Emerging interactions describe the potential interactions between growing aquaculture industries and the environment.
Our team is interested in environmental and societal interactions with all forms of aquaculture. We have used salmon farming as our study system to gain insight into the ways aquaculture can modify ecosystems, how we can effectively monitor the influence of aquaculture on the environment, and how society perceives these interactions.
While salmon farming is a large part of the marine aquaculture industry in Tasmania, a range of other fish species, seaweeds, and shellfish are also cultivated. We are working on several projects concerning environmental interactions with other aquaculture industries in Tasmania. In these projects, we aim to combine what we have learned from salmon aquaculture research with new concepts to determine the type and extent of interactions between emerging aquaculture systems and the environment.
Many of these projects relate to seaweed aquaculture, a rapidly growing industry in Tasmania with products ranging from food for human consumption, to fertilizers, to agricultural feed additives that could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Growing seaweed usually involves the cultivation of seaweed in land-based facilities, along with the deployment of infrastructure (usually ropes for the seaweed to grow on) into the natural marine environment. The production of seaweeds in the marine environment differs from fish farming in that no food needs to be added to help the seaweed grow, instead seaweeds make use of nutrients that occur naturally in the water column. While generally considered one of the more benign forms of aquaculture, seaweed aquaculture can still interact with the environment, with effects relatively unknown. For example, seaweed cultivation can alter seawater chemistry by consuming nutrients and releasing oxygen via photosynthesis. Other potential environmental interactions include the spread of cultured seaweeds to nearby natural environments, changes to sea floor productivity due to decomposition of fallen seaweed, and interactions with marine animals that may begin using the farm structures as habitat.
Our goal is to understand the current and potential future influence of aquaculture on the environment. By working across existing and emerging industries and in collaboration with industry, state government and other scientists we hope to contribute to a diverse and sustainable Tasmanian aquaculture industry.