A cascade of ecosystem effects believed to be caused by high tides…
Commercial fishing boats are scrambling to catch as many Atlantic salmon as they can after a net pen broke near Washington’s Cypress Island. Fishers reported thousands of the non-native fish jumping in the water or washing ashore.
A fish farm’s net pen failed Saturday afternoon when an anchor pulled loose and metal walkways twisted about. Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.
For years, scientists and activists have sounded the alarm that humans’ appetite for seafood is outpacing what fishermen can sustainably catch.
But new research suggests there is space on the open ocean for farming essentially all the seafood humans can eat. A team of scientists led by Rebecca Gentry, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that widescale aquaculture utilizing much of the ocean’s coastal waters could outproduce the global demand for seafood by a staggering 100 times.
It is difficult to know which is moving faster: the debate around the ethics of farmed fish, or the growth in how much of it we are eating. By 2030, aquaculture is predicted to account for 60% of fish destined for our plates and it’s already more than half.
Its rapid growth has led some to predict its success in producing cheaper fish could rub off on the meat sector, giving us a more efficient, but not necessarily more ethical, form of protein.
“Tuna stocks are in serious decline, with too many boats chasing too few fish, along with widespread illegal fishing,” according to the Pew environment group. But can it ever be OK to eat? To help navigate these waters, arm yourself with lists and guides, including Greenpeace’s Red List. Some trail-blazing businesses have majored in the traceability of their sushi – Moshi Moshi, the UK’s first conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, founded pisces-rfr.org, which is a guide to responsible fish restaurants .
Developing countries represent 50% of global fish exports. The idea should be that high-value fish are exported and low-value fish imported with the revenue, meaning there’s a common-sense flow of money (this brings in foreign-exchange revenues of $25bn) and protein. Unfortunately a study by the WorldFish Centerfound that poor countries are left with a protein gap as fish export revenues are captured by elites and spent on luxury goods (such as imported sushi).
This past weekend, I tasted shrimp grown with feed made from genetically-engineered bacteria.
The bacteria, which are way more interesting than the shrimp, are the brainchildren of Larry Feinberg, CEO and co-founder of Knipbio, a Boston-area startup. They’re interesting because they help address one of the gnarliest problems of a growing human population: feeding them fish.
Emphatically, yes. While the market places high standards on their seafood, labor welfare is not much of a priority. In the case of the Cañon City prison-labor system, the workers (who also breed goats, train unruly dogs, and break wild horses) make a whopping $1.50 an hour, which adds up to not quite $125 per month. That wouldn’t cover the average cost of a grocery trip to Whole Foods.
Like it or not, our seafood increasingly originates not in the deep ocean but on fish farms hugging the coasts. Aquaculture already supplies about half of the world’s seafood, and global production is going to have to more than double by 2050 to meet demand, according to the World Resources Institute.
The business opportunity here is tremendous. Thousands of operations around the world now produce huge numbers of salmon, shrimp, mussels, tilapia and catfish, to name a few fish species that thrive on farms.
Not without significant cost, though — from pollution to antibiotic overuse to slavery, the global industry is rife with problems. But there also plenty of examples of fish being farmed in a way that may not endanger wild populations, deplete the ocean of them for feed or generate a lot of nasty waste.
There’s a lot of arable land left for farming, but almost all of that land has something wrong with it. In some places the soils are poor; in others, the rain never falls (or never stops). Some of the land is rainforest or designated as a wildlife sanctuary. Much of the remaining “available” land is, in actuality, already being farmed by disenfranchised people whose names don’t appear on any official title.
So where do we go to produce more food when land is lacking? Perhaps to sea.
Five years ago this month in this unspoiled fishing port immortalized by three generations of Wyeths, Mr. Libby and about a dozen cohorts banded together to try to rescue their depleted fish stock and their profession.
The result (“after trial and error with a lot of error” in Mr. Libby’s words) was Port Clyde Fresh Catch, the country’s first community-supported fishery, now part of a burgeoning movement trying to do for small-scale local fishermen what community-supported agriculture does for farmers.