Before I continue, let me clarify that, as an independent researcher, I have no conflict of interests. I get paid no matter what I find , and honestly, as much as I would like t consider myself as the mussel whisperer, I am not directly increasing any production during the lifespan of my project. I mostly do some monitoring and experimental work at a small scale. I deployed 25 tons of mussels, but on the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a lot! (Nonetheless, it would be great to taste my mussels at the end, if they are even edible, but just out of pride than anything else.... ).
Ok, now that this is on the clear: why do I think they are wrong? Why do I firmly believe the two things can merge?
I believe that as scientists, we have said ‘no’ too many times. So many times that many fishermen see ‘scientist’ or ‘Dr.’ Before your name and already come into a whatever meeting with the prejudice that you are gonna stop their work. Which will inherently lead to a very unproductive meeting, where both parts will come out thinking they have been unheard.
Saying no it’s not always healthy and it’s not always useful, not for us, not for our economic growths and not for the planet, either. But many scientists have, particularly in the past, preferred to say no, to protect it all. Which may block some aspects of economy, and puts policy in the awkward situation of having to choose between a ‘do nothing’ and a ‘stop everything ‘ approach. Whereas, in my opinion, there could be solution that make everyone happy.
Which is where, I would like to think, my very applied yet very fundamental work comes in.
Site selection can be a very essential tool for this purpose. Understanding under what set of environmental parameters cultured species do best can be useful to choose some areas that can be dedicated purely to culturing, leaving other areas intact for natural ecosystems. Going back to mussels, one can say that, for example, covering the whole area of an estuary with culture plots may not be sustainable. This is because cultured individuals eventually will be depleting the food available in the water column, leaving little leftover for natural stocks to develop. Not to talk about the lack of space. But what if we could identify two or maybe three areas of optimal conditions and keeping them for ‘us’ and leaving the rest to nature? Of course this will still bring s reduction of the all fishing fleet but reduction is better than a complete removal in my opinion.
Similarly, site selection in terms of gaining an understanding of what environmental parameters are best suited for maximal growth, can be essential when planning multi trophic aquaculture. Knowing whether a mussels can grow well near a salmon farm, for example, and whether this depends on other factor (maybe the type of fish feed that the salmon is fed) can help maximise productions while limiting impacts.
So, in my opinion, yes one can save our nature while also saving our economy
Let’s be honest, diets are not going to change dramatically, we are not all going to turn fully vegan (and who knows if that would be the most sustainable solution anyway) so it is important that we do our best to mitigate impacts.. And you know, mussels are quite sustainable (and maybe we can create a side business for crabs on the market??)
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