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Responsibly Sourced Seafood

Ecuador: An up-close look at
sustainably raised aquaculture

By Bea James,
Senior Manager Organic and Natural Programs

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I must admit it wasn’t too long ago when you could count me in the group who was skeptical about farm-raised seafood. Maybe you were like me and had a lot of questions about this production method. What are these fish being fed? What are their living conditions? Where is the water from these ponds going, and what is that doing to the environment?

Given the fact, however, that more than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished, depleted, or trying to recover from depletion, I can also appreciate the fact that aquaculture (farm-raised) is necessary to protect our natural fisheries while also meeting the ever-increasing demand for seafood throughout the world.

Ecuador fish farmHere at Lunds and Byerly’s, our seafood departments have been navigating toward offering more and more sustainable seafood choices. I’m proud to say that since 2005 we have made significant strides toward this goal. Currently, about 50 percent of the seafood we sell is from sustainable wild-caught and aquaculture fisheries.

To learn more about some of the farm-raised fish we offer at our stores, I recently traveled to Ecuador to visit some of the sustainable fisheries just outside the city of Guayaquil. I wanted to learn more about aquaculture and witness first hand how it can be done responsibly with the environment in mind.

Ecuador is home to several sustainable tilapia fisheries managed by a company called Tropical.

Tropical’s commitment to sustainable seafood practices runs all the way through the supply chain. They call it their “Umbrella Policy.” This policy is based on four key principles: environmental stewardship, food safety, traceability, and social responsibility.

Environmental Stewardship
Just off the Pacific Ocean in Ecuador is one of Tropical’s tilapia fisheries called Aquamar. This is where we source the fresh tilapia that’s available at Lunds and Byerly’s.

Enrico Delfini runs the fishery and prides himself on their commitment to the environment.

“We utilize polyculture in our ponds, provide a feed that is 96 percent plant based, are committed to preserving the beautiful mangroves that surround our farm, and utilize 97 percent of the tilapia we produce.” says Enrico.

Polyculture (tilapia and shrimp living in ponds together) provides a diverse aquatic environment for multiple species that complement each other. Tilapia feed on a plant-based diet at the top of the pond while shrimp help keep the pond clean by feeding off the bottom. It is a perfect marriage to keep the house clean.

In addition to a high-quality plant-based diet, Enrico cultures a natural probiotic brew from molasses which he also feeds his fish every day. Probiotics are live cultures found in yogurt or other fermented products that support healthy digestion and overall immunity. It seems to works for us, and it works for the fish, too.

Mangroves are a critical part of the landscape at the fishery. At the intersection of land and sea, mangrove forests support a wealth of life to all creatures dependent on their natural habitat for food and shelter. Over 50 bird species live among the mangroves and sing throughout the Aquamar farm offering beautiful audio to complement the visual.