Transition planning and subsidies for SME ecological aquaculture
The principles of an SME ecological approach have been set out under Goal 5, Sustainable Food, Substitution. Particularly important are systems thinking, ecological modeling, and ecological economics methods in its design, operations, and communications, and scaling operations to avoid the problems of current industrial approaches. Transition planning and subsidies for agriculture have also been proposed in that section. Although many land base systems use ecologically sophisticated water recirculating systems with renewable power sources and nutrient extraction technologies, better ecological design with multispecies, plants and minimal requirements for feed that humans can consume will be required. Finfish diversification out of primarily salmonids, involving more species that occupy different trophic levels will be important. Such diversity is unlikely to be achieved at very large scales. An additional key consideration is not relying extensively on groundwater sources which tend to draw such facilities away from the coastal and rural areas where they are important for regional economic development. Fish welfare appears to be higher in well managed land based systems because the fish aren't subject to pressures from diseases, sea lice and predators as they are in open water systems.
Current land-based operations, without full consideration of ecological principles, appear to be viable at a range of scales, from as low as 100 tonnes / year (Evans, 2019). This suggests that SME operations can occupy a significant part of regional production systems, especially in a Demand-Supply Coordination system as proposed under Goal 2. Many current and planned operations are significantly larger than this and will have to be scaled down to make a fully ecological operation feasible. Although government subsidies have been received in the past for R&D (e.g., from Sustainable Development Technology Canada), an appropriate level of subsidy within the parameters proposed here has yet to be identified, but the approach could be comparable to that proposed for agriculture, where rates of between 10 and 20% of lost revenue during the transition period are suggested. Governments might also offer loan guarantees related to facility and technology changes.