There is a fascinating piece in Scientific American that is must-reading for anyone who sells seafood or just enjoys eating seafood, since the scenario it paints has critical implications for both.
Here's the basic premise:
"The truth is that soon fish farming may be the only way for Maine’s struggling seafood workers to make any bucks at all. Thanks to overfishing, parasites and rising ocean temperatures, among other threats, nearly all of Maine’s commercial fisheries are in free fall. Maine cod is crashing, as are local shrimp. The wild mussel catch declined from 25 million pounds to a mere nine million over the past two decades. And lobsters, by far the state’s most profitable catch, are scuttling north to cooler Canadian waters. None of this bodes well for the state’s once robust seafaring economy: the average age of a Maine commercial fisher hovers above 50, suggesting that many young people have lost faith in the work.
"As one wild fishery after another falters, the future of Maine - and, some say, the future of seafood - may lie in aquaculture, the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals. Historically, intensive fish farms have been linked to a lot of bad things: declines in biodiversity, habitat loss, the overuse of antibiotics, and animal welfare abuses, especially in Asia and Latin America. And in recent years fish die-offs and other problems have plagued North American sites."
Now, the story suggests, a marine biologist named Carter Newell "represents a new breed of scientist with innovative approaches to growing fish that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. His kludgy mussel-growing apparatus generates three times as much seafood as traditional mussel farms. And because free-floating mussel larvae seed the ropes naturally and eat whatever phytoplankton drifts their way, Newell’s farms require no human-generated feed or energy, a boon for the environment as well as for his bottom line."
Scientific American also pints to "a far more controversial experiment in Maine," which "involves cultivating finfish such as salmon and yellowtail either in immense net pens in the ocean or, more recently, in land-based operations where thousands of metric tons of fish circle gigantic tanks like felons pacing around a prison yard. Fish in these recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) consume a steady diet of scientifically designed feed and, if need be, infection-fighting drugs. The current they swim against is artificially generated, as is the LED light that bathes them up to 24 hours a day to hasten their growth. It is a surreal scenario, but proponents claim RAS are well positioned to bolster Maine’s economy while serving the nation’s growing demand."
These experiments don't just have implications for the Maine economy: "The Gulf of Maine is the least alkaline body of water on the Atlantic coast between Mexico and Canada, and its delicate chemistry is particularly vulnerable to disruptions both natural and human caused. Whatever their outcomes, Maine’s experiments will set an important precedent for seafood production around the globe."
You can read the entire story here.