An adjunct Professor with The University of Western Australia has been appointed to an international body charged with transforming the rapidly growing aquaculture industry into a sustainable and socially responsible solution to the world food problem.
Professor Peter Cook, of UWA’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, has been elected to the board of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and as chair of the council’s technical advisory committee.
Professor Cook, an internationally recognised abalone expert, is the only Australian representative on the council, which was founded in 2010 under the auspices of the World Wildlife Fund.
The Netherlands-based council’s mission is to set global environmental and social standards for the aquaculture industry. It aims to be the world’s leading certification and labelling program for responsibly farmed seafood.
With the world’s population expected to grow to 9.1 billion by 2050 and natural fisheries under pressure, aquaculture is increasingly seen as a critical part of the food supply.
Professor Cook said with most natural fisheries already over-exploited and unable to expand, sustainably farmed seafood was going to be the only solution to the world’s growing appetite for seafood.
“We are now more or less at the maximum sustainable yield of ocean-harvested fish,” Professor Cook said.
“There may be some less desirable species that haven’t been exploited which might be possible to exploit a bit more, but realistically we are virtually at the point where we can’t get any more fish out of the sea.
“The natural solution is to increase the fish via aquaculture. That’s going to happen whatever the protagonists say – it’s just not possible to stop it. So our task is, if it’s going to increase, let’s increase it in an environmentally sustainable way rather than letting it happen without the environmental controls that need to be there.”
Professor Cook’s appointment is intended to give the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, currently dominated by members from Europe and the USA, a wider geographical representation.
He said that while he was not on the council to represent Australasia as such, he would ensure Australian and New Zealand interests were adequately represented.
The appointment follows an announcement earlier this year by WA Fisheries Minister Norman Moore that WA commercial fisheries supplying wild-caught seafood would work towards accreditation from the international Marine Stewardship Council.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council said it hoped aquaculture would follow a similar route.
Professor Cook is a past president of the International Abalone Society and author or co-author of more than 100 publications in scientific and popular literature. His main research interests have involved the biology of mariculture species such as mussels, oysters and abalone.