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Using Stable Isotopes, Fatty Acids and Biochemical Tracers to Identify Products From Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) Sites



The aquaculture industry in Canada is currently undergoing another transition phase as it strives to become more sustainable and environmentally benign. One of the methods currently being considered in this evolution is a practice known as integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). The underlying principle behind the IMTA concept is one of re-cycling of nutrients for more profitability and sustainability. In essence, the IMTA practice combines, in the right proportions, the cultivation of fed aquaculture species (e.g. finfish) with organic extractive aquaculture species (e.g. shellfish) and inorganic extractive aquaculture species (e.g. seaweed) for a balanced ecosystem management approach that takes into consideration site performance specificity, operational limits, and food safety guidelines and regulations.

One issue associated with this more ecologically friendly approach is the identification of products coming from these future IMTA sites. In the marketplace, labelling and certification programs will be used to identify the product to the consumer. But the question remains as to whether unlabelled product from IMTA sites or non-IMTA can be differentiated from each other. This has implications for food traceability issues, product misrepresentation and the spatial extent to which species being grown around IMTA sites qualify as being an IMTA product.

The solution to this question on the relative distinctness of IMTA products is one of statistical separation using multivariate techniques. The variables that we propose to test are stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen), fatty acids and glycogen. Some preliminary work done this summer has shown these variables may have some value in discriminating aquaculture sites from non-aquaculture sites.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2006 - 2006



Principal Investigator(s)

Shawn Robinson

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