GET INVOLVED! AWN Seeks Student Input to Arrest Groundwater Stress, Solve Fish ‘Grow-out’ Problem

This is a fish grow-out facility, where fish are farmed to full size for consumption. Just as crops are farmed on land, fish are farmed in water. Both deserve equally careful stewardship. And it's important to note that if land-based grow-out facilities become common, it would be better to have large number of small plants, not a few that could be monopolized by big corporate interests. There is already too much of that in the meat industry, especially beef.

By AWN Staff

Awakening News (AWN) has been knocking on a lot of doors—big media, academic and political—but cannot get anyone to provide answers for the public on preserving precious groundwater, especially with respect to the huge draw that certain fish hatcheries (and water and soft-drink bottlers) have on our already-stressed aquifers.  So, AWN is proposing hiring students and harnessing academia to get good data and inform the public on such matters. As of this writing May 30, 2020 there are reports that fisheries in Washington state and British Columbia are intent on moving their offshore “grow-out” facilities onto land. In these facilities, fish are raised in cages in oceans and lakes to full size for human consumption. But environmentalists are claiming that the fish excretions from these grow-out facilities in saltwater and freshwater are contaminating the environment. But unlike the Canadian fish farmers out west, the farmers in eastern Canada are skeptical about taking their cages out of the water and growing out fish in land-based facilities.  Frequent communications to MP Bruce Stanton and to MP Navdeep Baines, who’s Minister for Innovations, Science & Industry, continue to fall on deaf ears. AWN calls on its readers to communicate with these and other MPs to break the logjam, create student jobs and aid the process in implementing real solutions to the groundwater dilemma and grow-out facility controversy. Contact AWN at LTE@awakeningnews.ca via email to get involved or if you have questions or information. See our Facebook page at Facebook.com/awakeningnews.ca for more stories and additional contact information (To do so, click on “about” on that Facebook page).

AWN Associate Editor John Devine has experience raising smaller fish from his days running Coldwater Fisheries and Fisherman’s Cove in Ontario in the late 1980s/early 1990s. What’s needed, he says, is the prompt development of second- and third-generation fish farming technology that uses a closed-loop recycling system and cuts groundwater usage by up to 90%. Plus, there are known fish-food additives that can drastically reduce the ammonia in fish excretions. This would take care of the waste problem from the fish in a closed system, which draws very little water from the aquifer compared to the common flow-thru (water in, water out) systems.

So, AWN, as an advocacy news outlet in the interest of making genuine environmental progress, proposes harnessing the skills, talent and energy of university students, many of whom have been sidetracked by Covid-19, to investigate the situation, gather data, and help develop the next generation of closed-loop fish farming systems both for growing fish from egg to fingerling size (used to populate our rivers, lakes and streams for sportsmen ) as well as for grow-out facilities.

AQUIFERS DISTRESSED

Done correctly, this would solve the grow-out facility controversy and also ensure good stewardship for our distressed aquifers. Nearly half of the irrigation water for growing crops on land depends on water from the world’s 37 major aquifers, according to the recent American Public Television documentary “H20: The Molecule That Made Us.”

That three-part TV presentation calls attention to the possible depletion of several of the world’s 37 major aquifers unless something definitive is carried out as a solution. Several of the aquifers are reportedly being mined beyond nature’s capacity of replenishing them.

So, it naturally makes sense to look at options that avoid using large amounts of groundwater at a fast rate. Accordingly, AWN’s editorial-planning discussions and articles have focused on:

> Large water-bottling companies such as Nestle, whose Evart, Michigan water plant slurps 400 gallons per minute out of the ground and whose Guelph, Ontario plant removes water for just $3.71 per million liters, according to the best available estimates;

> On the 20 or more Coca-Cola plants in India that threaten the groundwater supplies of the many poor people who live there, as well as Australian wells having run dry amid drought and massive wildfires, yet Australian officials still refused to put a moratorium on the water-bottling companies;

> And, of course, on flow-through fish hatcheries (water in, water out) which, by some rough estimates, use up to 2,000 gallons of groundwater per minute, with a lot of the discharge contaminated.

This drives home why AWN is calling for hiring college students (via grant money, for instance) not only for the purpose preserving groundwater in general to address problems cited in the PBS documentary, but also to help find solutions for a current dilemma concerning Canadian fisheries and whether the eastern grow-out facilities should move onto land.

ANSWERING CANADA’S CONTROVERSY

“Recently, Canada’s Eastern fish farmers have been pushing back on the environmentalists’ demand to remove [fish] grow-out facilities from the ocean and relocate them at land-based sites,” Devine commented. “The fish farmers are saying there is ‘not enough science’ to ensure the land-based sites would be viable.”

Devine added, “We need to get a handle on where we are at and what more needs to be done to convince fish farmers around the world to move grow-out facilities to land-based sites,” which, Devine also said, can be accomplished with the above-mentioned recycling-based fish farm technology that he helped develop in the early 1990s via techniques hatched at the University of Guelph.

The technology reduced groundwater usage by up to 90%, which is a critically important thing, given the dire situation regarding the state of the world’s aquifers as cited in the above-noted PBS documentary.

Devine has repeatedly reached out to MP Navdeep Baines, who’s Minister for Innovations, Science & Industry, to inquire about possible grant money to hire students to study the science and engineering behind developing new fish farms or retooling existing ones to drastically reduce the overall draw on groundwater and also address whether ocean-based and lake-based grow-out facilities can be moved inland effectively and profitably.

LETTER TO MP STANTON

Devine’s statements echo what he has communicated to MP Bruce Stanton in a letter to the Ontario-based federal lawmaker.

Although MP Stanton at the time of this writing (May 29) hadn’t yet responded to the letter, the letter informs MP Stanton of the following, as outlined by Devine:

“As you know, we have been attempting to inform the public about the entire [environmental] footprint fish farming creates and the science required to reduce the footprint. Gone under the radar are [three] other components of fish farming, which require updates as to the sciences required to reduce their footprints.”

Those three things are:

  • The large amounts of groundwater conventional fish hatcheries consume to produce fish for human food consumption and to stock our streams rivers, lakes and oceans:

A report from the science community is required to see how technology has been advanced in determining exactly how much groundwater it takes to produce one pound of fish in a hatchery. (EDITOR’S NOTE: For some reason, no one in the journalistic, scientific and academic communities seems to know the answer to that question. All entities appear to be avoiding the issue)

  • The species of fish being reared:

For example, game fish are reared to replenish game-fish populations in the wild, which places an ever-growing stress on wild baitfish, which are the cornerstone of the food chain. A report from the science community is required to determine if more baitfish should be farmed and stocked in our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.

  • Fish food:

Approximately 2.5 pounds of wild-caught baitfish are required to produce one pound of farmed fish. An update from the science community is required regarding an alternative food and/or an alternative species of fish.

Furthermore, a report card is required on how much the research of food additives has progressed, because specific food additives can be used to reduce or remove ammonia from fish excretions. This is very important because when the water-reuse approach is used, ammonia build-up can be a problem.

“Ammonia in fish hatcheries is one of the driving forces in the large amount of groundwater required to keep the ammonia at an acceptable level. Ammonia in excess levels burns the gills of the fish,” Devine informed Stanton. “May I suggest one of your staff look at the recently broadcast documentary (H2O: The Molecule That Made Us) by Public Broadcasting?”

Devine concluded in the communication to Stanton that he hopes that university students, who ought to be hired to vastly improve fish-farming systems and seriously reduce the impact on our aquifers, will help take humanity in a more intelligent direction in a farming sector that many in the general community ignore.

“Many experts are saying our upcoming water crisis could dwarf any crisis mankind has faced in the past. Let’s hire students who may return with a report which will justify creating thousands of jobs [and avoid such a crisis],” Devine concluded in his communication to Stanton.