AUSTRALIA’S seafood industry is bracing for a flood of algae-inspired products as consumers and restaurants look for ways to combat the rising numbers of fish and other plankton in waterways.
The threat of algae blooms has been a major concern for the seafood industry, with a study by the National Fisheries Science Foundation estimating there are around 300,000 blooms every year in Australia.
Some algae can grow large enough to become food for large fish, which then become sick with parasites.
The algae-rich waters of Australia are particularly vulnerable to the rising algae levels.
Fish and shellfish industry body the Seafood Council said in a statement the industry had been “in the midst of an unprecedented algae bloom”.
“There is growing concern that our fish supply could be adversely affected if the number of algae in the sea rises, with the potential for increased mortality and disease,” the Seafight Council said.
The rise of algae has been driven by a phenomenon known as the phytoplankton bloom, where plankton grow on dead algae and are eaten by fish.
The reef has been in a state of stress for years, with fish and shellfishes being caught and consumed at alarming rates.
This year, Australia’s first “dead zone” appeared on the south coast, where up to 50 per cent of all fish and their catch was destroyed, according to a survey by the ABC.
In the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, more than 70 per cent was affected.
Algae blooms are also causing problems in the global food chain, with China’s largest fish processor, CNOOC, announcing it was shutting down its factories.CNOOC is a subsidiary of state-owned China’s Sichuan Electric Power Group, which supplies power to about 90 per cent or more of the country’s population.
A recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that fish stocks could be hit by a “significant increase in the risk of salinity changes in the ocean due to rising concentrations of the phytosanoids and their metabolites”.
The fish industry is not alone in the world’s largest fisheries to be affected by algae blooming.
In Australia, Australia and New Zealand have all been hit by algae-related problems, with one fish-related restaurant chain, Fishy, facing legal action for failing to remove algae from its ponds.
The Great Barrier and New South Wales have also been hit with a major algae-plagued algae bloom, with up to 20 per cent affected in one state.
Auckland’s fish processing company Seafood Market has been facing problems in recent months, with some fish caught at a factory in Christchurch suffering “significant damage”.
The company said it was working with industry stakeholders and environmental groups to ensure its products were safe.
“We are currently reviewing the current environmental health assessment of our fish processing operations, and are committed to continuing to do so.
We are working with the authorities to determine the next steps,” Seafood Markets spokesman David Smith said.AUSTRALIAN CULTURE AND CULTURAL PRACTICESThe world’s biggest seafood market, Japan, is also struggling to cope with algae bloops.
In 2016, Japan lost almost 10 per cent more fish than it did in the previous year.
The fish stocks have been heavily affected by the algae bloom.
A study released by Japan’s National Institute of Food and Agricultural Research found up to 80 per cent the fish at its fish processing plant in Akita, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Tokyo, had been contaminated.
A total of 11,000 fish samples were sent to laboratories in Japan for analysis.
“The samples showed that the levels of phyto-algae in the fish samples exceeded the level of detection at which the products should be processed,” the researchers said.
“The contamination was likely caused by the release of industrial pollutants into the Akita River system.”
The institute’s findings have been widely criticised by Japan, which has been hit hard by the global fish market.
Japan’s fisheries minister, Yoshihide Suga, said on Monday that the government was committed to taking urgent steps to mitigate the environmental and economic risks.
“There will be no fish for consumption in the Japanese market, we have to do everything we can to reduce the number,” Suga said.