- Kathryn Lightham
- Business and Finance Correspondent
“Invasive” alien species (ie, animal or plant species that are alien to a limited ecological range and invade it and threaten its dominant biodiversity) cause ecological and economic damage worldwide. However, some companies are now starting to see these non-native animals and plants as a business opportunity by using them as a valuable resource that can be exploited.
Caitlin Penn, marketing director at dog food company Wilder Harrier, explains that the company hopes to one day stop making one of its most popular products.
“It may sound strange: steadily selling a product that we believe will be discontinued,” Ben says. “But that’s part of our goal … because we want to make a difference”.
“This includes a production line that will continue – as planned – with a reduction in the supply of its key components,” he added.
This contradiction stems from the fact that Ben is talking about dry dog food that relies on “sustainable fish” (that is, fish caught or farmed in a way that takes biodiversity and sustainability into account) for its production. long-term survival of animal species) and the Canadian company produces from exotic species. One of the fish is called “silver carp”, which is very similar to carp or carp in some Arab countries.
Silver carp, a native of China and eastern Siberia, were introduced to fish farms in the United States in the seventies of the twentieth century, but they soon spilled into nearby waters in nature, causing the spread of these fish, bringing the situation to the present day. Widespread along the Mississippi River and its tributaries and associated canals.
As this type of fish voraciously feeds on plankton or microorganisms living in fresh water, the presence of silver carp has led to the impoverishment of local fish habitats, as it outperforms them in consuming this food source. Most of the local fishing stocks.
What U.S. and Canadian environmental officials fear most is the influx of these exotic fish species into the Great Lakes, which could lead to a decline in commercial and recreational fishing activities in the lakes and see these fish move into Canadian rivers.
The Ontario Invasive Species Awareness Program doesn’t mince words when it describes silver carp and introduced bighead carp species as “unwanted invaders” and “the most serious threat to Ontario waters.”
One of the main ways to significantly reduce silver carp populations is to capture them as a food source. Silver carp are edible to humans, and although one taster described the species as “very tasty”, actually getting people to buy this species appears to be a difficult marketing matter.
But dogs, fortunately, are in much less demand, so Wilder Harrier is investing in helping to tackle the problem.
The company launched its silver carp-based dog food in 2020 using fish harvested from waters in the US state of Illinois. So far, he has sold more than 10,000 bags of 2 and 5 kilograms.
“We’ve removed almost 12,000 silver carp from American lakes and rivers, that’s 50 tons of fish,” Ben says.
The company’s dog food is now available for sale online and in stores across Canada and the United States.
In the Caribbean, one of the biggest invasive species problems is Sargassum, a widespread seaweed that first appeared in the Atlantic Ocean in 2011.
If they pile up on beaches, they can suffocate and smell like rotten eggs as they rot. They suffocate wildlife that colonize the area, and the toxic gases they emit — such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia — can cause headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties in humans.
“We no longer have white beaches,” says Pierre-Antoine Gibot, who visited the Caribbean island of St. Barts eight years ago. “We have brown beaches. It’s not good. It stinks.”
Over a decade, the amount of sarcasm washed ashore across the Caribbean has tripled, with mounds of water up to a meter deep.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the increase is fueled by rising water temperatures and the dumping of fertilizer waste into the ocean.
The fishing industry suffers from loss of fish species and accumulation of damaged gear, which is terrible for tourism.
“We usually see sarcasm [على الشاطئ] March to July,” says Gibot. But this time is getting longer.
The widespread outbreak has been recognized as a natural disaster, and several countries have declared a national emergency.
But Guibott sees it as a resource, arguing that the sponge is strong and flexible, so it has the potential to be used to produce a product like cardboard.
In 2019, he launched an initiative called Project Sarcasm, and the card made with Sarcasm is now being tested in laboratories in France before the project moves to commercial use.
Gibot hopes that online retailers such as Amazon and French company La Redoute will one day turn to the material to create their own delivery boxes.
“We don’t know how to eradicate these invasive species,” he says, “and the only solution we have now is to make something useful out of them.”
And in South Korea, a company called Starstec uses another exotic species — the common Japanese starfish — as an ingredient to create an environmentally friendly antifreeze and de-icing solution.
“Asterias amorensis – or the common Japanese starfish – is a predator that causes serious damage to aquaculture,” says Tan Shin, sales manager of StarStec. “And he has a high fertility rate and a big appetite.”
Starstec makes an extract from the skeleton of a starfish that makes the de-icer less corrosive to concrete and metal.
The product was launched in the South Korean market two years ago, and now StarzTech has turned its sights overseas, hoping to enter the Canadian, US, European and Japanese markets.
The impact and control of invasive species now costs the global economy billions of dollars annually, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. While the union doesn’t provide an exact figure for the total, it says the impact of invasive species of insects that parasitize other ecosystems is more than $70 billion annually.
Things will only get worse, says Professor Helen Roy, an expert on the problem and researcher at the British Center for Environment and Hydrology. “Whatever these species cause, the problem is growing wherever they appear in the world.”
A 2020 study predicts that the number of alien (invasive) species worldwide will increase by more than a third between 2005 and 2050. This increase is fueled by the increased movement of people around the world.
Back in Montreal, Caitlin Penn said the wilder harrier “has decided to do its homework on other invasive species, and we have a long list of species that we’re steadily researching.”
“Right now, the thing we’re most excited about is the wild boar,” he added.
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