Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 04 August 2011
This week four Mainers graduated from the Cod Academy, officially known as the Maine Aquaculture Association's Cod Farming for Maine's Commercial Fishermen program.
Reportedly, all four grads are now equipped to start their own small-scale cod farms on the coast of Maine.
While I admire the sentiment behind a program that specifically aims to train commercial fishermen at no charge, I'd rather see that money pay for cooperative research to improve the data upon which fishing livelihoods are made and broken.
How about a curriculum focused on raising the biomass of Atlantic cod or fishing for cod sustainably? The cod-haddock separator Ruhle Trawl was developed through cooperation between fishermen, scientists and academics. The team of inventors went on to win the World Wildlife Fund's Smart Gear grand prize in 2007. That's proof positive that cooperative research can have a direct effect on the way we harvest abundant species while avoiding those classified as "overfished."
The good news for fishermen is that cod stocks are up in the North Atlantic. New England groundfishermen saw the first cod quota bump in years, and Canadian researchers this week announced a bounce-back in Maritime waters.
So why are we investing in cod farming?
With an official aquaculture policy on the books, it's clear that the folks at NOAA see fish farming as a career of the future, whether or not you're a fisherman now. In fact, the federal agency donated $183,000 to the Cod Academy project.
The last time the federal government created an incentive to switch to an ocean-harvesting career (with loan guarantees for boatbuilding), the result was too many large fishing boats soon followed by collapsing stocks.
Finfish farming may well be a sustainable industry with an illustrious future. But for now, there are too many questions unanswered about the effects of escaped farmed species (and even contained ones) on wild stocks.
And that's forgetting the fact that fish farming simply does not equal fishing. Give me a home where the buffalo roam and fishermen set out to sea.
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