Marine ecosystems are vital to life on our planet, providing a source of food, livelihoods, and other ecosystem services. However, human activities have taken a significant toll on these ecosystems, causing a notable decline in biodiversity. Restoring biodiversity to these amazing ecosystems is crucial, and a 360-degree approach to sustainability is key to achieving this goal.
When I look at marine ecosystems, I see what’s there and what’s missing. Unfortunately, it’s exceedingly rare now to see a perfectly preserved marine ecosystem, and that’s our fault. That’s why I assess the full picture when creating solutions with my aquaculture investments.
Here are just a few of the initiatives I have worked on in the past 20 years in my ambition to create 360 solutions to sustainability.
Following the devastating consequences of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Caribbean Sustainable Fisheries (CSF) launched their mangroves restoration project. It was part of a multi-trophic approach to aquaculture to repair the major loss of habitat across the islands.
As well as restoring the wider biodiversity of the island, mangroves also play a key role in CSF’s 360 approach to aquaculture. The minimal amount of outgoing water produced on the farms is treated, sterilised, and filtered through juvenile mangroves before draining away. The mangroves thrive on this water, which provides many benefits to the island’s ecosystems.
Restoring and protecting native oyster’s delicate ecosystems is essential to ensuring the long-term health and diversity of marine ecosystems.
As their name suggests, The Oyster Restoration Company (TORC) takes a 360-degree approach to sustainability in marine ecosystem restoration by reintroducing native oysters.
Oysters are natural filters and play a vital role in maintaining healthy water quality in estuaries and other coastal areas. However, overfishing, pollution, and disease have led to a noteworthy decline in oyster populations. By reintroducing oysters into coastal areas and supporting their growth and reproduction, TORC are helping to restore the balance of the ecosystem and improve water quality.
Oysters are a 360 solution. Oyster beds protect the ocean floor and stop silt from moving around. They also filter water and act as carbon sinks. In short, oysters are an essential building block for a good ecosystem.
Climate change and overfishing of predatory species like lobsters, crabs, and cod has unleashed a population explosion of sea urchins. Left unchecked, these spiny invertebrates have decimated some of the world’s most productive kelp forests.
Urchinomics take the unique approach of removing the barren urchins and ranching them back to health to produce uni (sea urchin roe).
Once the urchins are removed, nature takes over, and kelp regrows. In as little as 5 days, juvenile kelp will begin to settle on the substrate, with some species then growing as fast as 18 inches per day until reaching the surface. The restoration of the kelp marks the beginning of the recovery of the entire ecosystem.
The most essential principal I have learnt during my 20 years in aquaculture is that restoring ecosystems is only possible when you take a full picture approach. Untouched ecosystems are perfectly balanced, but they are also vulnerable. When one element becomes unbalanced, everything else changes with it. That’s why it’s crucial to assess every aspect of an ecosystem and form 360 solutions.