Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture of red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra): Assessing bioremediation and life-cycle impacts

Environmental sustainability of aquaculture is a complex issue involving effects at local (e.g. benthic deterioration), regional (e.g. eutrophication) and global (e.g. catches for feed production) scales as a consequence of farming operations (e.g. waste emissions) and industrial processes involved in the product value chain. Integrating these effects using a holistic and multi-scale framework is essential to assess the environmental sustainability of innovative production systems such as Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), in which organisms of different trophic levels are co-cultured on the same farm to minimize aquaculture waste. The environmental performances of theoretical production scenarios of red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) sea cage monoculture and an open-water IMTA co-culturing of red drum and sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra) were assessed with mathematical models at local and global scales. First, the particulate waste bioremediation potential of sea cucumber production was estimated using an individual-based bioenergetic model. Second, environmental impacts of the monoculture and the IMTA systems were estimated and compared using life cycle assessment (LCA), calculated per kg of edible protein and t of product, including uncertainty analysis. Given the current limits to stocking density observed for sea cucumbers, its co-culture in sea cages suspended beneath finfish nets may decrease slightly (by 0.73%) farm net particulate waste load and benthic impact. The monoculture and IMTA showed little difference in impact because of the large difference in production scales of finfish and sea cucumber species. Removing 100% of finfish feces particulate waste requires cultivating sea cucumber at scale similar to that of finfish (1.3 kg of sea cucumber per kg of finfish). Nonetheless, LCA showed trends in IMTA performance: lower eutrophication impact and net primary production use but higher cumulative energy demand and climate change impacts, generating an impact transfer between categories. Intensification of sea cucumber culture could increase local and global environmental benefits, but further research is necessary to design rearing units that can optimize production and/or bioremediation and that can be practically integrated into existing finfish monoculture units. The methodology defined here can be a powerful tool to predict the magnitude of environmental benefits that can be expected from new and complex production systems and to show potential impact transfer between spatial scales. We recommend applying it to other IMTA systems and species associations and including socio-economic criteria to fully assess the sustainability of future seafood production systems.


Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA), Life cycle assessment (LCA), Bioremediation, Culture scenario, Sea cucumber

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Chary Killian, Aubin Joël, Sadoul Bastien, Fiandrino Annie, Covès Denis, Callier Myriam (2020). Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture of red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra): Assessing bioremediation and life-cycle impacts. Aquaculture. 516. 734621 (17p.).,

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