Michael Conathan has an interesting albeit somewhat overoptimistic look at the state of fisheries in 2011. Conathan notes a variety of pretty good news ranging from the implementation of catch limits in American fisheries to crackdowns on pirate fishing. Two points I found particularly worth noting.
First, limits on the menhaden harvest are notable because for the first time, a species is being protected because of the key role it plays in the ecosystem due to its status as food for larger species. While I’m skeptical of the long-term commitment of Americans to protect species at various points in the ecosystem, it’s still a move in the right direction.
Second, Conathan gives some tough talk on aquaculture, basically arguing that while fish farming may have problems, it’s the only solution if we want to keep eating fish.
Still, as I discussed in June, if we take domestic aquaculture off the table, our options for seafood become extremely unpalatable. Foreign farmed fish is filthier than anything we would ever allow here, our domestic wild fisheries are already stressed, and the environmental impacts of additional beef, chicken, and pork production make aquaculture look positively pristine.
Thinking we should eat more vegetables and less fish? Try selling vegetarianism as a wide-scale solution to Americans’ omnivorous ways and see how far you get. Especially with my 4-year-old. NOAA’s policy represents an excellent step toward a future that includes domestic, sustainable seafood.
Well, maybe that’s true. But I do see that fish-free day of reckoning happening in the next few decades and it will be ugly. And given that farmed fish like salmon eat a lot of other fish that continues the wild fish harvest, I’m not sure whether it is actually sustainable in the long-term, even if we ignore or attempt to mitigate the other environmental problems such as water quality and diseased fish.