For decades environmentalists have fought to save our oceans from the perils of overfishing, climate change, and pollution. All noble efforts — but what if environmentalists have it backwards? What if the question is not how to save the oceans, but how the oceans can save us?
That is what a growing network of scientists, ocean farmers, and environmentalists around the world is trying to figure out. With nearly 90 percent of large fish stocks threatened by over-fishing and 3.5 billion people dependent on the seas as their primary food source, these ocean farming advocates have concluded that aquaculture is here to stay.
Bun Lai, world-renowned sustainable seafood chef, believes that: If done right, this new generation of green aquaculture is poised to become the most sustainable form of farming on the planet. We need healthy food that protects rather than harms our climate and Earth. It is a key piece of the puzzle for building a sustainable future.
These are urgent times, demanding creative and bold solutions. In his best-selling book Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben breaks the news that climate change is no longer a future threat — it is here and now and we had better get our affairs in order.
Our oceans are already locked in a death spiral. According to the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) — a consortium of 27 of the top ocean experts in the world — the effects of climate change, ocean acidification, and oxygen depletion have already triggered a “phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.” Simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions are breaking records, exceeding even the worst-case scenario envisioned by scientists four years ago.
We face a bitter new reality: Mitigating the effects of climate change may force us to develop our seas to save them — and planet. This re-imaging of the oceans will be heart-wrenching and controversial. Our waters are revered as some of the last wild spaces on Earth — ungoverned and untouched by human hands. If we develop our oceans, farms will some day dot coastlines, mirroring our agricultural landscape. But in the face of the escalating climate crisis, we have little choice but to explore new ways of sustaining humanity while protecting the planet.
As we search for new solutions, we cannot afford to repeat the errors made on land, subsidizing industrial-scale factory farms at the expense of environmental and food quality. Simply substituting destructive fishing fleets with destructive fish farms will only hasten the demise of our oceans.
Instead, we can learn from our mistakes and chart a new course guided by principles of sustainability and meeting social needs. This means dedicating portions of ocean to farming — while reserving large swaths for marine conservation parks. And rather than building sprawling ocean factories, we need create decentralized networks of small-scale food and energy farms growing food, generating power, and creating jobs for local communities. While no panacea, ocean farming — carefully conceived — could be a vital part of reversing course and building a greener future.
All of us who hold dear the deep blue sea need to confront the brutal reality that if we ignore the largest environmental crisis of our generation, our wild oceans will be dead oceans.
Article by Brendan Smith was originally published @ The Atlantic ( )