I always assumed that all aquaculture was created equal. Fish farms produced massive algae blooms and fecal waste, polluted the coast and corrupted wild fish stock. (Of course, I’m still not sure that aquaculture isn’t preferable to massive overfishing of the Cod-in-Newfoundland variety. What do you think?) Anyways, it never occurred to me that some types of aquaculture are actually good for the environment. A recent NY Times op-ed argued that what our polluted waterways – like the Chesapeake bay – really need is more oyster farms:
Aquaculture has a bad name. We picture fish farms with tons of feed being dumped into the water, creating the same algae-promoting conditions as pollution from cities and terrestrial farms. But the situation is reversed with oyster farms, because oysters are little filters. The farms provide far more water-cleaning benefits than all the government programs put together, don’t cost taxpayers a cent, and support coastal economies. They also make better oysters: a farmed oyster is plumper, sweeter and prettier than its wild cousin.
While I wouldn’t want to consume the first batch of oysters from the Chesapeake – don’t filter feeders concentrate pollution? – reintroducing an important part of the ecosystem in the form aquaculture seems like a reasonably good idea. John Smith, in 1608, famously noted that oysters lay on the bottom of the Chesapeake “as thick as stones”. As a huge fan of raw oysters, I eagerly await their embrace by the environmental movement.