As the world’s population grows, so do a number of challenges. One of these is food – today’s land-based food production is already under pressure, and future population growth will increase that pressure further.
Part of the solution is to return to where all life began.
Marine farming will be one of the most important sources of protein in the future and Calanus finmarchicus is an ultra-efficient food source for fish and shrimp. Thanks to the species’ enormous population and its exceptionally high reproduction rate, this tiny zooplankton has the potential to play a very big role in tomorrow’s food production.
This tiny species, only 3-5 mm long, was first described by J.E. Gunnerus, a Norwegian bishop, in 1770. Bishop Gunnerus was renowned as a universal talent and became one of Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters founding fathers. In 1767, he collected the first samples of Calanus finmarchicus, although it was termed, Monoculus finmarchicus at the time. The name finmarchicus is probably derived from their collection point, south of Hammerfest in the county of Finnmark, Norway. Since then, the species has been known under various names, and was finally named Calanus finmarchicus during the 19th century.
Calanus finmarchicus is a copepod of the genus Calanus with a one-year life cycle and is a enormous marine biological resource. Stock assessment indicates a total, annual new production of approx. 290 mill tons in the Norwegian Sea. It is one of the most ecologically important species in the marine ecosystem due to its role in the marine food web or energy chain. It is widely recognized, in ecological theory, that in the marine ecosystem only 10-15% of the energy incorporated as biomass is transferred upwards from one trophic level to the next. The highest biomass is found at the base of the food pyramid. 10% of the total biomass of zooplankton is transferred further up the food chain as the diet (prey) for fish larvae, juveniles and other small creatures of the ocean. Every summer, approximately 10% of the production of zooplankton descends into the deeper realms of the Norwegian Sea and goes into hibernation. The next year they ascend for reproduction and complete the lifecycle. The rest of the zooplankton biomass dies and remineralize into inorganic forms.
That means that from zooplankton to humans, there is 1000 times energy loss, making it common sense to harvest at a lower trophic level, and make good use of biomass that would otherwise be lost.
Calanus finmarchicus is the dominant link between phytoplankton and larvae of many commercial fish stocks, including cod, haddock, herring and coalfish. Larvae and juveniles from these species feed on Calanus finmarchicus during early life stages. Due to their excessive abundance, this species is a key player in the energy transfer between lower and higher trophic levels. The annual production in the North Atlantic is many times higher than the total biomass of all fish species in the same area, including cod, herring and mackerel. As a matter of fact, Calanus finmarchicus contributes to more than 50 % of the total zooplankton biomass in the northern North Atlantic (Planque and Batten, 2000).
Our proprietary technology has demonstrated that commercial harvesting of the vast biological resource, Calanus finmarchicus, is feasible.
Based on our own empirical data, scientific advice from Institute of Marine Research (Norway) and political visions, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries has allocated 254 000 tons of C. finmarchicus for commercial harvesting. This decision is based on a strict interpretation of the Marine Resource Act and our own embedded precautionary approach. The total quota allowed is far less than the proposed scientific advice.
The crew retrieving the trawl
The near future promises a new era for the harvesting of C. finmarchicus, as a commercial fleet makes use of this huge marine resource. New licenses have been issued, and it is expected that a proportion of the existing fishing fleet will enter this fishery.
With a lifecycle of 1 to 1.5 years, Calanus finmarchicus’ biology ensures a steady and rapid reproduction rate, while the species scale is so immense, you’d be forgiven for having problems relating to the numbers.
Reproduction in the Norwegian Sea is estimated at approx. 290,000,000 tonnes a year, and harvesting is limited to a yearly quota of 254,000 tonnes. To put it another way, if we were to harvest the entire quota, this would account for a tiny 0.09% of the reproduction, a far cry from threatening the species population. In reality our 2018 harvest was only a fraction of the total quota, about 1400 tonnes, representing an even smaller 0.0005% of the yearly reproduction. So what does all this mean? By sustainably harnessing high-performing, high-quality nutrients made available from Calanus finmarchicus, the potential for widespread improved long-term human health, and superior animal nutrition is limitless.
As an industrial company, spearheading the research and development of calanus-based nutrients, we take our responsibility very seriously. Our Environmental Policy guides our company ambitions, protection of the marine environment and sustainable harvesting. All our employees participate continuously in development and implementation of best practices and company culture for clean and eco-friendly harvesting.
Zooca Calanus AS collaborates with research institutes and national authorities to develop sustainable and precautionary harvesting.