Oceanic Farming Could Be Wave of the Future

September 17, 2010

Costa Rica’s biggest and most bioproductive ecosystem, the offshore open-ocean pelagic, could be a shining blue diamond of economic productivity with a little management fertilizer.

Of course, pelagic or deep-sea fishing already provides big money, but many who have studied the situation think sustainability is being left out of the equation. Will Costa Rica’s oceans collapse like a tree stripped of leaves and fruit, or will it bloom for generations?

Ocean parks, refuges, sanctuaries and biological corridors clearly are part of any blue future. Costa Rica has demonstrated to the world the economic value of green protected areas, and hopefully we will follow our own lesson with our marine resources.

But parks are not all the future holds for our oceans. If history is any indicator, oceanic farming will become even bigger than the terrestrial kind. The soil of the future is the ocean.

If we know anything about the future, it’s that it will be hungry. By many estimates, more then half the world’s seafood is already farmed. And more than half the world’s fisheries have collapsed.

The future of open-ocean permaculture will be very different from the first crude attempts at ocean monoculture. As farmers around the world go green – meaning organic and sustainable – by demand, blue farmers get the advantage of being able to start off that way. Companies like Kona Blue Water Farms are already leading the way in sustainable seafood production. Blue farmers could literally save the world.

Future blue farms might be more like Indian milpas than monoculture banana plantations: multiple useful species growing in synergistic harmony, tended to by nearby local communities.

Imagine a giant shining blue diamond, bigger than your house, far offshore, out of sight of land – a giant diamond in the sea, half submerged. A pole runs from top to bottom. The sides of the diamond are made of a mesh that keeps fish in but lets water pass through. The waste from the fish feeds strings of shellfish around the bottom of the diamond. Algae and other life growing on the shellfish bring in a cloud of little fish that surround the diamond. Small holes in the mesh let the little fish dart through, feeding the big fish. And the big fish are harvested as needed.

Permaculture.

Local communities and businesses could tend their own, local blue diamonds. Other diamonds could be released offshore near the northern or southern border. With currents, nature and technology doing the work, the diamonds would get harvested at the other end of the country, full of fat fish. Sportfishers would increase their catches around the massive fish-attracting devices, divers and snorkelers would go below for a look, boats and kayakers would want to go around, guides would be needed, and even more money and livelihoods would be made.

Perhaps we could help lead the way to the future of blue farming, applying the age-old principles of permaculture and sustainability. Many cultures have sustainably harvested shallow coastal waters since ancient times. Now is the time to take it farther offshore and farm, as well as conserve, the big blue.

E-mail costacetacea@gmail.com with contributions to The Big Blue, or check out www.costacetacea.com for more information.

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