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Essay Assignment for the Aquaculture Unit
Write 1500-2000 words on one of the following topics:
Due 5:00 p.m. Monday, May 20
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. Consider these 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, 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 pen-raising finfish in particular, 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 acquaculture--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:
Finally, what conclusions can you draw about sustainable resource production from the similarities and differences between the two cases?
- What should producers be trying to sustain, in each case, and why?
- What factors do we need to consider in designing the practice to be sustainable or not?
- What is the 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?
D. Choose a potential hazard associated with shellfish aquaculture in Puget Sound, and plan out a risk analysis along the lines laid out in chapter 4 of the GESAMP report, and exemplified by the case study of French mussel and oyster cultivation in chapter 6.2. You won't be able to get all the data you need, so you won't be able to actually assess the risk, but you will be able to set out what you would need to know to perform the assessment. Make sure you identify a risk that is real and non-trivial.