Thursday, June 12, 2014

Join us for the Fishackathon!

The Aquarium's sustainable seafood programs work to understand the ways in which we can produce yummy, healthy seafood with fewer environmental impacts. We spend a lot of time working with certification programs that assure specific environmental criteria are met in the production of seafood. But currently, only 5 percent of seafood is certified.

This led us to ask: what are the impacts of the remaining 95 percent?

Shrimp | Photo: Frank C. Müller via

To answer this question, we are creating a way to engage small aquaculture producers (did you know there are 500,000 shrimp farmers in Vietnam?). The first step in this endeavor will be this weekend when we hold a "hackathon" at UMASS Boston. Programmers will meet for 24 hours to develop the technology we need to reach out to farmers and understand their impacts.

At the end of the hackathon, a winner will be selected and that project will compete for a grand prize (a trip to the Philippines!) at the State Department Ocean Summit. Winners will be announced at the Our Oceans Conference in Washington D.C. next week, and the Aquarium's President and CEO Nigella Hilgarth and Director of Conservation Meghan Jeans are participating!

Here are more details:
  • When Friday, June 13, 7 p.m. to Saturday, June 14, 10 pm
  • Where UMass Boston
    100 Morrissey Blvd
    Boston, MA 02125
    Ryan Lounge, 3rd Floor McCormack Hall
  • What 27 hours of coding for fish!
  • Why The majority of the aquaculture industry, globally, is made up of mainly small-scale units, including small family farms in developing nations. Environmental impacts, such as pollution and habitat loss, leading to disease and social issues, have ranged from negligible to significant. Shrimp aquaculture has historically been one of the more environmentally impactful sectors of the aquaculture industry.  More

Fish farm in India | Photo: Drajay1976 via
  • What
    The Fishackathon is a national effort involving several partners across the country and is being held concurrently with the Secretary of State's Our Ocean Conference. These Fishackathons partner fishery experts with technologists to create innovative technology which address sustainable fishery challenges.

    The Boston Fishackathon will focus on developing a cell phone platform to educate farmers on better production practices (biosecurity, disease identification and outbreak notifications, escape prevention, feed management) and the ways in which to reduce environmental impacts. The partner country for this project will be India. India currently ships the greatest volume of shrimp to the United States, small scale farmers dominate production, and there is a broad scale change from black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) to white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) which are farmed at a higher density and thus can have potentially greater impacts.

    Farmers involved in the project would provide data on impact factors (including but not limited to regional water quality measures, disease outbreak information, feed conversion ratios, the inclusion of wild fish within feed, and regulatory enforcement visits). These data will be analyzed by specialists at the New England Aquarium and UMass Boston and will serve to inform subsequent training modules.

If you know how to write code, please join us!

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