Zeke Grader

The Truth on Aquaculture

Recorded: February 4, 2014

Some people believe that aquaculture is the solution to the overfishing problem in the oceans.  Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Institute for Fishery Resources, believes that putting too much faith in aquaculture is naive thinking. This video explains why.

William F. “Zeke” Grader created the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman in 1976 and has served as its Executive Director since that time. His leadership at the Federation has resulted in the implementation of federal safeguards to bring greater protection to our marine resources and to restore weakened fisheries.  Zeke is currently Executive Director of The Institute for Fishery Resources in San Francisco, CA (www.ifrfish.org). Zeke received the Environmental Hero Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1998.

Huey Johnson:    Your reflections on aquaculture. There’s a big discussion going on right now, this particular year.

Zeke Grader:    Right, well aquaculture, particularly among the more naïve, is seen as the big, big future.  We don’t need fishing, we can have aquaculture–we just grow these fish.  Like I say, I think that’s fairly naïve.  At the same time, we recognize that we’re not going to be able to continue providing for the worlds demand for fish with just our wild capture fisheries.  We’re, right now, are probably at about at a maximum level–maximum level of production–and that’s being said with the knowledge that there’s some overfishing occurring that’s going to have to be restricted.  With the knowledge that some of our forage stocks–we’re going to have to cut back on those if we want to leave fish for ecosystem purposes.  But what all that means is, we are going to have to supplement that with aquaculture.  Aquaculture of course right now–the growing of fish is the fastest growing form of food production right now in the world.  The problem is, most forms of aquaculture right now are not sustainable.  One of the big issues of course, is just the feed–that is the amount of feed we have to give these fish–for the amount of each pound of fish that we get back in return.  And it’s not unlike what we have with dairy animals, but it’s certainly true of fish as well.

Zeke Grader:    Now some fish such as salmon–we’ve had ratios as low as 3 to 1.  That is for every 3 pounds of fish we feed them we get one pound back in edible food.  On the other hand, we have species such as tuna where the ration is about 20 to 1.  That is 20 pounds–20 pounds of feed for every one pound we get back.  But all that means is that we’re going to have to find new sources and different sources of feed for aquaculture.  Obviously, we may be able to continue to use some fish in their diets, both from the sense of using fish scrap or fish offal, that is the heads, the–what we don’t use for producing for say human consumption–the waste that now takes place that we can grind up and use some of that.  Another source obviously would be raising fish for fish feed, and a third is looking at harvesting invasive species as a way of controlling those populations and utilizing some of that for fish feed as well.

Zeke Grader:    Second area I think where we need to look at is in development of plant sources, and of course, there’s a big effort in this area by major aquaculturists.  The problem is, is that they’re not looking at things such as invasive plants, use of algae necessarily as potential alternatives, or feed sources for these fisheries. But they’re looking at things such as genetically engineered soy, genetically engineered yeast.  Well, these are not sustainable alternatives, particularly when you consider that say genetically engineered yeast, whether its 24D ready soy, or roundup ready soy made by Monsanto–that you consider just the amount of pesticides, the poisons that go into their production.  And of course, much of that ends up in our watersheds poisoning fish. Or if it’s a genetically engineered plant that has its own insecticide in it, that means that that fish is ingesting that, which in turn we end up ingesting.  So those are not sustainable, and we need to see a very much a different direction there to basically create sustainable aquaculture.  I think it’s possible–the problem is, is there going to be the willingness on the part of those that are now involved in aquaculture production?  And increasingly, aquaculture is the ownership of these operations–is being concentrated into larger and larger corporations that have a lot of influence with government.  So it’s going to be a real fight to try and redirect aquaculture into a more sustainable path, the truly sustainable path.