Treat the sea 'like intensive farms', suggests paper
April 30 2012 Lewis Smith
Should sea fans like these make way for food production?
A sea change in attitudes to how the waters around the UK’s shores are exploited is needed if food production is to match future demand, a paper has suggested.
Large tracts of the sea should be devoted primarily to food production, just as farms on land are, even if it means creating monocultures, suggest Professor Martin Attrill, of Plymouth University, and Monty Halls, the BBC natural history presenter.
Professor Attrill and Mr Halls put forward the proposal for the seas to be more intensively farmed as part of a paper designed to prompt consumers, the industry and decision-makers to think about how food demands can be met sustainably.
Central to their suggestion that the UK’s waters be treated as centres of production is that some areas of the sea would be strictly protected to provide a diverse wild habitat, much as national parks do on land.
A new attitude to the sea is needed if the demand for food is to be met at a time when other industries, such as wind energy, are claiming a greater share of the UK’s waters.
“We need to make a brave leap if we are to have healthy seas, sustainable fish populations and a sustainable UK fishing industry,” they said. “It is time to take on this challenge.”
The authors point out that “very little of our seabed has not been impacted by fishing in some way” and yet with the government advising everyone should eat two portions of fish each week there is less homegrown seafood available than is needed – in part because a high proportion is exported.
To balance all the demands made of the sea by a variety of interests, including the fishing industry and conservationists, they argue for “a sea change in attitudes” towards the seas and for the use of the countryside to be used as a model example.
“Whilst much farmland is an attractive feature, it is far from natural with monoculture fields in particular hosting a severely reduced biodiversity from what would occur in equivalent protected areas,” wrote Professor Attrill and Mr Halls.
“As a society we accept this, within the boundaries of good farming practice, as we acknowledge land has to be given over to food production even if it does come with a large impact on the natural state.
“Why not take the same view with our coastal seas? Have a suitable coverage of highly protected areas which we can be proud of and where damaging extractive activity is restricted, but at the same time accepting that some impact will occur to the non-protected areas of sea that are used for food production.
“There will remain, of course, a strong need to fish the stocks themselves sustainably but we would need to accept as a society that economic methods of fishing for these stocks can cause some damage to the seabed in these areas.”
Small-scale fishermen could provide part of the answer, they said, in that they could act as stewards of the sea while making a living. They cited as an example the Community Supported Fisheries scheme in the US in which fishermen catch less but are paid more.
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1 Responses to "Treat the sea 'like intensive farms', suggests paper"
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