public still has a bad image of aquaculture," Bigelow said. "But a lot of that is based on 82 | FALL 2016

ISTOCKPHOTO.COM ISTOCKPHOTO.COM Purchasing responsibly harvested or cultivated seafood is not straightforward, so organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Oceana are working to inform consumers and increase transparency in the seafood industry. historical tropes — some that were not very accurate and some that were accurate in many cases but not across the board." Seafood Watch, which is known for compiling the latest science on farmed and wild fish and informing the public with its trusted consumer guides, 1 has begun to include more farmed fish in its green “best choices” and yellow “good alternatives” listings. Bigelow says that trend is likely to continue — mainly out of necessity. “If we were to have all of our wild fisheries managed at ‘best choice’ level, we still wouldn’t have enough fish to feed us all,” Bigelow said. “There is no future without aquaculture. So when you look at it through that lens, it behooves us to find the most sustainable way to farm our fish.” Fish farms now provide more than half of the seafood eaten globally, and that number is rising quickly to accommodate a growing population. It makes sense then that, like most relatively new industries, aquaculture has had to do a lot of growing up recently — and fast. CHANGES IN THE AQUACULTURE INDUSTRY For years, the biggest challenge associated with aquaculture was the fact that farmed fish often required sizable quantities of wild seafood to grow to market weight. Known as the feed-conversion ratio or “fish-in/fish-out” ratio, the quantity of wild fish required to feed popular carnivorous species such as salmon, tuna and shrimp was generally much higher than the quantity of fish harvested. In the case of salmon, it often took as much as three pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon. Now the bulk of the industry is working to replace a portion of that feed with high-protein plant materials (soy meal, brewers grains, etc.), farmed insects and fish oil. There is also a shift toward farming herbivorous species such as tilapia, mussels and clams. Bigelow also mentioned the trend of aquaculture companies to move toward contained, on-land systems and systems located in areas where escaped fish can’t compete with their wild counterparts. Indoor fish farms that use recirculating systems — wherein the water is filtered and reused — are especially likely to be sustainable. “You can drop almost any species in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), and it’s going to get a Seafood Watch green recommendation,” he said. When companies build fish farms in the ocean, Bigelow said, “many have stopped saying, ‘there’s wild salmon here, so let’s just build a farm here.’” For this reason and others, the likelihood that the fish will carry disease or wreak biological havoc if and when they escape into the wild is decreasing. Taylor Voorhees, Seafood Watch senior aquaculture scientist, agrees. He said he has seen fish farmers make much more careful decisions about where to build their farms in recent years. “We’ve realized that deeper water with more tidal flushing is typically better," Voorhees said. "And sites that have hard bottoms are typically better than those that have softer, muddy bottoms. All of those things are more likely to be able to disperse the waste that comes out of the pens and therefore have less of an impact.” THE ARGUMENT FOR WILD Not everyone sees aquaculture as the future of seafood. Geoff Shester, the California program director at Oceana, a global nonprofit aimed at protecting and restoring the world’s oceans, would rather see more consumers opt for wild seafood that’s low on the food chain. Shester echoes the sentiments of Oceana’s chief executive officer, Andy Sharpless, whose book The Perfect Protein proposes a radical shift in the way American consumers view seafood. Both Sharpless and Shester invite seafood eaters to take an especially close look at what’s happening to forage fish — species such ALERTDIVER.COM | 83