More of the same

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U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publishes a new report on supply and demand for food worldwide. The study carried out by Audun Lem et al. claims that the global seafood industry cannot keep up with consumer’s demand without aquaculture. Audun Lem told SeafoodSource.com that «activists» who think the world can live without aquaculture are «not only dead wrong», but «surpassed by reality».


The reality is the reality is the reality… aha.

According to FAO’s periodical SOFIA reports, the capture fishery production has been stagnating since the 1990ies at a level of at about 90 million tons, while aquacultures is already yielding 67 million tons, with a steady annual growth of 5 to 9 percent since the 1950ies. For somebody who takes these figures as a natural law, the argument of Audun Lem and FAO colleagues is not astonishing.
The problem however is that Lem et al. are but extrapolating an already fatal process. Instead of looking into the reasons of the capture stagnation, they simply take it for granted.
Fishery biologists like Daniel Pauly (the one who found out former FOA catch statistics where wrong) or his colleague Rainer Froese (the one who showed that even corrected, FAO stock status statistics do not indicate the bad truth entirely) are pointing out that fishery could yield much more globally and be more profitable – if we simply took a break in looting. Almost all commercially exploited stocks need a respite to rebuild at original levels, some species would need few years, other more.
The reason why global fishery yield stagnates is not because we reached the upper yield limit but because we were looting already depleted stocks for too long – and with increasingly ruthless methods.
Estimations show that by reducing the current catch volume by half during four to five years, and banning ruthless methods with high bycatch or high habitat impacts, we could expect the global yield increasing by more than half of the current volume or another 45 million tons. We could obviously restrain from farming carnivore species that have to be fed with components for which one forth of the global catch has to be used.


A smart global fish policy


would consist of three elements: exploiting healthy stocks only, realizing higher catch volumes and higher returns, and farming non-predator species only. This would guarantee enough fish for everybody.
Humanity can of course continue on the current way of fishing at the edge, and of boosting an aquaculture industry which in most cases consists of animal factories that would be objected to if terrestrial animals were concerned. One can continue like this, maybe until 2030, maybe even somewhat longer, improving details here and there by green programs of all kinds. It will unfortunately not lead us to the solution which is presented as a core argument for the «blue revolution»: it will not guarantee food for all as it does not guarantee the basis, i.e. healthy stocks. As long as we are not able to make best use of what nature provides us with, we cannot expect to make it better in our own way.


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