Women in aquaculture: Dr Jesse Trushenski
by Rob Fletcher
20 December 2018 (Excerpts reprinted)
Dr Trushenski’s roles include acting as the director of science at Evaqua Farms, the second largest producer of trout in the US.
Your book, Understanding Aquaculture, comes out on 3 January, why did you decide to publish a book on the sector?
For years, I heard comments like, “Oh, I would never eat farmed fish – it’s mushy and riddled with chemicals.” Or, “I’ve heard that fish farming is bad for the environment.” I started to think of these offhand comments as teachable moments, a chance to set the record straight. Anyone who works in aquaculture knows the truth of these matters, but they might not have the counterpoints at their fingertips. Or maybe they’re pond farmers, so they don’t know a lot about net pens. What the industry needs is a survival manual – a “what you need to know” distillation of the world’s most important source of seafood – and that’s how I think of Understanding Aquaculture.
Who is your target audience?
When I started writing, I had fish farmers in mind – I wanted to arm them with the facts so that they could address the mis- and disinformation we all face. That’s still one of the main reasons that Understanding Aquaculture exists, but I hope that it will gain traction outside of this demographic. The aquaculture industry often preaches to the choir, but that’s not who really needs to hear our message. I wrote the book to be accessible to anyone with an interest in aquaculture or farm-raised seafood. Seafood distributors and retailers, chefs and restauranteurs, food scientists, students, practitioners, conservationists, even the casual reader – anyone with questions about aquaculture can pick up the book and find the answers.
What are the key points you’d like your readers to absorb?
So much of what the public has been told about aquaculture is wrong. “Aquaculture uses more fish than it produces.” No. The amount of seafood produced by the aquaculture industry vastly outweighs the volume of wild-caught fish that are used as raw materials for feed manufacturing. “Farmed fish isn’t as good for you.” Nope. The nutritional value of farmed fish and shellfish is equivalent, sometimes even superior to that of wild-caught seafood. “Farmed fish isn’t safe.” Wrong again. The balance of evidence suggests that farmed seafood is generally safer to eat than wild-caught fish and shellfish. But the most dangerous lie is that aquaculture is not needed, that we can feed ourselves now and in the future by just catching more fish. The truth is that aquaculture is a necessity.
Do you think it will help to convert some of the anti-aquaculture lobby or do you think that those opinions are too polarized or entrenched?
I don’t think I would have written the book if I thought it was a lost cause. Some people are staunchly opposed to aquaculture and are unwilling to consider new information, much less change their mind. Although these naysayers are the ones that are most often heard, I don’t think they accurately reflect the population at large. I think most people are a bit skeptical, but mostly ambivalent – they don’t know much about aquaculture, so they don’t really know what to think. Ultimately, these are the people I want to reach and inform.
You’re a keen foodie. Do you have any favorite seafood meals?
I still occasionally dream about a seafood gnocchi dish I had in Italy in 2005 and have never been able to recreate or find elsewhere – it’s completely ridiculous, but it’s true! It’s decidedly less cosmopolitan than scallops and mussels on the Amalfi coast, but the humble tuna fish sandwich brings back memories of my childhood – it’s my #1 comfort food. I also love our company’s fresh steelhead and smoked trout, which we eat at home a lot. One of our favorites is broiled steelhead with a fennel and panko crust. There’s something really special about being able to share it with friends and family and say, “This is what we do, we helped raise this fish.”
For more information, or to order a copy of Understanding Aquaculture, go to: https://www.5mbooks.com/understanding-aquaculture.html