8 June 2019
Years ago I took up scuba diving and actually got my club diver’s certificate. I love the sea: the sight of it, the sound of it and the smell of it. To spend time beneath the waves and to see the amazing complex and beautiful life that exists there is humbling. We know so little about it and because we can’t share their world we disregard it. Consequently, over the years we have dumped in it, contaminated it, exploded bombs in it, over-exploited almost every bit of it, especially the fish.
On one magical dive off the coast of Montenegro I followed the instructor to the mouth of a sea cave and both of us hung suspended in the water with flashes of refracted light just reaching us from the surface. From a pocket attached to his weight belt he produced a boiled egg, white and smooth without its shell. Slowly, silently and cautiously a huge dusky grouper fish emerged. The instructor stretched out his arm and offered the egg. The grouper sculled his way forward, pouted his lips and sucked up the egg flattening it like a lozenge and just as silently reversed his fins and disappeared into the watery gloom.
What a universe we have? What amazing things we share it with?
Needless to say, the groupers are being over-fished.
Another astonishing creature of the deep is the octopus, universally acknowledged to be the world’s most intelligent invertebrate, smarter than almost all land mammals. At the moment there are emerging the first few octopus farms. The Japanese seafood company Nissui, along with two other companies based in Mexico and Australia have now developed the technology to ‘farm’ octopus. Professor Jennifer Jacquet and other scientists and marine biologist have begun to raise awareness and to appeal to governments, companies and academic institutions to block the financing of such an unethical enterprise.
The farming of such highly intelligent and complex creatures is ethically inexcusable. The mass breeding of these creatures would require catching vast amounts of fish and shell fish putting further pressure on the planet’s already threatened marine life in order to produce a delicacy for the wealthy and privileged of the US, Europe, China and Japan.
We don’t seem to have learnt much from the farming of salmon. Salmon is Scotland's single biggest food export - worth £600m - and is estimated to provide nearly 2,500 jobs with thousands more supported by the aquaculture sector in rural and coastal communities.
The fish are fed ground fish, fish waste and soy and thus contribute to removing the natural food source of other bird and marine life. In addition to this, the intensive nature of fish farming necessitates overcrowding of sea ‘cages’, which results in excrement and waste escaping into the surrounding sea, contaminating the area. There are continuing problems tackling parasitic sea lice which attach themselves to the skin of the fish and can be transferred to passing wild salmon and little progress has been made in tackling environmental problems since 2002, that is 16 years ago.
Long enough I would have thought.
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