salmon farming: raising and eating lions, rather than antelope?

Province newspaper image

Here are two thoughts — articles — to ponder together:

Bankruptcy

“Declaring Chapter 11”

What a poetic phrase, starting with ‘declaring’. Not sighing or announcing or admitting, but Declaring!

Chapter 11 refers to part of the bankruptcy code that covers reorganizations. In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue.

Chapter 7 is very different. It means “I give up.” You shut down, it’s over.

Metaphorically, we have the chance to declare either kind of bankruptcy whenever we work on a project or consider a habit, a social media addiction or even a job. Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is painful. Declaring is often a relief.

Acknowledging that you’re stuck is the very first step in getting unstuck…

Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.

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From the Province newspaper the other day:

Wild’ oceans at risk from overfishing, B.C. scientists say

The overfishing of cod, tuna and other predatory fish has led to a sizable increase in smaller fish — potentially threatening marine ecosystems and the very existence of “wild” oceans as we know them, a team of British Columbia scientists is warning.

The world’s predatory fish population has dropped by about two-thirds over the past century, says the group from the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre.

Meanwhile, the stocks of “forage” fish, such as capelin, sardine and anchovy, have increased by more than 100 per cent.

The researchers call the process “fishing down the food-web” and say it could change the face of the world’s oceans, in short order.

“There are still a lot of fish in the sea, but they’re just smaller,” lead researcher Prof. Villy Christensen said from Washington, where the findings were being presented Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It means we are removing the fish that control the (marine) ecosystems and we’re moving toward an unhealthy situation.”

Led by Christensen, a team of scientists examined more than 200 marine ecosystem models from around the world, dating back to 1880.

Christensen said the revealed trend could threaten marine ecosystems with more disease and other problems.

“Take the Serengeti, for example. What would happen there if we removed all the predators — no lions or leopards? The antelopes and other plant eaters would grow in number and there would be no one to remove the sick, old and injured animals, and that could lead to widespread problems with diseases.”

With a shift to smaller species, Christensen said the oceans’ uses could also drastically change.

“Currently, forage fish are turned into fish meal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry. . . . If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a farm to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry,” he said.

Christensen discussed the issue in a panel in Washington that explored what the world’s oceans would look like by 2050. The panel said the majority of fish will be forage species. The scientists also found that the bulk of the predatory fish decline — 54 per cent — has occurred in the past 40 years.

Although the smaller fish are able to thrive in this situation, Christensen warned environmental changes could result in further population fluctuations. “And that’s a scary outlook,” he said.

Christensen said overfishing creates a “when cats are away, the mice will play” situation that allows forage species to thrive with reduced threats.

To curb this, he said changes to global fishing practices are needed.

“It’s very clear what we need to do,” Christensen said. “The capacity of the world’s fishing fleets is too big and it keeps increasing. We are now getting less fish and seafood from the ocean than we were 20 years ago, and yet we have more boats out there. We need to turn that around.”

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There is a further podcast with Christensen available at the Science Journal: Podcast: Will There Be Fish by 2050?

Dr. Christensen explains in his analogy comparing our fishing and fish eating habits with the Serengeti — how humans are eating the lions, rather than the antelopes.

Our focus on eating the predators of the ocean as opposed to the foragers, means we are eating the lions as opposed to the antelopes or gazelles.

Following this analogy, one might suggest we are grinding up the antelopes and gazelle (forage fish) to raise lions (farmed salmon) — and worse yet, it’s not like the farmed lions are being fed to the poor…

As such is salmon farming part of the ‘solution’ ? — (as purported on certain salmon farming websites?)

Or is it part of a bankruptcy scenario?

Is Godin on to something here: “Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead.

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Another item to ponder: Is it also time for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for institutions such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Time for a fundamental restructuring in how “fisheries” are conducted?

As Godin suggests: “In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue…

…Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.”

Because… really… what is the purpose of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Well… first… it is supposed to be conservation of fish and fish habitat —- isn’t it?

Is the Department achieving that?

From the sounds of things, it doesn’t sound like fisheries departments around the world are doing all that well on this front…

2 thoughts on “salmon farming: raising and eating lions, rather than antelope?

  1. James

    The analogy doesn’t really work when you are talking about salmon.
    Lot’s of things in the sea eat salmon throughout their entire lifespans, they are not apex predators.
    A Tuna might be considered apex along with an Orca or a Shark, but salmon are not at the top of the chain.
    I find this comparison flawed in many ways when you consider the trophic levels of the marine environment.
    Phytoplankton, zooplankton/crustaceans, forage fish, piscivorous fish, predatory fish and mammals, humans.
    Some salmon eat plankton, some have varied diets and some are predominately piscivorous in their adult stages…they are not lions.

  2. salmon guy Post author

    fair point James.
    Lions may not be the most accurate comparison, and hence the question marks… fact of the matter is that we’re still grinding up forage fish that are food for something else and feeding them largely to an introduced species. And, i suppose, this comparison could be be used for other farmed animals too… cows, pigs, etc.

    The conversion rates on the grinding of forage fish appear to be getting better… but it’s still higher than 1:1.

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