Preparing aquaculture for climate change

The climate workshop at Nofima

Scotland and Norway joined forces last month to raise awareness and initiate action on climate change, as Elisabeth Ytteborg, Carlo C. Lazado and Lynne Falconer report

On 18 April, more than 70 people attended the Aquaculture and Climate Change workshop at the Nofima offices in Ås, Norway. The workshop was a joint initiative between Nofima and the University of Stirling, and aimed to initiate an arena where different stakeholders can meet, discuss ongoing initiatives, share experience and knowledge, and pave the way for more active climate action in the sector. The workshop had two main thematic sessions, where the first aimed at discussing the impact from climate change and raising awareness, while the second aimed at adaptation strategies and possible bottlenecks to action.

Aquaculture and climate change is a complex topic with compounding factors that will require a trans-sectorial approach, multiple solutions and pioneering ideas. An approach to invite a wide range of stakeholders was therefore taken, including researchers in the field (e.g. biologists, climatologists and modellers), industry (eg fish farmers, fish health personnel, pharmaceuticals and technology providers), NGOs and policy makers.

As the organising committee (Elisabeth Ytteborg of Nofima, Carlo C. Lazado of Nofima and Lynne Falconer of Stirling), we were delighted to see so many people take time to attend the event, participate in the discussions, and engage with this hugely important topic.

Calving glacier

Calving glacier

Solveig van Nes from Marine Prospects did a fantastic job as the host for the day and workshop facilitator. The agenda was a mix of presentations and panel debates, with the first half of the day focusing on “Impact and Awareness”, before moving into “Action and Implementation” for the rest of the day. Solveig kept the schedule on track and encouraged important discussions that inspired new perspectives and thought-provoking comments that brought the presenters, panellists and audience together.

To start the day, Elisabeth Ytteborg set the scene with a presentation on climate change impacts on aquaculture, emphasising the complexity due to multiple stressors and compounding effects.

Carlo C. Lazado then considered the perspective of the fish and the challenges involved in researching climate change under experimental conditions. Following on from the research perspective, Jon Arne Grøttum, from the Norwegian Seafood Federation, then gave a view from industry, highlighting the need for industry to reduce climate impacts whilst adapting to changing conditions.

Before the panel debate, Megan Rector (University of Stirling) discussed why climate information is needed and why it is important to bridge the gap between available information and actionable information. Megan also introduced Mentimeter which was used for audience engagement throughout both panel debates with insightful results. More than 85% of the audience thought that aquaculture was already experiencing the effects of climate change, but only 12% thought that the industry had the information needed to respond to challenges. Across multiple questions, lack of knowledge was highlighted as one of the major limitations to climate action.

The organising committee: (from left) Lynne Falconer, University of Stirling; Elisabeth Ytteborg, Nofima, and Carlo C. Lazado, Nofima

The organising committee: (from left) Lynne Falconer, University of Stirling; Elisabeth Ytteborg, Nofima, and Carlo C. Lazado, Nofima

Information sharing is key
The first panel session, titled “Are we aware and what do we need?”, included Stein Halstensen from Grieg Seafoods, Samuel Anderson from Bolaks, Hanne Digre from Scale AQ, Erik Jan Lock from Nofima, and John Carmichael from Aquascot. The panel were asked how aware the industry is when it comes to climate change, if they are currently affected and how they see production in the future. Small, medium and large companies will have similar challenges when it comes to production of marine animals under climate change, but they need a range of different adaptation options to choose from.

Technology to meet some of the challenges identified were discussed, but major topics like feed ingredients and compounding events from climate change require intensified research focus in the coming years. Joint efforts are needed from all stakeholders involved to understand the complex impact climate change will have on aquaculture. The panellists also highlighted similarities and differences between Scotland and Norway, stressing the need for collaboration and communication across countries.

Lively discussions continued over lunch, showing the need for more breaks, more time to discuss and the importance of bringing different stakeholders from the sectors together.

Lynne Falconer kicked off the second part of the day with a presentation that highlighted the risk of maladaptation, showing examples of how adaptation can have negative effects. Suleiman Yakubu (University of Stirling) presented a new approach for investigating the effects of climate change using a virtual salmon farm decision support tool. In an entertaining, but very serious tone, Dag Sletmo, senior vice president at DNB, Norway’s largest bank, provided important perspectives from the financial sector, historical moments where climate risk were identified as financial risk and emphasised the importance of green financing and sustainability focus from investors.

A common theme for the day was that collaboration is key to climate action, and this was strongly emphasised in a presentation by Joakim Hauge from Bellona Environmental Foundation. Joakim’s presentation was called “Breaking the silos – creating cooperations for change” and encouraged efforts to go beyond coping with climate change, stressing the aquaculture sector should look for adaptation opportunities that will also have other environmental sustainability benefits. Next, Fernanda Garcia Sampaio from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) gave the last presentation with an overview of FAO’s framework for climate change adaptation.

The final panel session of the day was titled “How to move forward and promote action” and included Sandy Murray from Marine Scotland, Eirik Moe from Ernst & Young, Jon Arne Grøttum from the Norwegian Seafood Federation, Joakim Hauge from Bellona Environmental Foundation, and Marius Dalen from the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. The debate focused on challenges in investments, incentives, and bottlenecks when it comes to flexibility in regulations and possibilities for adaptation. Questions related to how to keep economy, strategies, production, and new initiatives going were also raised. The session showed that adaptation to climate change and how to promote action is a debate that will raise more questions than answers in the coming years.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the event and all the people behind the scenes who helped make it possible. We will make the Aquaculture Climate Change workshop an annual event and establish an arena that will increase awareness on climate change from stakeholders of the aquaculture value chain and drive climate action in the aquaculture sector.

The impact of climate change on aquaculture needs full attention and more research, and the debate on climate adaptation and strategies is in its infancy. Next year we are aiming at a two-day event, where the first day will be a follow-up from this year and further awareness, and day two will be devoted to climate action.

If anyone is interested in finding out more or has questions or ideas that they would like to discuss, please contact us. We are always interested in collaborations, different perspectives and ideas on how to make a difference, and look forward to supporting collaborative climate action in the future.

The workshop was jointly financed by Nofima, Troms and Finnmark County (TFFK2022-241), and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through a Future Leaders Fellowship (MR/V021613/1).

The organising committee members were: Elisabeth Ytteborg, Nofima; Carlo C. Lazado, Nofima; and Lynne Falconer, University of Stirling.

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