Apart from the obvious technical difficulties, proposals for increasing the yield of human food from the sea by attempting to bring about widescale alterations of the marine environment must be considered with much caution. Our knowledge of most aspects of the working of marine ecosystems is inadequate for us to be able to make predictions with certainty. There are many risks of unforeseen, detrimental consequences from tampering on a large scale with a vast environment we do not well understand, however well intentioned our actions.
It seems probable that marine fish farming and shellfish culture may eventually become more widespread and intensive than at present. However, the economics of these enterprises seem mainly to require the production of high-priced species. Large additions to our food supplies are not yet possible from these sources.
The immediate prospect of obtaining greater quantities of food from the sea lies mainly in the possibility of wider, controlled exploitation of natural stocks. This requires concurrent developments along several lines, including the utilization of a greater variety of species - especially the pelagic stocks. If krill harvesting proves to be economically viable, there would seem to be a large resource of food in this form which is at present virtually untapped except via whaling. Even if not readily suitable for human diets, use of krill for fishmeal might reduce pressures on fish stocks and facilitate measures for conservation. But as already mentioned, any over-exploitation could have disastrous consequences for wildlife.
International cooperation in fishing and fishery science is a prerequisite for major advance, without which optimum yields cannot be estimated and fishing appropriately regulated. The chief hope of making the best use of the food resources of the sea lies in a wider application of rational methods of control of fishing. Uncontrolled, competitive laissez-faire hunting inevitably leads eventually to declining yields from diminishing stocks. In fishing, as in most human affairs, progressive improvement depends upon intelligent control of human behaviour.
Was this article helpful?