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Readings for Week 5, Aquaculture in the Global Food System and Ecosystem

Tuesday, April 26

Aquaculture, or raising animal and plant resources in fresh or salt water, has become a controversial topic because of its relation to food, ecology, and economy. We begin by reading two diametrically opposed popular assessments of the proper role of aquaculture, a very positive one by development guru Jeffrey Sachs, and a very negative one by Brad Stein in TIME.

Then go on to the massive report, the Food and Agriculture Organization's 2014 SOFIA (State of Fisheries and Aquaculture) report. You should read the introductory section (it's a lot of pages, but full of charts and graphs), pages 3-92, and then by midnight on Monday, April 25, please post 200-300 words on the topic of whether you think increasing fish consumption, from capture fisheries or aquaculture, or both, is a viable part of a world food strategy for the coming decades.

In addition we will have one volunteer each (since these are short) make brief presentations that mention questions raised by four specific sections of the report dealing with particular issues; in each case be sure to stress the controversies and the main positions held by the disputants, and to raise questions for discussion:
  • Aquaculture and nutrition, pages 104-108
  • Management of inland waters, pages 116-121
  • Fighting against IUU fishing, pages 130-136
  • Balanced harvest, pages 136-142
In class, we will have the very brief presentations, and then discuss a whole series of issues that connect fisheries and aquaculture to issues of scale in particular.

Thursday, April 28

Today we want to look at aquaculture from the viewpoint of economics, international trade, and international sanctions, and the ways they relate to issues of food quality and food safety. We are going to read two things about shrimp aquaculture that highlight the political and cultural side of intensive food production, something that you will see in our study of dairy farms as well. Begin with a rather frightening account of what can go wrong, especially when we push productivity at the expense of resilience: After reading these two sources, and by midnight on Wednesday, April 29, post 200-300 words on one of two topics:
  • What does the shrimp example teach us about how far we should go in sacrificing resilience for productivity in aquaculture or other food production?
  • What does the shrimp example teach us about different kinds of scientific approaches to resource-production problems?