Death in the Sea, Life in the Fishtank

Most of the great fisheries of the world face disaster these days. Huge Asian trawlers drag the bottom, destroying everything. The fish they can’t use they throw back, dead, along with sea mammals such as dolphins. Sea creatures large and small frequently die when they are caught up in lost nets and lines. The harvest of fish all over the globe is declining from overfishing and environmental decline.

The increasing acidification of the seas gives shellfish thin and weak shells. Same with crabs and lobsters. Coral thousands of years old is dying and turning white as the water warms. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dead. Bigger fish have dangerous levels of mercury and lead in their flesh. Fish in the Pacific are showing up with cancerous tumors, a consequence of the radioactivity still leaking from Japan’s Fukushima reactors destroyed by earthquake. Fish for sushi increasingly have tapeworms and other undesirable creatures growing in their flesh.

The picture is not good, and greater consumption of fish has been recommended in the recent past in place of our unhealthy overconsumption of beef.

But fish farming using up to date technology offers the US a golden opportunity to provide first-class food locally raised in tanks.

Fish farming earned a bad reputation from filthy Asian methods, in which the fish lived in disgustingly dirty river water, and were fed all sorts of things, including human feces. These farms are packed one next to another, with very little water current and no attempt at cleaning the water.

But Norway has shown us how to raise excellent, healthy, and very tasty fish. Whole Foods has sold Norwegian farm-grown salmon, which is excellent, for several years. There is no reason the same techniques should not be used by American seafood farmers. Fish farming is an ideal industry for worker ownership because initial costs are relatively low, and can be sited in many places. But the industry needs help getting established.

Fish farming could be established in areas of the country, like the South, that have had persistent conditions of poverty and unemployment. The government could assist these efforts at relatively low cost. Minor, in fact, compared to most government investments. Petroleum, for example, has had unnecessary subsidy costing billions for many decades. The infrastructure for fish farming is far less expensive than most city buildings, more along the line of metal farm outbuildings.

That’s not the only thing needed, of course. Besides the solid infrastructure for farming of fish and other seafood, an industry to provide food for these fish is needed, as well as systems of transportation to market. Live fish could be sent to local markets in far greater quantity than at present.

Saltwater fish could be raised in interior areas, with some changes, mostly the provision of sea water. (I assume that sea water has ingredients that are necessary and not found in ordinary salt.) Since these modern methods purify the water, only small quantities of sea water would need to be regularly replaced. The middle of the country could have healthy and nutritious fresh saltwater fish without the high cost of long-distance shipping.

Likewise, freshwater fish could be raised in seacoast areas as well, areas that typically have ocean fish, but much less freshwater fish. When both are more evenly distributed, transportation costs will fall, and superior saltwater and freshwater fish could be supplied to everyone at a reasonable price.

With a bit of American ingenuity, I’m sure there are a number of other industries that could be similarly established as worker-owned entities that provide their products to local markets with low transportations costs. The floor is now open for nominations.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A couple of things: When the FV Margiris, the second largest giant fishing vessel.(Not Asian by the way) came to Australia it caused so much upset that the government passed laws banning it and it left and no ships like it are now permitted in Australian waters.
    And luckily the whole reef is not dead although a lot is. It can recover in time BUT we must stop the oceans warming – although that ship has probably sailed.
    And fish farming has some very dire environmental drawbacks as well.
    see —

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Although Asian fish farms have a bad rep, fish farms elsewhere have their own problems, which include overfishing feeding stock, the troublesome sea louse, and pollution of open waters with waste and chemicals. But these are problems that arise in open sea settings. Landlocked farms must be much bigger than I had thought, and they must include raising their own feed. This makes control of farm problems much easier to control and does not contribute to pollution of wild waters. Salmon is the biggest product, but farming of other fish and shellfish should increase.


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