We receive a speech on the topic of aquaculture from Pierluigi Mannino , city councilor in Cagliari, president of the Commission for the Evaluation of municipal policies and the quality of services. He was also president of the Productive Activities, Tourism and Territory Promotion commission.

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«On the occasion of a recent trip to Norway, I had the opportunity to visit Eide Fjordbruk and meet the company top management. Eide Fjordbruk, better known in the markets as Eide, is an aquaculture company well known for its disruptive innovations and its commitment to sustainability. It is also the first salmon farmer in the world to achieve carbon neutrality certification. Among the products created by Eide there is also the famous Salmon Zero, the first salmon certified with zero emissions".

«But the Norwegian company, as was explained to me, does not limit itself to producing salmon and believes that it is its precise duty to inform consumers and society about what it really means, beyond stereotypes and clichés, to do aquaculture in 2023. To achieve this goal he created the Salmon Eye, a gigantic and hyper-technological floating sculpture in the shape of a salmon eye, designed by the famous Danish studio Kvorning Design, and positioned in the heart of the Hardanger fjord, the most picturesque of the Norwegian fjords ».

«The Salmon Eye, which immediately became an icon of the Norwegian landscape and already viral on all social media, hosts an information center open to all and can be visited with guided tours. Inside, multimedia contents accompany the guest on a journey through the challenges and potential of a sector at the center of often instrumental and unmotivated criticism. To guarantee neutrality and objectivity of the information, the center has an independent scientific committee including some of the most authoritative voices from academia and Norwegian society, including well-known environmentalists.

The visit to the Salmon Eye, beyond the architectural excellence of the structure, which is truly remarkable, was a truly interesting and instructive experience. These are some of the things that the visitor learns during the tour and when he stays to chat with the very kind guides: only 2% of the calories consumed on the planet come from the sea; aquaculture has already surpassed fishing in terms of total production and is expected to cover 90% of global seafood needs by 2050; almost all wild fish stocks are heavily overexploited. For this reason, aquaculture will have to bear the burden alone of the increase in consumption resulting from global population growth; farmed salmon has been at the top of all sustainability rankings for years and is the farmed animal protein with by far the lowest carbon emissions, about a tenth compared to beef and even lower than those of the fished product. In the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, a global reference ranking of the most sustainable protein producers, three Norwegian salmon producers occupy the top three places and salmon producers 8 of the top 13 positions; the “very high stocking densities”, often used as an argument by aquaculture detractors, cannot exceed 25 kg per cubic meter, i.e. 97.5% water and only 2.5% fish. A density so low, and I speak from personal experience, that it makes the tanks seem half-empty when fish swim near the bottom; in the history of Norwegian aquaculture, residues of antibiotics and drugs have never been found in the product intended for consumption and, compared to a total production of around 1.5 million tonnes (around 10 billion portions!), antibiotic prescriptions there are less than 50 a year."

«In the meeting that followed the visit, I was also told how the company has recently launched, an almost unique initiative on the global scene, the first site on a commercial scale, not the classic experiment, exclusively dedicated to integrated multitrophic aquaculture ( IMTA). The objective is to simultaneously produce, in the same site, dozens of low trophic level species thanks to the fertilizing effect of salmon waste. In other words, the nutrients they contain will allow the production of numerous varieties of micro and macroalgae. The microalgae will subsequently be consumed by phytoplanktophagous organisms such as mussels, oysters and scallops. Other herbivorous organisms, such as the highly prized Norwegian green urchins, will instead consume the macroalgae while the sea cucumbers will consume the organic material present in the substrate. Still others, such as crabs, will feed on undersized or broken mussels unfit for human consumption. A part of the mussels will instead be used in the formulation of the feed for the salmon itself, thus returning to the nutrient cycle. The company has already built several sites of this type. A wonderful example of a circular economy that manages to transform waste into a resource and reduce the environmental impact of production. But Eide's real objective is to go further and move from zero impact aquaculture to positive impact aquaculture."

«The experiments already carried out demonstrate in fact that IMTA sites quickly become lush submerged oases of biodiversity where wild organisms coexist in large numbers with farmed ones, finding food and shelter like in coral reefs. For this reason, IMTA sites even encourage the repopulation of neighboring areas. A completely different thing from the image of aquaculture often conveyed by the media."

«Okay, you might say, aquaculture is essential to deal with the stagnation of fished volumes and, when done well, it can even have a positive effect on the environment but farmed fish, how boring! And here Eide drops the ace. Precisely to counter this objection, the company recently opened, again in the prestigious setting of the Salmon Eye, the Iris restaurant, defined by Vanity Fair as the "coolest of the summer". Iris is already a global phenomenon and probably the most "instagrammable and instagrammed" venue in the world. A few days after opening, the restaurant led by young star chef Anika Madsen already has an endless waiting list despite the far from popular prices. Iris's objective, perfectly achieved, is precisely to give prestige to healthy and delicious raw materials, united by the trait d'union of maximum sustainability, but often snubbed by chefs and consumers due to a simple lack of correct and reliable information".

«Aquaculture is able to produce proteins with high biological value and noble fats (the famous omega 3) for everyday nutrition but also precious and unique foods as in the case of oysters, caviar and sea urchins . In Norway, farmed fish represents the second largest export after oil and aquaculture has already surpassed the Italian wine sector in terms of turnover. The Scandinavian country considers aquaculture the reference sector for the green transition towards the post-oil economy and aims to quintuple production".

«These data and the meeting with Eide could only raise some questions. And Italian aquaculture? And the Sardinian one? Italy consumes almost 2 million tonnes of fish products every year and domestic consumption, which is worth around 13.5 billion euros per year, is the highest in the European Union. Our seas, if we consider fishing alone, cannot and will never be able to cope with the enormous appetite of Italians and already today, incredibly, almost everything we consume in our country is imported (over 80%). Ideal conditions therefore seem to exist for the flourishing development of marine fish farming. Instead, its contribution remains very limited. The Italian production of sea bream and sea bass barely reaches 15,000 tonnes (about 0.75% of the total national fish requirement) and Sardinia, with only 2,000 tonnes per year (about 0.1% of the total national fish requirement) is not certainly against the trend. Italy performs much better with the production of mussels and clams and the upper Adriatic, thanks to the richness of nutrients, represents one of the European reference points both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Sardinia, with the production centers of Arborea and Olbia, also manages to have its say in the field of national mussel farming. But the real potential of Sardinian aquaculture still remains almost completely unexpressed."

«Yet, this sector could represent a real turning point for the economy of our island, a land that combines perfect conditions for production with a unique and highly recognizable brand on a national and international level. Not only that, thanks to the repopulation of coasts and lagoons with organisms reproduced in captivity, aquaculture could also represent a turning point in environmental terms and also contribute to the revival of fishing, a synergistic activity with aquaculture and not antithetical to it. Bottarga mullets, clams, octopuses and the precious sea cucumbers are just some of the species in strong numerical decline that could be released into nature following an IMTA approach not too different from that already used by Eide. This would bring enormous benefits to ecosystems but also to the aforementioned fishing activities, to related industries in the traditional sense and, obviously, to tourism. Those who visit Sardinia want local products, not sea bream raised in Turkey and octopus caught in the Indian Ocean.

Even the problem of the hedgehog, an organism that was reproduced on an industrial scale in Norway about ten years ago, could be brilliantly solved with repopulation. And there is no doubt, just take a look at social media to understand, spaghetti with sea urchins would represent one of the major attractions of any trip to Sardinia worthy of the name."

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