Methane and aquaculture

Most of us have little knowledge or concern about methane. But this small molecular gas in the air could play a major role in the future of aquaculture or even for humanity itself.

Much of the recent news about methane is draped in political controversy. I don’t want to step into that discussion. The purpose of this post is simply to establish why methane could be more important in the future of aquaculture.

  • Atmospheric methane is a natural gas produced by plant decay that normally has little effect. However it’s levels are increasing rapidly in our air. It is believed to have a greater impact on atmospheric warming than CO2 due to its molecular structure.
  • Most methane is naturally produced without human involvement.
  • The largest source of methane is wetlands.
  • Sea level rise (and other factors) is triggering a sharp and dangerous increase in atmospheric methane.
  • Draining and development of wetlands through management of sea level rise response decreases methane production.
  • Conversely, creating man-made wetlands like rice paddies or fish ponds increases methane production.
  • Oysters and shellfish aquaculture is implicated in methane production.

There is a lot of news about methane in the past few weeks. We will need to wait until the dust settles to see any useful trend in government response to know what real long term impact any of this news has on management of wetlands. I posted a primer on methane gas including points note related to aquaculture on my personal blog titled “15 basic facts about methane and the environment“.

Climate change impact on Delaware Bay crabs and oysters

A new way to use climate change models developed by NOAA may be used to forecast effects on Delaware Bay fisheries according to a recent news report. The basic conclusion, as I understand it from a range of conversations with researchers and a reading of the available information, is that the changes forecast for our Delaware Bay will make the bay more challenging for oyster growers but potentially more favorable for blue claw crabs.

The Virginia Pilot reports “NOAA said its researchers might apply the same “downscaling” method to predict the potential effects of climate change on other species such as blue crabs and striped bass and other estuaries, including the Delaware Bay.” Other published seafood industry publications have predicted that these same forces of water temperature warming and acidification might actually benefit blue claw crabs.

My own opinion, not necessarily shared by researchers or the oyster industry*, is that resistant strains of oysters will be developed to combat the adverse effects of climate change (vibrio and acidification) but that seafood consumers will eventually insist on seafood (including oysters) that is sterilized through some procedure to kill any potential pathogens prior to consumption. That technology exists today but is not widely used. In the end, these development are more likely to have greater (positive) impact on funding for the scientific community by triggering the need for more research and development than on consumers or the seafood industry.

*Opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any of the commercial or educational firms associated with Nantuxent Corporation.