TBT - "The Trouble With Marine Aquaculture"

'The Dawn of Civilization' began ten thousand years ago when our ancestors found out how to cultivate their food. Most of humanity stopped existing as hunter/gatherers in small nomadic bands and settled into fertile valleys - where the world's population exploded with this new system for a predictable bounty of food. And thus began the 6th extinction on planet Earth?

In 1994 my wife Barbara and I had started a marine tropical fish export biz with a local partner on the island of Palau - in Micronesia. Through observation in our diving and collecting on those pristine coral reefs we were able to determine that many species of corals propagate by means other then releasing their gametes (sperm & egg cells) into the water currents - they would start new coral colonies from fragmented pieces that had broken off and fallen onto the sandy bottom of the lagoons.

Having spent several previous years in Florida propagating tropical plants from cuttings, I recognized the potential of doing the same with some local species of both hard and soft corals that could produce fragments (cuttings) that did not harm the original wild reef coral. These 'mother corals' would quickly regenerate the harvested portion (fragment) that we took off of it to start a new coral colony in our mariculture systems. We soon showed the world that corals could be cultured in this manner on a large scale - just like plants produced by agriculture. This was not done to just satisfy the demand for live corals in the marine aquarium trade - it was also our mission to show that coral reefs damaged or degraded by nature or man could be brought back to health with cultivated corals grown in coral nurseries and transplanted onto damaged reefs anywhere in the world where corals are found.

But what hinders the restoration of coral reefs, or the preservation of animal species, natural forests, grass lands, or any other natural system, is the lack of public knowledge and support, and the greed of a few. Healthy coral reefs require pristine water quality. Preservation of all species in any environment require restoration and or conservation of their habitat. Our coastal populations around the world are growing faster then any other geographical regions - and that growth brings with it the destructive forces that reduce the quality of our wet lands, the oceans and our lives.

Recently Barbara and I visited with a marine biologist friend who has been associated with Harbor Branch Marine Oceanographic in Vero Beach for many years. We had been to that facility before with him to marvel at what they had accomplished in marine aquaculture - they are the world's largest producers of several species of small marine fish for the aquarium trade (the 'Nemo' clownfish among them) and are now doing coral mariculture too. It was really fascinating to get a close up look at their exploration submarines. But it was disturbing to hear from this scientist that severe pollution from agricultural runoff, the negative effects of increased population growth, and climate change, are rapidly degrading the quality of Florida's fresh and salt water - making it very difficult and expensive to continue marine aquaculture in Florida. And how bad this is for Florida's residents too!

"..they cast the seeds of their own self-destruction".

Is there any doubt that we are into the sixth great extinction?

This story has not been approved by Monsanto, DuPont, 'Big Sugar', Big Pharma', or any of the big energy companies, political parties, etc. But my mom would have approved. She gave me the book 'Silent Spring' by Rachel Carson in 1962, when the present day battle for the survival of the planet's species, including our own species, really started.