Friday, May 26, 2006

Replenishing the Worlds Fish

According to an article in the May 15, 2003 issue of Nature Magazine, large fish are in danger of becoming extinct.
The cover story of the May 15th issue of the international journal Nature reveals that we have only 10% of all large fish-- both open ocean species including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder-- left in the sea. Most strikingly, the study shows that industrial fisheries take only ten to fifteen years to grind any new fish community they encounter to one tenth of what it was before.

"From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left," says lead author Ransom Myers, a world-leading fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada. "Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10% – not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles."

Imagine trying to feed the entire world without the usage of farms. Impossible to picture? Hunting and gathering cultures used to feed themselves this way. Edible plants and animals were scattered throughout the environment. Because of this, a large tract of land was able to feed only a few people at best. Because of resource restrictions, a single tribe could only sustain about 50 people maximum.

At that point, human consumption matches, and then exceeds what the natural environment can produce. The agricultural revolution changed all of this. Now, food production can be concentrated and controlled, allowing for far higher amounts of food than can be obtained by merely hunting and foraging. "Fishing" is equivalent to hunting and foraging. Capturing fish through traditional means severely depletes the oceans, the same way hunting and foraging does for land-based food.

One solution to the problem is to farm the seas. One of the major goals of the LUF has been to farm the seas to bring more food to everyone, and to relieve the land masses of over farming. The May 24th issue of Wired Magazine has an article on plans to farm the seas.
The answer lies in aquaculture: increasing the supply of fish by farming them as though they were livestock. "Without aquaculture, you'd be talking about a tripling or quadrupling of fish prices by 2020 or 2030, which would have very negative impacts on nutrition in developing countries," says IFPRI's Mark Rosegrant, one of the study's authors. Already, a third of the annual global fish harvest comes from farms, both on land and in shallow water just offshore. But today's methods won't be able to produce the volume of fish needed for tomorrow - they're too dirty, costly, and politically unpopular. Preventing catastrophic overfishing will require aquaculture on an unprecedented scale, and that means forging out into the open ocean. It will demand a shift as dramatic as that of the agricultural Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s - a Blue Revolution that is already under way.

The University of New Hampshire experiment, along with similar installations in countries from Portugal to China, is just the beginning. In the future, ocean ranches will be everywhere, except they'll be vastly bigger and fully automated - and mobile. Launched with lab-bred baby fish, these enormous motorized pens will hitch months-long rides on ocean currents and arrive at their destinations filled with mature animals, fattened and ready for market.

The open oceans -- as suggested in both this article and in The Millennial Project -- are largely devoid of life. Farming in these regions would increase the amount of food and necessary nutrients (such as Omega 3, which is largely found in aquatic animals) to people around the world. This scheme will also be used to repopulate the seas with fish.

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