Inside the fear mongering campaign against aquaculture
Peter Drucker, the management expert, economist and Nobel laureate, is quoted as saying: “Aquaculture, not the internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st Century.”
However, for myself, and many of my colleagues and clients, the attractive business aspect of private aquaculture was not the primary impetus for getting involved. Most of us entered this field with some sense of nobility.
We were on the leading edge of the “blue wave” – helping to transform the aquatic ecosystems from a hunting and gathering mode to an agrarian one, much like our ancestors did on land, millennia ago. Aquaculture was the answer to conserving the aquatic ecosystems. As the famous explorer and ocean conservation popularizer had written:
“Man has become by far the greatest predator of all time. As populations mount and land grown food supplies are unable to feed the growing numbers of hungry, man is turning more and more to the sea for his food. On land man has slowly learned to conserve the soil lest it stop producing crops. But on the ocean, man is a hunter only. He takes but returns little. If the bounty of the sea is not to be exhausted, man must learn to farm it as he farms the land, by sowing as well as reaping.” Jacques Cousteau, 1973. (pictured)
And, “In his exploitation of the sea man is still a barbarian, a ruthless hunter slaughtering whole species of animals without heeding the consequences. With earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed we must turn to the sea with new understanding and new technology. We need to farm it as we farm the land. This is called mariculture. It has just begun. … with properly managing limited bodies of water. In such controlled volumes the ideal conditions can be maintained all year and by ensuring fertilization and protecting the larvae from predators, incredibly high yields can be obtained from a number of protein-rich populations. High efficiency sea farms totalling the size of Switzerland would produce more food than all fisheries combined.” Jacques Cousteau, 1973.
And, some years later, “In the past 10,000 years we have learned to irrigate, fertilize, and develop hardy breeds of grain and stock. An acre of land, scientifically farmed, is far more useful in human terms than an agriculturally idle one. Yet thousands of years after we abandoned hunting on land as an efficient method of obtaining food, we continue to pursue the creatures of the sea with the attitudes of cavemen. Ocean farming – mariculture – can protect the natural stock in the sea as well as vastly supplement our food supply.” Jacques Cousteau, 1979
The promise of aquaculture
We were excited to be a part of this transformative vision, convinced that we were helping to pioneer a righteous cause. We were buoyed up by continued findings of how environmentally benign our activities were, and how efficient our production was compared to traditional terrestrial animals. With fish being “cold-blooded” and not having to support themselves against gravity, conversion of feed to flesh was markedly more efficient than any and all traditional farm animals. In the age of “carbon foot print” consciousness, fish outperformed other sources of meat production.
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