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Essay Assignment for the Aquaculture Unit
Due to the instructor 5:00 p.m. Monday, May 18

Write 1500-2000 words on one of the following topics:

A. Use the case of the ecology, economics, and politics of shellfish raising in Puget Sound to do a critique or evaluation of the utility of using formal modeling to predict and try to manage the behavior of ecosystems. Begin with the two kinds of models evaluated in the McKindsey et al. article on carrying capacity: hyrdodynamic-dependent particle tracking models and mass-balance/food web models. Use these two as examples that you can use to evaluate the utility of environmental modeling in general. Consider in particular two things: Pilkey and Pilkey-Jarvis's rather sour critique of the whole enterprise of environmental modeling in their Useless Arithmetic, and the statement by McKindsey et al. that "the society must define the environmental variables of interest" when assessing either ecological or social carrying capacity--think of the denominators of the benefit/cost ratios of any human change in an ecosystem. If you were a manager working either for a shellfish company or for a local governmental agency or NGO, would you be inclined to use models of this sort? Why or why not?

B. As demonstrated by our readings and discussions on aquaculture for our classes during all three weeks of this unit, there has been much criticism of aquaculture, in particular pen-rising of finfish and raising high-trophic level species such as shrimp, for its various negative effects on local and regional ecosystems, and sometimes even on the whole worldwide foodweb. At the same time, aquaculture seems to be a valuable source of protein for a growing human population. Choose what you consider to be the three or four most important criticisms of aquaculture in general or of particular aqua cultural practices, and discuss the extent to which shellfish aquaculture might or might not provide the same food or other benefits while avoiding the problems. Make sure you include in your assessment something about the amount or volume of food resources that could be produced by increased amounts of shellfish aquaculture--in other words, how big a contribution it might make to world food supplies before its negative ecosystem and social system effects might start to override its food benefits. In light of your assessment, what recommendations would you make for shellfish aquaculture, locally and globally?

C. Compare sustainable and unsustainable aquaculture with sustainable and unsustainable forest production. First define the way you are using "sustainable," and then compare the two resource systems along the following dimensions:
  • What should producers be trying to sustain, in each case, and why?
  • What factors do we need to consider in designing production to be sustainable or not?
  • What is the proper role of markets, regulation, values, or other factors in promoting or retarding sustainable practices in each case?
  • What are the consequences of unsustainable practices in each case?
Finally, what conclusions can you draw about sustainable resource production from the similarities and differences between the two cases?

D. As you have seen in your readings for May 5, it took 17 years for Taylor Shellfish to obtain a permit to build a new set of mussel rafts in Totten Inlet. Consider all the ecological, economic, and social arguments on both sides of the issue, and on the basis of these, explain why, if you were on the SHB, you would or would not have voted with the majority to approve the new mussel rafts.