Monday, February 02, 2009

Ending The Paleolithic Era At Sea.

Millenia ago humans went from a hunter gatherer society to one that relies on agriculture for food. This dramatic change led to villages, towns, cities, and civilization. Civilized humans would never think of relying on hunter-gatherers to feed society. Well, on land, anyway. On the seas, hunter-gathering still dominates.

The oceans are an aquatic wilderness. Food from the sea mostly comes from fishing boats that take to the waters to hunt for schools of wild fish, gather them in nets, and bring them back to market.

Today's San Diego Union-Tribune has a story on an aquaculture experiment proposed by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute for the deep waters off San Diego that would change all that.
"Hubbs' operation would cover about 30 football fields' worth of the ocean's surface in water that's approximately 300 feet deep.

"At first, the institute would deploy eight circular nets – each large enough to hold about 125,000 fish. The nets would be anchored to the sea floor and stocked with striped bass, a fish that was introduced to California more than 100 years ago. The captive bass would grow for about two years until they top 2 pounds each, at which point they would be collected in batches and sold to seafood wholesalers.

"The species was chosen for several reasons, including the availability of juveniles for rearing and what Hubbs researchers said were slim chances that any escaped fish would disrupt the native food chain.

"Over five years, Hubbs would install 24 pens and produce 3,000 metric tons of fish annually – about three times the current commercial fish harvest brought ashore in San Diego County.

"That would provide a dramatic boost to the state's aquaculture industry, which generates about $100 million in revenue each year for seafood producers. At full capacity, Hubbs officials said, they could raise about 3 million fish per year worth $21 million." (Here.)
Before Hubbs can go forward with its proposal it needs to convince environmentalists and fishing interests of its value, and obtain permits from the federal government. But Hubbs is on the right track.

Imagine if food from land were produced the same way that most sea food is produced. Hunters would leave the city every day to roam the wilderness in search of wild game to bring back to market. Long ago, humans figured out that hunter-gathering was inefficient and unreliable and we turned to agriculture. It's time to bring the production of sea food out of the pre-civilized era and into the modern world.


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