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Center for a Livable Future


January 30, 2014

Harms and Benefits of Aquaculture

CLF Aquaculture Lecture Series

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On Wednesday, January 29, Conner Bailey gave a guest lecture at the CLF Aquaculture Series at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A rural sociologist from Auburn University, Professor Bailey spoke about "Aquaculture, Ecology, and International Public Health."

Sharing stories and insights from his years in South Vietnam and the U.S., he drew attention to the potential harms associated with intensive, or industrial-scale, aquaculture, in which the most popular species are salmon, shrimp, and catfish. "There are choices and decisions to be made whenever we invest in an activity," he said, cautioning about the resource conflicts around water use and the broader geopolitical consequences of, for example, farming shrimp in a desert.

"You have to ask yourself what happens upstream. You have to think about agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, industrial discharges. You have to ask where that water's coming from."

Professor Bailey also cautioned about other problems associated with intensive aquaculture, namely fish disease, the introduction of exotic species in non-native habitats, and the pillaging of fish low on the food chain (such as menhaden) to feed carnivorous fish (such as salmon) in farms.

Another concern he addressed was the trend by which fish, or "high-value animal protein," moves from the global south to the global north because of market forces. The global south, he said, may already be at a protein deficit and now it is exporting its home-grown protein to rich countries.

In closing, Professor Bailey said, "I'm an optimist. I believe that aquaculture has the potential to feed everyone around the world. But we have the opportunity to shift our focus away from high-end consumer goods toward smaller scale production.…Where we should go is small ponds and backyard ponds, especially in the developing world, where small scale fits into the economy."

-Christine Grillo