Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 30 January 2009
In the midst of a nationwide peanut butter scare (which follows on the heels of a milk scare, a tomato and green pepper scare, and of course the ongoing fears of Mad Cow disease), I must admit I am skeptical of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's conviction that offshore fish farms are a step in the right direction.
If anything, I think we have seen repeatedly that the corporate approach to food, though cost effective and resource efficient, often results in a substandard product when compared with the real, wild thing (or, at the very least, with the products of small-scale operations).
I certainly don't follow the logic of putting people out of business to provide them with different jobs, which is what farming advocates promise to do for commercial fishermen. It seems like a lot of trouble to come up with careers, training and infrastructure for people who already have work they love and don't want to give up.
Sure, fish farming looks good on paper. What that means is we're not going to discover (or prevent!) the negative effects that farmed grouper may have on the wild population (and all sea critters) until after the pens are in place and operating, likely for some time.
Salmon fishermen can do essentially nothing about sea lice, because the door to salmon farms has been opened and can't be shut. They must bear the introduction of a parasite to their wild fishery because the farmed and the wild both live in an uncontainable open ocean.
You can harness the fish, but you can't wrangle Mother Nature.
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