July 14, 2005

When will we tame the oceans?

I borrow the title of this post from an essay by John Marra in Nature (paid subscription). He says:
Today, governments and fishermen have become accomplices in the over-exploitation of fish stocks and over-capitalization of the fishing industry. [...]

We have already accepted domestication of the land; now is the time to accept the same for the seas. The land was transformed with little consideration for the consequences. For the ocean, we will have to decide, and soon, how domestication should take place, so that it is managed in ways that maintain environmental health and sustainability.

In my humble opinion the one thing to avoid is the tragedy of the commons. If the domestication of the land has taught us something is that people care more for their own property than for commons or public property. We now have the technological means to delimit property rights in the seas, so there is no excuse.

I enjoyed reading Marra's essay. It acknowledges the technical and environmental challenges of large-scale marine aquaculture, but it is thoroughly optimistic.

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