Sustainable aquaculture initiative lands $245,000 federal grant

Anne Kapuscinski in her aquaculture lab
Anne Kapuscinski is leading efforts to reduce the environmental impact of farmed fish, and a new federal grant will support her efforts. (Photo by Robert Gill)

Anne Kapuscinski, professor of environmental studies and director of the Coastal Science and Policy Program, has received a $245,000 federal grant that will support her team’s work to make aquaculture more sustainable.

As the world's appetite for fish continues to grow, Kapuscinski is leading efforts to reduce the environmental impact of farmed fish. Her team is developing an ocean-friendly, algae-based alternative food for farmed fish, who currently consume fishmeal and fish oil extracted from wild fish like anchovies and sardines, putting those populations in jeopardy.

The new grant from the National Sea Grant College Program, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is one of 42 awards announced Thursday (Sept. 19). Sea Grant's mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, Great Lakes, and marine resources in order to build a sustainable economy and environment.

"With our 2019 investments, we are building on investments by Sea Grant and NOAA over the last few years to fill critical gaps in information and strengthen connectivity of science to industry," said Sea Grant Director Jonathan Pennock. "These investments will help advance U.S. aquaculture in sustainable, thoughtful ways using the best science and talent across the country."

Kapuscinski is joined on the grant by co-principal investigators Elliott Campbell, professor of environmental studies, and Pallab Sarker, associate research professor of environmental studies, as well as Brandi McKuin, a postdoctoral researcher in environmental studies. The grant will support their work developing a tool to compare the economic and environmental costs of alternative and conventional ingredients in aquaculture feeds.

The team is developing an open-access tool that will allow users to assess whether alternative ingredients meet the nutritional requirements of farmed fish, ensure a high-quality product with low environmental impact, and compete with the costs of conventional ingredients.

"We are working with stakeholders across the supply chain—aquafeed companies, fish farmers, consultants, investors, nonprofits, researchers, and government leaders—to help drive innovation, commercialization, adoption, and acceptance of more sustainable aquafeeds," said Kapuscinski.

Grant recipients must match 50 percent of their funding with non-federal funds. Recipients were selected from 136 proposals submitted to Sea Grant.