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Fishing sustainably

Prof. Michael Kaiser, chief scientist and professor of fisheries conservation at the Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh

Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 6:02 PM

Give us brief outline and focus of the summit being held at the Expo 2020, Dubai

The session explored how we will be able to feed the world using the land and sea without damaging the planet. The key messages where that technology will be key covering everything from new approaches to pollination to technical innovation in marine fisheries and the use of land-based marine aquaculture. Greater emphasis on 'novel' food species such as seaweeds that have minimal environmental impacts when grown at an industrial scale. However, all of these innovations will need to be societally acceptable, and some innovations may demand changes in consumer behaviour (e.g. acceptance of novel foods), if there is no market for a novel product, it will fail as an innovation.

How do you think regulation on fishing will lead to the sustainable development of aquaculture since fishing is a key component of the UAE's education?

Regulation of wild capture fisheries is essential, but this needs to be informed by good quality data on how much fishing is occurring, where it occurs, and what is being caught. Giving fishers a bigger part in management and ownership of the fisheries resources will be a key ingredient for success. Our aim with fisheries should be to maintain catches at a sustainable level. Improving fishing efficiency will reduce environmental impacts. Aquaculture has the potential to grow marine species food production. However, the sea has a limited capacity to support aquaculture; hence moving cultivation onto land in technologically sophisticated recirculating aquaculture systems is the way forward and already demonstrated at a commercial level in Dubai at the fish farm.

How does the growth of aqua farming in the UAE look soon?

It is set to increase. However, for aquaculture in the sea, care is needed not to exceed the carrying capacity of the marine system. Species such as oysters will add important ecosystem services, such as providing habitat for fish and other sea creatures. In contrast, fish cage culture will create environmental impacts - although these can be managed if cultivation’s locations are selected appropriately. The biggest growth area will be in land-based systems, which can be environmentally controlled and maintained in a biosecure environment.

Oceans are an essential component of the earth's ecosystem. What practices and techniques should we bring into use to achieve the sustainable use of marine resources?

Access to good environmental and fisheries data is essential if management is to be well informed. Providing fishers and aquaculturists with good information will help them make their processes more efficient and reduce environmental impacts in the future. Technologies such as the use of sensors, IoT, and AI will all play a role in informing best practices.

As our global population continues to rise, what solutions would ensure healthy diets for a burgeoning population while improving the planet?

Introducing new foods, such as algae, that have low impacts and that provide ecosystem services will feature in the future; however, we may need to change consumer behaviour to accept such products. New feeds made from bacteria, algae, and insects will help us replace the reliance on fish meant for aquaculture.

Why educating about sustainability has become of importance in today's world?

Consumers receive mixed messages from lobby groups and social media channels within the science community. Hence ensuring that people are well educated about marine science and food issues is essential to make choices based on factual information. Introducing these topics into the school curriculum is important to ensure we have an informed next generation. As a passionate educator, I appreciate the importance of communicating science very much in a way that unpacks the complexity of the marine environment

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