Daniel Pauly speaks with Darley

Q1. Can You Tell us About Your New Book: In A Perfect Ocean?

This book, called “A Perfect Ocean” is an attempt to reach a broader public than technical colleagues, the technical audience that is normally addressed when you write about fisheries.

We found it extremely difficult to write because we have acquired a language that is specialized and because we use technical language that lacks the metaphor, the analogies, etc. which you need to be able to use if you want to address a broader audience. We found it also difficult to write because most people who do not have any professional knowledge of the sea are still full of opinions about it. Like, when I take a plane and I have a neighbor and they say, “What are you working on?” And I say, “The sea.” The response that I get almost always is, “Oh, yes, this pollution is killing all the fish.” I find it amazing that pollution is supposed to be killing all the fish.

The project that I lead is called “The Sea Around Us”. It is named after the book by Rachael Carson. I think it was her third book and it is the one that made her financially independent so that she could write Silent Spring. So she wrote Silent Spring and she did show, in fact, that pollution was a big issue. If you read The Sea Around Us, you will find, in fact, that she thought in the ‘50s that pollution would be the big issue. It was a time of nuclear experiments in open atmosphere so there was an enrichment of radioactivity in the food web, etc. It was a big issue. At the time also, rivers were polluted to an extent in North America that is not the case now. A few rivers have been cleaned up. And so it is understandable that in the ‘50s it looked like pollution would become the big issue.

I find it surprising that people broadly still think it is the issue. What it means is that essentially fisheries which are meant to kill fish because we want to eat them, are perceived as having no impact on marine ecosystems. They are perceived as having no impact – this is something that amazes me. So what you have is if industry representatives say, “we are having no impact” or “it’s not us, it is change in the temperature or change in the ocean currents, or something which have caused the rarity of the stock and therefore we should be permitted to fish more because it’s not us.”

This message goes very well with the public because really, the connection is not made that fishing is removing fish from the sea. And so if you fish a lot, there should be less fish in the sea. It is kind of an obvious thing but that connection is not made. Pollution, on the other hand, does kill fish in a spectacular fashion, especially in rivers and bays. But pollution  and I’m not going to say good things about pollution but when you go one or two kilometers off shore, things are very diluted. The stuff we put in rivers is very diluted and if it kills fish, it’s going to be subtle, and I think it’s not going to be as strong as fisheries.

I just saw a paper by a colleague who demonstrates this for the tuna industry. Generally it takes about 10-15 years from the discovery of a fish population of large fish, for it to be reduced by a factor of 10 and less to a smaller amount. But the factor of 10 within 10-15 years! And so we have in a sense, set up a machine which from the center which was in North America, Northern Europe especially, and in the North Pacific around Japan, the first industrialized country, spreads like concentric rings. We can show this, in fact, in the form of graphs. Spreads like a ring, and it reduced the biomass of fish by a factor of 10 within about 10 years.

The book shows this for the North Atlantic, from the ‘50s to the present. We show maps, what we call biomass, the amount of fish anytime in the sea, is shown to decline. All our analysis is very conservative so every time there was a choice of assumptions, we made the more conservative assumptions so we don’t exaggerate. So we ended up with a decline of a factor by 6 from the beginning of the 20th Century to the end, that we reduced the biomass by a factor of six. Actually, it’s far more; it’s just that we wanted to be conservative.

Now when you show this in forms of maps, as opposed in form of numbers, you can see a completely changed landscape. It is as if you had a forest and you showed this as a map and then you end up with a desert or grassland. So you can see the changes. Not numbers, it is a map. So we wrote a text around these maps which are the main object – the Piece of resistance – (French) so to say, and we wrote a book around it that makes it all visible for the North Atlantic. We put the technical explanation of how we did it and the primary literature and so on, all of this in notes at the end so that our colleagues cannot accuse us of raising issues without being able to document them.

So that’s the book, and it’s coming out in mid-February.

Q3. What condition is the the North Atlantic now in?

Let’s say the North Atlantic fisheries can be seen as a collection of fisheries, of individual fisheries targeting individual species, or individual population of individual species, so you can see the North Atlantic as some sort of mosaic and in fact, that is how it is managed.

Each person, each researcher, or generally each agency, is in charge of one “tile” in that mosaic. Somebody is in charge of the cod in the Bay of Fundy and somebody else is in charge of the cod in Northern Iceland. In other words, in the North Atlantic you have researchers mainly working for government agencies, each of them responsible for a stock.

Sometimes, often actually, they come together in so called working groups in International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, IC. It is done annually. And these working groups evaluate their stock over the larger area. In the book, In a Perfect Ocean1, we present a summary or a compilation of the key result of these working group reports which is that the biomass has gone down in the last 50 years in most cases from about 100% in the ‘50’s to about 2-3-4% of what they were in the ‘50’s. And mind you in the ‘50’s they were already depleted because there were already fisheries before and in all cases the fishing mortality, which is what brought and keeps them down, is increasing.

In this book we present a graph, a number of them were done by my buddy Villy Christensen. It’s like a mosaic where each tile is one of these graphs and they all look the same.

And so the question, “why do you have to wait until 2003 to find this”; because nobody has a mandate to do that kind of work. None of the regulatory agencies has a mandate to put this stuff together. In fact, it’s almost like subversive to put it together because it makes the failure visible.

If you look at one of the tiles that shows the stock goes down, there is a report attached to that graph that gives the detail of it and you could think that this is a specific story and that the other stories will be different. But then you look at another tile and it begins to look the same. All the tiles are telling the same story.

What we did was develop a methodology to look at all in one gulp. So instead of dealing with individual species, we constructed food web models using a software called “Ecopath”. That work was done mainly by one member of the group called Villy Christensen. He then used food web models that had been constructed in partnership between our project and scientists in a different institute because I actually work with everybody. They had constructed food web models where the different species are put at their proper level within the system. Villy Christensen has taken those reports and a huge number of information that is imbedded in those  we call them trophic models, mass balance models  where the food going in and the food going out are balanced, as it must be in reality. You cannot have more than can be accommodated by the plants that support the system. So these models tell you how much of a given species were there at any given time. Then what you do is re-express the whole thing in terms of trophic level.

It’s a bit of jargon and I’ll explain what it means. Within the food web, any animal is defined by how far it is removed from the plants that feed them. So you have these plants, phytoplankton. They are eaten by little zooplankton, by little cows, they are about the size of fleas, and then these are eaten by little fish which are eaten by big fish. Usually what we eat are the big fish and they have a trophic level of four. They are three steps removed from the plants which have trophic level one.

Because a fish doesn’t necessarily eat only one thing, it doesn’t have a trophic level of one, two, three or five, it has a trophic level of 3.7 or 4.1 because it eats a mixture of things, so we then end up when we construct these models, with a number of commercial species having different trophic levels. It would be difficult to generalize because you always have less species that have high trophic level than species that have low trophic level because the system is like a pyramid, in a sense.

What we do is we take everything above a certain trophic level, 3.75 in that case, and these essentially are table fish, the fish that we eat – the big flat fish, the cod, the haddock, the tuna, etc. Instead of expressing things in terms of species and how each of them is doing, we put them together as biomass of fish above a certain trophic level, the top predators in the food web and we look at how they are doing. Obviously, then we get back what we put in, which is that these fish decline. Because our method is more conservative, actually, the whole biomass declines less than individual species have - that’s why most species of fish have collapsed to less than one or two or three percent of the original biomass in the ‘50’s. Our analysis shows that they have declined, as I said, only to one-sixth of what they were before which is about 12%. That is some aspect of the method. It is very data rich.

One more thing I would like to say about that is that most fishery scientists or marine biologists when you ask them about the ocean, what is needed most, they would tell you what is needed more data so we know nothing but that is one way of starting a discussion about the sea. We don’t know anything about the sea. We need more data.

Actually, good scientists have been working for over 100 years collecting data, especially in the North Atlantic. What we actually lack is ways to synthesize all this information, put it together and analyze it in a consistent manner. And that is not a matter of a new technological device; it’s a matter of working together, of having a mandate to do it, because it is required by scientists to have a mandate to do something like that. So you need a mandate to do it, you need funds to do it, you need motivation to do it, and you need a methodology to do it.

We have all these things. My project has all these things. We gave ourselves the mandate, we got the funds, we’ve developed the methodology to do it, and therefore we are the first to have done it. But this kind of global synthesis, unless we can do more of them, will drown in the detail, and we can never understand what we are doing. So we need synthesis.

On land, it is very common. People will tell you that forest coverage is that much, crop land is that much, on a global basis. Fisheries, generally do not give you this answer on a global basis. Essentially, besides FAO, we are the only ones working on a global basis.

Q4. What Role Does Technology Play?

Now the issue of technology in fisheries, that is something that a lot of people have a problem with. Usually, when you talk of the technology of something, it gets better. Imagine a telescope – you improve the telescope – bigger glasses, bigger whatever, and it sees more, does its telescope thing better.

How about the fishing boat? We have a problem in fisheries. The fishing boat should have electronics, better gear. In the trade literature, fishing goes international, you have an entire page devoted to better winches, and then it should help alleviate the problem.

What is hard to consider is that it is technology that is the problem.

Because we have reached in fisheries, everywhere really, the stage where we have too much fishing effort. That is, we are capable of catching anything that moves, anyplace, anytime, if we want to. In fact, we have so much effort that they step on each other’s toes all the time so we should reduce that effort so that the biomass can be rebuilt.

That is, every time we make our boats more effective, more efficient, we make the problem worse. And that’s why most regulations, many regulations actually in fisheries, are actually contributing to make the boat less effective. You cannot use this gear, only that gear, which you cannot fish during that season only, but you cannot go there, but only here. All these regulations are about making the gear less effective.

The fishers don’t like it because they can see what it does to them, making them less effective. And they counter this, because they’re smart, by the best they can so they adopt technology. If you look at the modern fishing vessel, you will find a level of technical sophistication on deck and its mind boggling. It’s like an airplane. It has eco-sound, that acoustic device that makes noise, that tells you where every fish is, where you are, how the grounds look like, extremely detailed.

On top of that, the government in many countries, the US for example, provides fishers with extremely sophisticated intelligence on the sea, the structure of where they’re likely to find fish. Imagine this technology which was developed to catch submarines to help people. This technology is being used to kill fish, to be caught. And they’ve been doing that thing for 100 million years, the same thing. We have a brain usually that size, and we’ve been doing war things and development of war technology – developing better and better tricks. So if you deploy this technology to catch fish, the fish lose. They invariably lose.

The latest development now allows you to fish in places where before you couldn’t. In other words, if there had been rock in a place which the big trawlers had to avoid because they would get snagged in it, now they can fish around that rock and catch the fish that are literally hiding around it or in it or behind it. For example, in the U.S. they are trying to pass and failed to, I think, legislation that would have banned the use of big wheels on the nets. So called “rock hoppers”.

When the nets that drag on the ground get snagged, when they hit rocks, so if you give them wheels, so they can roll over the rocks. The bigger the wheel, the bigger the rocks it can roll over. Imagine a wheel about the size of the wheel of a train, a big steam engine wheel. That’s what’s been dragged, and needless to say, once you have passed over a rock with wheels like that – there are lots of them – preventing a huge net from being snagged, the rock is rubbing it. Everything that grew on it is gone.

So here we can have technology that you can call it completely out of control, and which is deployed to catch fish. Kind of weird because if you look at sports, for example, when you run the marathon, you’re not supposed to use a bicycle, right? The sports man and woman, they’re not supposed to take drugs, because the way you win, matters. But the way we catch fish we can use bulldozers to catch them, we can do anything. We can bulldoze the ground, literally. It is like we did a clear cut with a bulldozer in the forest to catch Bambi. That’s the equivalent.

So there is not restraint in the technology we use. This enables fishers to continue to catch fish even as the population declines because it deploys more and more sophistication. They can therefore maintain at great cost, though, their catch.

Because they themselves also are impacted by the shifting baseline syndrome, they think nothing has happened. They catch, their father caught, their grandfather caught, and what the heck? The point is that they catch because they use technology that is so sophisticated that if their father had it, they wouldn’t be fishing because everything would have been gone. It is in a sense sad that you see this war technology being taken over. It happened after WWI, it happened after WWII, and after the Cold War another wave of this technology went into fishing.

So technology is not at all a solution because we know how to catch fish already. The problem is what technology does is to add to the problem.

When a regulatory agency says we should catch a bit less so let’s reduce fishing effort by 10%, let’s decommission vessels so they pay the fishers so they sell their boat, pull their license. In fact, the boat goes somewhere else, and continues to fish, the license is gone, you cannot go fish after haddock in that bay. Okay. But there are remaining boats while that decommission scheme is going on, they acquire a better GPS system, more precise, or acquire better hydroacoustic device. Within the period of the decommissioning plan, the effective effort – in other words, the amount of fishing same thing has increased despite the decommissioning program.

Now there is a big fuss over a reform of the common fishery policy. A big fuss is being objected by lots of countries. It’s not going to happen. Even if it happened, it’s supposed to reduce fishing capacity by 10 to 15 percent over a period of 3-4 years. During that period, the increase in effective fishing capacity technology could change, would have rendered that irrelevant, anyway.

Basically, all our debates about reducing fishing effort, regulating fishing effort, are frivolous. We’re not dealing with a sure hand at all. Our technology is not going to help us. I should say it’s not true. Actually, it’s not true. Space age technology can help us with some things.

If we were to seriously close or regulate the access to certain fishing ground we could put black boxes in all vessels and in fact, it is being done in some fisheries. All vessels have black boxes which can be monitored by satellite. That is one aspect of high tech that can be used to regulate fisheries, to regulate access. It is almost impossible to prevent fishers from becoming more effective once they are on a fishing ground, but you can use technology to check whether they are on the fishing ground, where they are. That’s the high tech solution to a big problem which is where are they?

And I can’t imagine an international authority forcing each boat to have a black box and this then being monitored. They have those on airplanes for the same reason. Where is that airplane? We could have that on trucks. I think we have that on many countries. Where is that black box, where is that truck and how did its motor run? One can do this with boats. It exists. Such programs with black boxes are being used in Australia, the U.S., etc. That’s one aspect of technology that could be used to reduce fishing effort, at least from places.

Q5. Are the 'correct' price signals being sent to the policy community?

We have a colleague here, Rashid Sumaila, who’s done a global study of fish price. These fish prices are ex-vessel prices. It is the price that the skipper gets for the fish, not the wholesale price. Now these prices are increasing faster than the cost of living, measured by the cost of living index of the U.S. which is based on a mix of products that families require. Fish was in the ‘50’s much cheaper than chicken. It is now generally more expensive than chicken. In fact, fish have increased 4 – 5 times faster than the cost of living in general, than the inflation rate, if you like.

This is particularly true for invertebrates  such things such as shrimp and cod, squids, which are luxury products. These prices are sending completely wrong signals to the fishery because what in fact they do is make it possible to make a living even when the thing is over fished.

It’s almost as if they were fishing pandas. Pandas are very popular; you would like to have the last panda. As the price goes up and up and up, towards the last panda, you continue to make money.

It’s true for tuna, for example. Individual tuna may fetch up to $18,000, one tuna. I think there is even one that fetched $100,000, 1 – individual tuna! That means that a boat chasing one fish will continue to make money to break even. The signal that’s sent is completely perverse because the rarity of the fish  is driving the price up and so fish in general have been increasing price very much; some fish having prices increase in an insane fashion  like tuna, invertebrates also, and such products such as shrimp have increased.

Even fish turned into fish meal, have increased very fast because there is a huge demand for fish meal by the fish farming industry and agriculture. Especially the fish farming industry. So overfishing, in a sense, is subsidized by these enormous prices. So you cannot expect the market to have any kind of moderating impact on overfishing because as the fish become scarce, premium prices are paid for everything that is landed.

It’s almost like we would like to eat the fried paws, the fried paws of the last panda. And that would make lots of money toward who sells it. You cannot expect the market mechanism to via price, to send a proper signal.

In addition, there are subsidies, an enormous amount of subsidization goes on from building subsidies for boats, to market price support for fish  that is when too much of something is landed and the price goes through the basement you have price poverty. And so, all the way you have subsidies in the form of research  way to catch them, via surveys conducted by researchers, or via oceanographic data that come from satellites, etc. You have a massive subsidization which obviously sends the wrong signal as well, because it doesn’t lead to rationalization within the fisheries. And the other very bad signal is the one that comes from increasing price.

One signal that is however, correct and could be picked up in a Kyoto type context is the fact that the catch per unit of fuel spent is declining. Obviously it has to, because you have more boats chasing fewer fish and the catch is declining per unit of effort expanded. Effort is measured in fuel, since you have to chase longer and you have bigger engines than ever before, you end up with fuel expended per fish increasing and increasing and so in a Kyoto like environment where you have a carbon tax, you would find many of the industrial fishers not breaking even, that is if they were not subsidized.

Once that Kyoto type regulatory system’s in place, I expect that a few fisheries will collapse, will collapse, and will go bankrupt because of this. But the prices, the ex-vessel price will not do the job.

The question you have is that we still can afford to buy fish, so we aren’t picking up the proper signals.

But actually, if you look at it globally, fish has become too expensive for most people already. Developing countries export fish that they cannot afford to consume themselves. Fish has slipped off the table of lots of people to whom it was before a regular commodity.

You see, because it now has become scarce, well, that’s precisely the point. It has become so scarce and the price so high that they can’t afford it and they can’t compete with the foreign market. And so the foreign market absorbs the fish. For us, we are the foreign market. It is relatively cheap though it is more expensive than it was before, but we still can afford it. Basically, it is in relationship with the developing countries that it is cheap for us, but in the developing countries themselves, the fish is getting too expense for people to eat it.

We have a similar thing with fuel. The energy that we use that we burn is relatively cheap because we have externalized the cost of running these operations.

Q6. It is often said that most fisheries problems are international - is this true?

It is often argued, and exactly Shay [??] actually, that to manage fisheries right we must manage them internationally there must be international agreements and the converse is therefore that if we don't have international agreements we can't manage our fisheries right. And I believe this is all wrong. It's obviously true that fish that move a lot, the so-called 'highly migratory fishes' like tuna, salmon etc that there must be agreements between countries to regulate how they should be fished etc. But most fish stocks are actually within the exclusive economic zones of countries and if a country decided to run its resources, to husband its resources well, to exercise stewardship, to rebuild stocks wherever it can, it would obviously enter into discussion with other countries [on] a completely different footing. Imagine, if Canada were to rebuild its stocks along Newfoundland, Nova Scotia what weight it would have when it discussed with the EU about the Spaniards fishing just off the Canadian exclusive economic zone.

Right now, Canada would like to argue with the EU, would like to argue that the Spaniards have no business fishing there, etc, and it might be a legitimate position, I'm not sure. The point is that if the 90% of the resource of the Canadian fish that is within the reach of Canada legally, if these were well managed, rebuilt, if this were vibrant industry that is doing very well, because the right decisions are being taken, and over-capacity were reduced, the subsidies were abolished, and all these good things, if that were happening, imagine the situation that Canada would be in, if it were going to argue with the Spaniards. The analogy I'd take is, I was one time asked precisely that question, should Canada argue with the Spaniards over this and that issue of Spaniards fishing just off the EZ of Canada and grabbing fish that kind of overlap and I was giving the example of what Canada does, the role of Canada in grabbing Milosevic of Serbia and bringing him to the Hague. It was done by a Canadian judge who indicted this guy. Now why could she do that? Why could Canada do it? Because in Canada human rights are respected, and because you don't go killing people left and right the way Milosevic did. Now that gave Canada the moral stand[ing] that the judge needed to go grab Milosevic. Now, similarly, if you want to nail the Spaniards for overfishing just off the coast of Canada, off the EZ of Canada, you build an [un]assailable moral position, you take the moral high ground and then you can argue with the ones who don't do things right. But if you do the same things they do then all you have is one of these wrestling contests in the mud...who becomes muddier?...and nothing happens.

I think that it is true that international agreements etc are necessary but very, very often they are used as a pretext to do nothing in the waters that you control. And most of the fisheries are within the exclusive economic zone of countries. For example all of the fisheries for molluscs that don't move, I mean sessile animals, I'm thinking of an example of the abalone, you know the abalone of the Georgia Straits, they're gone, you know, they're essentially gone: overharvesting, the usual routine, and lots of poaching. Now you don't have to have an agreement with the US, or with Japan, or with Korea or whatever to rebuild the abalone stock. It's a national issue. Now, in terms of value, abalone stocks, and geoducks and all these invertebrates that are extremely valuable, they...turning BC into a place where these fisheries are doing well is actually feasible at a national level without bothering anybody, without depending on anybody agreeing and yet you will find that discussions on fisheries are always blocked by: "well the others don't do this, therefore we can't"; it's true for Tuna, it's true for Salmon but it's not all there is and in fact, my guess is, 90% percent of fisheries problems are national problems, except for very tiny countries like the Gambia or something.

Q7. Scientists like you have been calling for a reduction in fishing capacity for quite some time. Why should governments and industry take any notice now

It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask oneself: why, since the various approaches we have
proposed or fisheries science have proposed to clean up fisheries have never been implemented...why should one propose the same again, and again? And somehow it is because without a massive reduction of fishing effort you can't do anything else.

I think though that the change is in a perception of who the stakeholders are, or who is involved in this. When I was a student it was clear though not explicity stated that fisheries was a matter of the industry and the government working - helping - the industry do its thing and the scientists worked for the government helping the industry do its thing. So my generation and my colleagues...I studied in Germany...there is a large number of them to whom it's second nature that fisheries is...fisheries management...is obviously to enable the industry to do its thing and they therefore have an automatic rejection of anything that sounds...that looks like conservation. They think that this is tree-hugging, there is no...we have no business dealing...mixing in issues of biodiversity, issues of sustainability, issues of conservation with fisheries. Fisheries is about catching fish, that's what we do.

Now, that has changed because clearly this handover of the resource to the industry... of a public resource actually...has led to the resource being squandered and the public at large believes that this machinery that we have set up...this regulatory machinery...is working; that you regulate fisheries. That taxpayers' dollars are used to actually devastate marine ecosystems that...if you can get that message across say in the Discovery Channel, right ...it is not at all what is in peoples' heads.

There is a film that came through [on] PBS by a colleague called Steve Cohen that is called "Empty Nets, Empty Seas" that shows that the whole machinery of fisheries is a failed enterprise, and it is a huge enterprise, lots of money, lots of capital invested, lots of resource...lots of intellectual resources, everything, lots of technology and it has vacuumed up the sea and smashed the ecosystem upon which the fisheries rely. Now that's not the notion that the public has about fisheries...is about. Fisheries is about Man going out, like a "Perfect Storm", going out and catching a few fish but there are lots of them in the sea so there is no problem, kind of. And so I think the new element is that there is an attempt by people like me and others to connect the public, the owner of the resource, with this issue which before was only between the government and the industry. So there is...there is that.

Another one is that NGO's, environmental NGO's which before were really marginal and were not really interested in fisheries have become very credible in what they say, what they do. This is true for...especially for World Wildlife Fund, which in Europe is a serious partner. The studies they are doing about subsidies, overcapacity...that's over...having too much effort, right...overcapacity etc are... These are studies that government clearly should have done but haven't. And so now they are invited at the table, they have to be taken seriously and they have to be engaged, they do say something that is clearly valid. I think the...what has changed things...is the visible failure of the present...of the past system. That is what has changed things. One doesn't need to say new things. But it's now about the recipe that what needs to be done is still reducing effort but it is now not said to the industry by the government...you know, softly and gently. But it is said very loudly by new players that were not asked before. So I think that is the new thing.

Q10. Is Aquaculture Going to 'Save' Us?

We should define aquaculture.

One way to deal with it is to split aquaculture, which is a global enterprise, into two kinds. Let’s call them A & B. There is a kind of aquaculture that is structured around animals that feed on plants. In other words, the equivalent of cows. Mollusks, mussels, oysters, etc. Some fish are tilapia, catfish, and carp are of this group. What do they do? They turn algae or residue from plants into fish flesh. They add to the seafood supply. They add to the animal protein supply of the world and in many cases they are produced at the right place, that is in developing countries where people don’t have enough fish. So that’s Aquaculture A.

Then there is Aquaculture B. Aquaculture B is structured around carnivores. That is, fish that need to eat other fish. You can substitute part of the food that they get in the pens in the cage when you raise them. You can substitute some of the food by soya or other plant protein but you must prime them, so to say, with fish meal or so called trash fish, or something. You must give them some fish flesh – mix 1/4 or 1/3 of the feed. It may be declining, but it’s still substantial. These animals are usually high priced. They are salmon, sea bass, groupers, tuna. They are farmed and they are fed fish.

Now much as people have problem with this, there is no way getting around this fish and not adding to the fish supply. Why? Because the fish that are fed to salmon are perfectly eatable fish. The industry says that fish that are ground up to make fish meal that is fed to salmon are fish that humans don’t eat. Well, yes, because they can’t be because they are ground up, but they are actually eatable. Sardines are perfectly eatable. You go tell a Spaniard that sardine is not a good fish – I’m sure they love sardines. Anchovies, you go tell Italians that anchovies cannot be eaten. You ground up jack mackerel or mackerel, you go tell Germans who love smoked mackerel that a mackerel is not a very good fish to eat. Nonsense. Most of the fish that are used for fish meal are perfectly eatable fish.

Now you need two to three kilograms of food fish to produce a kilogram of salmon. Even if it is reduced to one and one half, you still have no net gain. So the question: Can aquaculture save us in a sense of can aquaculture compensate for the loss of fish from marine fisheries? No. Because, it actually requires fish from the fisheries.

In fact, aquaculture B, the farming of carnivorous fish, adds to the pressure. The more salmon you raise, the more sardines you must remove from the human food chain. And since the salmon always doesn’t go back to where the sardines live, you are actually taking fish away from people and putting them somewhere else.

What is the likelihood of people in Africa and Asia, the poor part of Asia, in Latin America, ordering smoked salmon? It obviously is zip. So basically, farming salmon and other carnivores is a commercial enterprise. It’s legitimate, I guess – but it isn’t going to feed us. Well, it is. It’s “us” is really a narrow “us”. Yes, it is producing essentially a luxury good for people who are already kind of well off.

I can exaggerate a little bit. Can caviar save the world? No, they can’t. So basically, aquaculture feeding us, aquaculture be salmon feeding us, is now today’s version of “Let them eat cake”. That’s what it is – it’s Marie Antoinette all over again.

Q11. Can you tell us about some more of the problems with aquaculture, including 'externalising costs' & the unpaid role of 'ecosystem services'?

In addition to the problem that they do not add to the net production of fish in the world, the culture of, the farming of fish in huge amounts is problematic because of pollution issues...and pollution issues is.... What is a fish farm? It's a floating pig farm. It's the equivalent. Now if you had pigs, floating, and you feed them what comes out the other end, right, that stuff then accumulates under the farm and when it doesn't it's washed away. And that is called an ecosystem service...right?...the ecosystem, if things go well, cleans up the mess of your floating fish farm....now the mess is however... of the pig farm... the mess is however not necessarily cleaned, it is just transported somewhere else or not. If it's not really quickly diluted the accumulation of waste will cause the explosion of toxic algae and so you what you find is that within a few years the aquaculture operation has to move because it has really soiled its own nest...it's soiled its own bed or whateever the metaphor is. They have to move away because the place just stinks to high heaven. And then they have to move somewhere and then they start again. And so once they have despoiled an entire area, then what?. Then they leave....and, and, voila, that's all there is to it.

Now in Norway where this business started you have fjords that are full of this stuff and they now are doing the operation outside...you know...further and further offshore. It has nothing to do with sustainability, it has nothing to do with anything reasonable. Moreover a farm like this is a beautiful place for parasites to multiply...they do... and there is right now this huge debate in BC about whether these parasites jump on wild salmon...obviously they do...obviously they do...what else can they do...that's where they came from in the first place, right, they jumped from wild salmon on to farm salmon they are going to jump back anytime they can and there is a debate about an entire A class of...what is it... Koho or something...having been devastated by farms. And I have no problem with that...obviously it is going to happen, it has happened in England, it has happened in Norway. It is going to happen here. It is unavoidable that parasites will build up and at this concentration it is unavoidable and it is unavoidable then that unless it is very, very strictly regulated in terms of space between the farms and...now...it's going to end up in a pollution mess. Now the BC government has decided not only to expand the industry but that it would self-regulate. So that's a recipe for disaster and we're are going to get into it, that's unavoidable.

One more thing about this. People have problems imaging what ecosystem services are and what externalizing costs means. Now it's quite simple. If you told people: "look, you're polluting, put your farm on land with the recirculated water that you filter". They will tell you it's too expensive. You ask what is too expensive. "Well I have to filter the water, I have to clean it, I have to adjust it in terms of temperature, I have to remove the parasites, I have to do all these things. I have to pay for it" ...alright...And that makes the operation too expensive. Well when you put the operation in open waters and the current cleans up the mess, that is an ecosystem service, it's what you don't have to pay for when you put your farm on land...right...your fish farm on land. You don't have to build the pumps and everything because nature does it. But then you can see what nature does for you and that's called an ecosystem service..alright....and you don't have to pay for it. The people of BC do not get anything since they own that...right...they don't get anything from the fish farmers for this ecosystem service. Now if this ecosystem service were paid [for] at least a little bit of it then you could use that for remedial action, but no it's not even recognized there is an ecosystem service. Though people will tell you that they cannot build the thing on land because it will be too expensive. Well! why is it too expensive: because you don't get the ecosystem services.

So that's the idea of ecosystem services. That's the idea of externalizing costs which otherwise you would have to pay for, right? And that's also the idea what is given to the farmers when they are not regulated when they don't have pay for the mess they make.

Q12. What can be done to foster more holistic and less reductionistic thinking and policy?

Regarding reductionism in Science and what you can do to overcome it. The first thing is that reductionism works most of the time. You get there! When I advise students on how to get to the topic of their theses and they see an enormous problem, an elephant, right, a huge thing there, I show them: "look it's not that big, there is a trunk, there is this leg, there are these ears. You can deal with each part separately. Then you put them back together. These are chapters. The chapters have sections. You can deal with each bit separately and move ahead." That reductionism works...right? That's the first reason why it is so hard to get away from it, right? It's like chocolate. It is really good. That's the reason why we eat it. That's number one.

The second thing is that holism which I would present as the opposite of reductionism very often doesn't. You are supposed to put stuff together but you don't know how, you don't have proper tools. When you read the holy texts of holism all you find is wooly stuff. So it is very hard.

So I have actually written an essay about this problem: that holism is intention, is good things, it's something we ought to do. It's like we should eat less and exercise more but it's actually very hard to do on a 9-to-5 basis. And so perhaps we have then to look at holism in a reductionist way. What part of holism can we do, right? And what we can do...I think I described some of it before. We can look at longer time series instead of short ones. We can look at a bigger map, more areas than just a small one. We can look not only at one species but also the species that it feeds on, and the species that feed on it. In other words expand the system. In other words I would say reductionism, because it works so well, you are stuck with it one way or the other. So what you do is holism-lite, which is you break down holism into things that you can do from 9-to-5. I had an essay called "Reductionism, holism and working from 9-to-5" ....because that's the problem: reductionism allows you to work from 9-to-5, you do this, then you do that, then you get there and then you do this, right? Everyday you can do something. holism? What do you do? What do you do, when you get to work, about it...very hard. And so identifying those parts of a holistic, of a broader view that you can do is helping getting out of this reductionist hole, right? Look at all species instead of just one. Look at its prey and predators. Look at the entire sweep of species. Look not at 5 years but at 50 years. So I would say that's how I deal with it. I'm not going to be a guru who goes all the way into what I would call the holy holism because at that point you cease to do science. But I'm quite willing to see that just a bigger machine will be better already than just looking at little things.

In German there is an expression, I will not say it because some people know...

Darley: you can say it, then translate it.

Pauly: No...but it is a naughty word...to have sex with ants. "Ameisenficker". To have sex with ants means in this context means to be looking at little things. And obviously we don't want that, we want to have bigger things, but we still need to look. We still need to look how it works, that's what it is.

1 In a Perfect Ocean: The State of Fisheries and Ecosystems in the North Atlantic Ocean, Daniel Pauly, Jay MacLean. Island Press; January 2003. ISBN: 1559633239.

Transcribed by Neil MacKellar