Genetically Engineered Salmon As A Sustainable Fishing Solution

Open-ocean fishing is an unsustainable practice and has destroyed ecosystems and reduced fish populations over many years. Combined with climate change and disease, populations are falling drastically. According to Science journal, by the mid 21st century, the earth will have run out of open-ocean fish.

A study by Dirk Zeller and Daniel Pauly published in the Marine Policy journal has found that previous underreporting combined with more recent and accurate data collection has falsely illustrated that catches have been stable over the past two decades. With the help of 400 global assistants, Pauly and Zeller worked backwards to estimate the landings of fisheries. They argue that yearly improvements in reporting techniques have concealed the fact that landings, or catches, have actually decreased by an estimated 1.2 million tons per year in this timeframe. While this is an estimate based on reconstruction, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, around 90 percent of fisheries worldwide have reached their sustainable limits.

Genetically engineered salmon may be a partial solution to this issue. Scientists Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher began working on an antifreeze protein in 1992 to help salmon adapt to icy waters when farmed in offshore cages. In the process, they also managed to genetically engineer a salmon that grew almost twice as fast with less food than a normal salmon.

These fish by AquaBounty are now available in Canada and are scheduled to be sold in US grocery stores in 2019. Eric Hallerman, professor of marine biology at Virginia Tech said that “in 20 of 25 years, we’re all going to be eating genetically modified animal products.”

For those who are unsure about genetically modified food, the scientific panel who reviewed AquaBounty’s FDA application confirmed that this salmon is just as safe as conventional Atlantic salmon, and is no different in terms of nutrition or chemical composition.

Innovations like being able to grow fish in half the time and the salmon requiring less energy and food to produce could have huge implications on addressing the issue of global food security. Research and development processes are vital when it comes to discovering ways of mass-producing sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly seafood. AquaBounty would be eligible for government research and development tax credits for their gene technology. Companies who generate new knowledge and solve problems can claim eligible related expenditure back on tax. To find out more about the credit, contact Swanson Reed R&D Tax Advisors.

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