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Duncan Knowler

Study assesses new fish-farming method

April 8, 2010

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SFU researchers are joining forces with other scientists and industry partners to assess how Canada’s aquaculture sector can be managed more efficiently and sustainably.

Faculty of Environment associate dean, Duncan Knowler, is leading an SFU team studying the economic impact of sustainable aquaculture as part of a five-year, $5-million project funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Strategic Network grant.

The research is focused on a technique known as Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), which could reduce waste and increase and diversify production at ocean fish farms.

"In B.C., a likely configuration would mean situating shellfish-growing units next to and downstream from fish pens, and then locating a further set of kelp ‘rafts’ after the shellfish to capture additional wastes," explains Knowler.

IMTA systems have not received much attention in B.C., he adds. "All the talk is revolving around closed-containment systems as a sustainable alternative. These do not bio-mitigate—you still have to dispose of the wastes—and they are very expensive."

Knowler says IMTA, which has been in development in Canada since 2001, has the potential to bridge opposing factions on how the industry should be managed.

Knowler’s team will compare IMTA’s economic benefits and efficiency with conventional aquaculture systems and identify financial incentives that would increase its profitability.

Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production sector and supplies nearly half of the seafood consumed worldwide.

The project, led by Thierry Chopin at the University of New Brunswick, involves 26 scientists who are part of the Canadian Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network (CIMTAN). For more information on CIMTAN, visit at.sfu.ca/CjjjXf.

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