Fish--A Sustainable Food Source or a Tragedy of the Commons?

It seems like fish has been a significant food source, for a very long time. In fact, the oceans are badly overfished because of this. My question is, "What sustainable ways are there to continue to eat fish in the future?"

Image from Big Bass Pond

If we are short on food in general, one of my first concerns would be overfishing of lakes, streams, and areas that are easy to access with small boats (or with large ones). This is really a Tragedy of the Commons issue--what seems to be good for one, if pursued by all, will deplete the fish stock, and there will be less for everyone. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to solve this problem?

Another possible option is to attempt to raise fish on our own property. On a very small scale, we read instructions such as these:

You can, from your own back yard, raise fish to eat for a fraction of what it costs in the stores. You can rear catfish, carp, bluegill or bass from fingerling size to adulthood in nothing bigger than a 55 gallon barrel by following the steps in this guide.

Step 1 Find a location for your fish. Search for a level area approximately 12 square feet in size, in partial shade, near a source of water or within reach of your garden hose.

Step 2 Prepare your fish barrel. Clean both barrels and rinse well. Place 4 inches of gravel on the bottom of one barrel and situate the filter firmly in the substrate.

Step 3 Attach a circulation pump or aerator to the fish barrel to ensure there is adequate oxygen in the water and secure a garden hoseto the bottom of the barrel to ease in the daily replacement of the tank water.

Step 4 Attach a thermometer to the side of the barrel in a location which will allow the bulb to be submerged. The ideal temperature for your fish tank is between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is consistently too hot or too cold, you will have to relocate the tank to get more or less sun, accordingly.

Step 5 Fill the barrel and treat the water with commercial de-chlorination treatment drops. Cover the barrel with a pane of glass. Allow the barrel to sit for 48 hours, so the temperature of the water can stabilize.

The guide goes on for quite a few more steps. Clearly this method depends on our current infrastructure for sustainability, but it is an interesting hobby. Issues of maintaining water quality are pretty much pushed off on someone else. You keep replacing water in the tank with fresh water, and dumping the polluted water out.

Another idea, if you have a lake or pond (or even left over swimming pool) is to stock it with fish. I would think there would be a lot of ins and outs to know, to do this successfully. One issue is adequate aeration; another is pollution with too many fish; a third is freezing weather in winter.

On a larger scale, I can imagine people setting up local fish farms. Whether or not it is a good idea, people will put cages in streams and try to grow fish in cages.

I would expect ocean fishing would continue, since boats can be made to run on almost fuel (including wind), and their actual fuel use is pretty low. If there is a bottleneck, it would be in refrigerating and transporting fresh fish long distances, after they have been caught. It seems like over-fishing of fish in the ocean would continue to be a problem.

Mercury Pollution Issues

One thing that concerns me about fish is the mercury pollution issue. The EPA is fairly sanguine about this issue:

Research shows that most people's fish consumption does not cause a health concern. Elevated methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, impairing the child's ability to learn and process information. However, certain sub-populations are at higher risk than the general population because of their routinely high consumption of fish and shellfish (e.g., tribal and other subsistence fishers and their families who rely heavily on locally caught fish for the majority of their diet). Mercury concentrations in fish vary widely. While local freshwater fish also contain methylmercury, the majority of fish species consumed in the U.S. are ocean species and the methylmercury concentrations in these species are primarily influenced by the global mercury pool. Fish that are higher in the food chain--such as king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and shark--have much higher methylmercury concentrations than fish that are lower in the food chain.

But pollution levels of lakes are not good, if we are thinking of using them as a more major source of our food. A news article from 2009 reports:

The EPA’s new report, National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue, found mercury in all fish from 500 lakes sampled randomly across the continental U.S. The data also showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceed EPA’s human health screening levels at 49% of the lakes nationwide. The EPA is taking steps to limit mercury emissions from power plants within the United States. However, Mercury Policy Project’s director Michael Bender points out, “Two-thirds of the mercury that’s rained on Vermont and the U.S. comes from Asia and elsewhere outside the U.S.” Therefore, the international pollution control treaty in the works could have an even greater impact on the U.S.

This study related to predators and bottom dwellers, which would seem to be the fish most affected by mercury pollution.


1. How do we keep from over-fishing lakes and streams?

2. What experiences have you had with raising fish at home? Would you recommend it for others?

3. Has anyone worked with mercury pollution? I wonder whether the thresholds set by the EPA are low enough. How do we know what a "safe" mercury level is? I read articles like Autism Risk Linked To Distance From Power Plants, Other Mercury-Releasing Sources and Exposure To Low Doses Of Mercury Changes The Way The Arteries Work and wonder.

Interesting idea, I have seen setups on youtube where people use fish in conjunction with their hydroponic setup. The gentleman was using gold fish but I don't see why it couldn't be adapted for other types of fish. From what I understood the waste water from the fish barrel would feed the plants. The pump, green house vents, and monitoring were done with an old laptop powered with a solar panel/battery.

I believe rabbits to be the best meat option for landless farmers and if I had to grow something in the space limitation of a barrel it would be potatoes.

My wife and I visited an 'Urban Farm' in Milwaukee last winter where they do the combined Fish/Hydroponics, where the dirty fishwater is cleaned by and feeds the plant levels up above it.. really cool system, didn't use a lot of water, as it recycles and refreshes for a long time.

It also uses a vertical structure, so you're getting a lot of food growth out of a modest 'footprint' .. These are long lined trenches (30 feet x4, x4?) in a Greenhouse, with two shelf-tiers above for seedlings and so on..

I was just told by a local grower how easy goats have been for them to keep. They're not trying this in Cul-de-sacs, though, this is out on open land..

Nice youtube video on how to make a Aquaponics set up using recycled 1000l IBC containers

And the only reason that greenhouse is able to stay is it is not taxed - education waver.

If they had to cash flow the taxes - it would never happen.

I have heard that in the US small farms are becoming more and more subject to strict expensive controls that have been encouraged by Big Ag to reduce competition, is this true OFM? If so then no doubt fish farms would also be subject to the same sort of controls. Of course all farming should be subject to environmental regulations but not those brought in purely to benefit Big Ag.

The End of the Line is a recent film about one of the world's most disturbing problems - over-fishing.

I am pleased to say that Britain has recently announced a marine reserve that will double the amount of the world’s oceans under protection. The protected area will extend 200 miles around the British Indian Ocean Territory, a dependant territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and will include a marine reserve where commercial fishing will be banned.

You may be refering to NAIS:

The National Animal Identification System, (NAIS) is a government-run program in the United States intended to extend government animal health surveillance by identifying and tracking specific animals.[1] Administered at the federal level by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, NAIS will also be overseen by state animal health boards. While the federal program is voluntary, money received by some states,[2] tribes, and non-profit entities [3] from the USDA through cooperative agreements has been used to make parts or all of the program mandatory.

The PTB and Big AG have been pushing this for years, forcing many small scale farmers into a virtual revolt:

The original plan (supposedly created to trace animal born diseases, mad cow, avian flus, etc.) was to have all farm animals licensed and radio tagged. Huge restrictions on sales and transport of farm animals and products, along with the administration requirements would have (may still have) great repercussions for small scale animal farmers. Of course, large scale producers would be exempt in many ways (the same ones who refuse to test their cows for BSE).

hi Tony,

Ghung has about nailed it down for you as far as the proposals being pushed PRESENTLY are concerned.

Depending on what you consider as credible or realistic, there are generally several such proposals being pushed all the time by various pressure groups.My guess is that the only really big one that stands a real chance of passing at the moment is the animal tagging and tracking proposal, but it probably will fail,unless there is a food poisoning incident or something of that nature to push it over the top before too long.

But the process of death by a thousand regulatory cuts for small scale operators in farming is never ending, and most of the new regulations never come to the attention of the public.

My estimation is that this process is driven by three self reinforcing groups-big business operators, who would naturally like to drive the little guys out wherever possible;the regulators themselves, who must constantly justify thier jobs and thier pensions by chasing after ever smaller and ever more expensive food safety gains;and ill informed journalists and the media employing them. These folks seldom take the time to find out the real price of thier proposals-if it sounds good, they print it.

My opinion is that in the majority of cases, the regulators, who are not elected or responsible to anybody in particular,are the most frequent culprits, but thier work is mostly not that bad, and even justiafiable, one new regulation at a time.The problem is that eventually everyone not able to hire a compliance staff is going to be out of business.

The big business operators don't start or win a lot of foights, but the ones they do start THEY OFTEN WIN, AND THE STAKES ARE ALWAYS BIG. Witness the tobacco settlements, whoich essentially gaurantee the big boys no competition from new comers in processing, distribution, and sales.

The various consumer pressure groups win one here and there-when they win , the new regulations may drive up costs considerably. Some years ago, they succeeded in making it very very difficult for us as apple growers to get the seasonal help we always depended on at harvest-this was the straw that broke a lot of local orchardists backs. We had to cut our operation back to the point that it is uneconomic and mostly run it as a hobby now; but there is no local labor available, except in times of high unemployment, and that labor is virtually always totally unqualified to pick apples, which is demanding and skilled work. The last time I tried a construction laborer he bruised about eighty percent of what he picked and cost us about five hundred dollars in damaged fruit in less than a day, plus his wages.

Most really small farmers will probably be doing thier business strictly by word of mouth exclusively with retail customers known to them personally within a few more years, on the model of the guys who grow a couple of pounds of pot and sell it at retail only to old friends.

Otherwise you won't be able to sell anything that brings in enough to stay in business.A beekeeper producing a hundred quarts of honey will not be able to comply,or a woman producing a dozen eggs a day above her own needs in her back yard.Ditto the underemployed farmer and his wife who could can a few hundred quarts of excess tomatos, or the brewer who could supply all his near by drinking buddies with hand made beer.

But I am not really keeping up with this kind of stuff any more -the farm is just an oversized hobby now, and we are too small to count nowadays, unless something unusual brings us to the attention of tptb-such as failing to file any one of several mandatory reports, or having up to date pesticides operators liscences, or being behind on chemical record keeping, or cutting a tree on a stream bank,or allowing a chemical discharge into a stream,or shooting a stray dog chasing our cows, or selling anything even minimally processed.......

The new labor regs did nothing whatsoever to help the fruit harvesters, except in the cases of very large growers who could afford to comply.The other harvesters just lost thier jobs, and now people who used to enjoy local apples from small commercial producers all up and down the east coast mostly have to buy more expensive apples often shipped from as far away as Washington state.

But the do gooders showed us they meant business, and after all, they did put in a food stamp program to help the people who used to eat our apples buy the twice-as-expensive shipped apples.The unemployed pickers stayed home and thier kids went hungry-we used to take them back to the bus station with a couple of thousand dollars folding green cash in thier pockets after five or six weeks-which at that time was more than we generally earned on an annuallized basis from the farm, and we worked just as hard and just as long in the fields during harvest as the hired hands.

Hi OFM & Ghung,

Thanks for your answers, its pretty much as i expected.
Large concerns will go for the option that makes a difference to their bottom line, i.e. a big issue.

To see how Monsanto are trying to cut out all competition see "The World According to Monsanto" it's on youtube.

You state that like it's a debunking. They ARE in constant education mode there, so this is a valid classification, much as I don't know the tax codes in WI. People come in and take six-month intensives there and bring that knowledge back to their hometowns.

They are working with a novel model, and will surely take advantage of any angle they can to make it work. And it's not like it's a bridge to nowhere for Milwaukee, either. They provide fresh produce to schools and other city programs, they create a healthy flow for compostible wastes.

It's not 'That Greenhouse'.. they have like a dozen, plus a piece of open farmland farther out of town.. but the intown portion is there to combat the 'Food Desert' issue of urban communities that have little access to real fresh and healthy foods.. (and they were just installing a considerable PV array there when we visited. They're looking to set up a durable group of solutions there.)

So instead of your 'It would never happen' mentality, Will Allen and his colleagues have found ways to make it happen, and they are finding efficient ways to raise food on limited acreage, and teaching the citizens around them numerous essential lessons about growing and understanding food. And finally, they're feeding people.

bob, don't you know it hurts the doom is the only answer for our future folks.

I have run the numbers, and if we did stick to a strict save the future outlook, we could save ourselves with the knowledge we have gained up to this point. It won't be easy, because people will have to forgo greed and NIMBY and things that might make life better for others while they will get less time lording it over others.

But the grassroots are starting to see themselves on the short end of the stick and getting dissatified with it, chanage is afoot, the next few years might just see enough of it to make a difference.

Keep plugged at the edges.
The fight is not over till it's over.
BioWebScape designs for feed everyone if possible for the future.

Farming fish at home may (or may not) be more efficient, or environmentally friendly than "wild" fishing.

The bottom line though is that ultimately it requires some area of land (perhaps 3 to 5 acres) to produce enough calories to feed a human being using the most efficient and sustainable means possible (whatever that may be).

Therefore questions of "how can we make X sustainable?" (where X is something that we consume) leave me pretty cold when they don't address population as well. Fishing of wild fish stocks is entirely sustainable; if the population of humans is low enough. As is growing your own in the back yard at some other population level. So it seems like a moot point unless you include a population metric as well.

Thanks for posting this Gail. Small scale fish farming is an interesting concept. I've never done it but I have done a lot of freshwater and offshore fishing in my life. I live on the beach but don't fish as much as I should! Currently, I don't really worry about mercury poisoning from seafood because I eat it only every so often. But I am concerned if I was forced (due to collapse, big slide, food scarcity) to eat fish and shellfish as my primary protein and consumed it on a near daily basis long term.

As for overfishing, I have thought about how global fish populations would be impacted by a catastrophic collapse of the global economy and the resulting human population collapse. How fast would the populations rebound? If all the coal fired power plants (and everything else that adds mercury to the air and water supply) shut down and fish populations grew rapidly, then how quickly would mercury concentrations in fish and the aquatic food chain dissipate? These are some of the random questions I have thought about....

Now I want some fish to eat! Hold the mercury please!

Thanks again for posting this.

How fast the mercury would dissipate is another thought I had, if the sources of contaminations go away. The catch is that there are a bunch of natural sources of contamination, like volcanos, so it likely won't all go away.

But it would seem to me that perhaps lakes and streams might clear up before oceans, because the lakes and streams drain into the oceans--that is just a guess, though. I know that pesticides that were banned years ago still show up in fish, so it doesn't seem likely that any change will be very fast, even if my conjecture is correct.

How fast the mercury would dissipate is another thought I had

Dissipate? Still a closed system. React to create less bio-active forms, or perhaps with the "power that is too cheap to meter" we humans could just extract it.

The stuff was out of the biosphere and we humans put it back. It won't "go away".

There are different things that bring mercury up, out of the earth's crust, notably mining of various minerals, including coal, and volcanos. Mercury gets dissipated in the air by a number of industrial processes and by coal fired electric power plants. It settles out of the air, and lands in lakes, rivers and oceans (and on fields and on people's lawns, and we probably breathe some of it). I would presume mercury is heavier than water, and would to some extent precipitate out, but I am not a chemist. If this happens, I would think the cleaner sediment would eventually cover it up, if human processes that spew mercury were stopped.

Mercury is fixed ie, rendered insoluble when it combines with sulfur. As soon as it hits a thiosulfate ion or a hydrogen sulfide molecule, it's back to cinnabar.

So there is a working sink, as there has to be or there would be a lot more of it around the surface of the planet.

When it's not in the form of methyl mercury, the element is not all that digestible. It doesn't react much in the stomach, as it's chlorides are not that soluble, and it's not that reactive. The calomel on the reference junction of a pH electrode is mercurous chloride. It lasts for years without dissolving away because it's not that soluble.

The absorption of concern is the vapor form, which absorbs through the lungs. And the one everyone right worries about is the methyl mercury, as that methyl group is a wonderful handle for the the cell's metabolism to use that results in the mercury binding to a sulfur-containing protein, which complete wrecks it, and then you die. Well, if there is enough of them.

Below is a table (I tried to turn it back into one, I guess it didn't work, the first number after the fish type is mercury ppm and the second number or range of numbers is the Omega-3 fatty acids, ND is none detectable) from the American Heart Association

It almost reads like an add for wild caught Alaskan fish, which include everything in the first grouping except catfish and canned tuna. So, unabashedly, I will recommend eating good wild Alaska caught fish as long as you can still get it. The embedded petroleum costs will remove this choice from many soon enough. I do have family and friends that make a living as fishermen up here--I thought I should add that in.

Mean mercury level Omega-3 fatty acids
in parts per million (ppm) (grams per 3-oz. serving)

Canned tuna (light) 0.12 0.17–0.24
Shrimp ND* 0.29
Pollock 0.06 0.45
Salmon (fresh,frozen) 0.01 1.1–1.9
Cod 0.11 0.15–0.24
Catfish 0.05 0.22–0.3
Clams ND* 0.25
Flounder or sole 0.05 0.48
Crabs 0.06 0.27–0.40
Scallops 0.05 0.18–0.34

Other common seafoods

Lobster 0.31 0.07–0.46
Grouper 0.55 0.23
Halibut 0.26 0.60–1.12
Oysters ND* 0.37–1.14
Mahi mahi 0.19 0.13
Herring 0.04 1.9–2.0

Fish with the highest levels of mercury
(about 1 ppm Hg)

Shark 0.99 0.83
Swordfish 0.97 0.97
Tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper) 1.45 0.90
King mackerel 0.73 0.36

Fish with about 0.5 ppm Hg

Fresh or frozen tuna 0.38 0.21–1.1
Red snapper 0.60 0.29
Orange roughy 0.54 0.028

2 thoughts.
Tilapia Mossambica is considered a weed species in Australia because it is so successful.
It is also recognized as The most delicious fresh water fish. (I have not tasted better.)
These characteristics make it a strong contender for "reduced circumstances".
The oceans will favour jelly fish in future.
160 joules per kg of flesh.
Source a TED talk by Tierney Thys


I assume you men pest species rather than weed. Where are these fish found in Aus? Are you allowed to farm them?


I too am a weed.
Or have I just gone to seed?

Somebody introduced then to Queensland rivers, much to the displeasure of Conservationists and the pleasure of fishermen.

Funny how Trout are welcomed.
Is this because they come from "the Old Country"?

I doubt permission will be given until white Anglo-saxons loose control in Australia.

Impermanence and eternity.

oh and as a side note if you raise duckweed with the tilapia, and other non-fish pond can be used to grow it, it can be used to add nitrogen and phosphates to your soils. humans can eat duckweed, I've munched on it in the past, I grew it for sale, and fry haven.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future

As a long time diver, spear-fisherman, fish lover, aquarist and last but definitely not least, a sea food lover and a pretty decent cook, This is a topic that I can relate to on many many levels.

First I think we must fight very hard for ocean and freshwater ecosystem conservation. I happen to support Reef Rescue in my own back yard.

Reef Rescue
is a volunteer, non-profit, grassroots conservation organization dedicated to protecting the coral reef resources of south Florida. Formed by a handful of local scuba divers from south Florida our ranks have expanded worldwide to include divers and non-divers alike; comprised by all who share a commitment to protect the imperiled coral reef resources for future generations.

I think the only option we have is to farm the open ocean.
Hopefully we have by now learned not to follow in the footsteps of our modern land based industrial model used in agricultural and livestock farms throughout the world.

We are open ocean free-range fish farmers. Open Blue Sea Farms has developed the hands-on experience, knowledge and expertise to cultivate natural, healthy, delicious and premium quality, branded marine white fish through environmentally safe and sustainable, deep ocean aquaculture methods, what we call free-range fish farming. Our free-range methods are critically needed now as our oceans are becoming depleted by wild caught commercial fishing and while conventional fish farming, the world’s fastest growing food sector, cannot keep pace with rising U.S. and global demand for seafood, the primary source of protein for over one billion

I'm also a strong proponent and advocate of mixed hydroponics and aquaculture farms closer to our towns and cities.

What is Village Aquaponics?
You probably know that aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and recirculating aquaculture. The reference Village Aquaponics refers to an aquaponic system specifically set up for the purpose of providing a protein crop (the fish) and a vegetable, herb or fruit crop (the plants) to a specific region surrounding the operation. Commercial transportation of the food produced in a village aquaponic system should not be necessary. Those living near the system should be close enough to pick up the fish and produce themselves. The accessible radius could vary depending on where the system is located. In a remote village the access may be by foot trails limiting the area the system can serve. In downtown Singapore, a rooftop system may service a population located very nearby. This could be the case in many of the world's larger cities where hundreds of these systems can collectively provide a great deal of food that doesn't have to be commercially transported into the city from great distances.

I highly recommend South Florida spiny lobster Bar-B-Que washed down with copious amounts of beer ;-)

Those are interesting ideas. I suspect the simplest ideas are most sustainable for the long term.

I listened to the open blue seas video. It is an interesting idea. To scale this up, you would need lots of big cages--also food to feed the fish, and a reasonably fast and inexpensive way to get back to a market. It would seem like the cages would work best where they are not too far from markets--but this may not be the best place to put them. Air freighting them long distances in the future is probably not something to plan on.

To scale this up, you would need lots of big cages--also food to feed the fish, and a reasonably fast and inexpensive way to get back to a market.

Well those are very good points. The big cages out in the open ocean are not a major issue, there's plenty of space. Those are frequency three icosahedron based geodesics, max volume for lowest amount of surface area and relatively cheap materials. Thank you Bucky Fuller.

Food is a very interesting question and I have actually corresponded with the founder via email about this. They feed their fish protein pellets I'm sure there are better ways to get the protein than they currently use. They are researching low impact food farming, things like plant protein and worm farms. I suggested insect farming to them.

Fast inexpensive ways to get to market will probably continue to be the tried and true maritime transport via ships. If worse comes to worst I'm sure sail power could be employed.
No refrigeration? I guess you could salt and dry the fish.

I imagine fossil fueled air transport is pretty much out of the question, perhaps solar powered dirigibles, I think there was an article in the Drum Beat about something like that recently.

Now I'm thinking of succulent fresh fish for lunch... I think I need to spend some time on my local reef ;-)


They feed their fish protein pellets I'm sure there are better ways to get the protein than they currently use.

Not really. The fish protein is "by-catch" or other 'things' that are 'waste'. (Zapata fish oils - a company with a founding member being George Bush.)

The "common" protein source of soybeans causes fish to die. So you have to convert things into, say, insect protein. You MIGHT be able to use mushrooms but I've not seen lit. on feeding say oyster mushrooms.

A way to convert mushrooms, siding salesmen, road kill, veggie scraps and offal into insects for fish feed - Black Soldier Fly larve. files/A2.pdf
(See why just burning this stuff for heat is a less than optimal plan?)

They self-separate, keep other flies away, and can reduce your fecal matter volume (25 or 75% don't remember) Oh, and if you go Mammal -> fly -> fish -> mammal you should be able to break the prion infection chain (per the tip from a now dead TOD contributer who mentioned that fish prions don't infect mammals, and mammalian prions don't bother fish.)

To breed them, a 30/40 foot high by 20 by 40 lit area is needed for the mating of the flies.

Not really. The fish protein is "by-catch" or other 'things' that are 'waste'.

I've actually corresponded with the founder via email about this topic, you can do the same if you wish. They have a contact email listed on their website and they are quite willing to answer questions and even take suggestions.

Aquaponics has been around for a while. There is some guy in one of our northern cities pushing it, a retired football player, if you look on youtube under worm farming you might see his videos, I don't have a link.

Its a good idea, if you have the power to run the system. It is a good way to use a parking lot where you can't recycle it into a garden you just build on top of it the greenhouses and the fish tanks. You need piping, pumps and lots of things that might not be sustainable after a crash. If we have a smooth down slope then sure it is a great way to feed yourself and those around you, you need workers and people who can fix plumbing problems.

I joked a few months ago about putting a fish tank, chicken coop, and raised beds altogether as a working system in my back yard, I might have posted it here or just been talking amoung offline friends.

If we put our heads together and didn't try at all the greed and graft that goes on I am sure we could in a Prefect world feed ourselves on systems like these. For all the doomers notice I used the word "IF" at the beginning of that sentence. Most people on here know that I hope for a better outcome than the doomers do to this whole mess.

I don't have much of those fish breeding days left but the books now in storage, but there are plenty of fresh water fish you can keep in tanks and small ponds. It is a bigger thing for people to do in other countries than it is in North America, we get kinda lost in our own little world at times.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Hi Charles;
That's Will Allen, at .. in Milwaukee.

Very interesting program, with a lot of outreach training people from other parts of the country & world.

My wife is dreaming of getting a version started up here.


Its a good idea, feed the inner cities get them using those parking lots for something useful. As I remember he mentions getting a load of food production.

Might just be a bunch of BBs, but enough of them can do something,


BioWebScape designs a BB for the pile

I live in Japan where fish is a staple. In the old days fishing villages were sustained by steady harvests of fish people caught in non-motorized boats. Also they used nets and waded into the sea to get fish. I`ve heard fishermen also shouted into the wind as they competed for good places in a harbor or lake and as they interacted on a basic level with nature--the wind, the sun, the spray. It was very stimulating, probably. The self slips into oblivion in a mystical union with the a dream.

As for modern times, the large boats go around the world and flash freeze large catches. We get fish in our supermarkets from Iceland, from the South China Sea, from Russia, from the N. Atlantic.

When the price of oil went up in 2008 there was some trouble! SOme fishermen refused to go out and catch fish because supermarkets refused to buy the fish at the high prices engendered by the high oil prices. There was lots of news about this. The govt was involved. Subsidies were proposed I believe. It was a mess. It was also a preview of things to come.

Little by little the high oil prices will choke off the business of these large boats who use radar and trawl nets to catch large amounts of fish distantly for a mass market. Good-bye, BAU. I know the process will be uncomfortable but people are ready for a change. A lot of people are feeling quite alienated in the culture now---questioning the value of their job, the lifestyle, the plastic, the pollution. Today`s NYT has an article about people living in seclusion, cutting wood for trading. The new paradigm is already, in a sense, here, lying secretly buried and gestating in the womb of the culture (wherever that is! It may be here on TOD, partly!).

By the time we really have to change our lifestyles, it will seem as natural as breathing because of the cascade of articles like this one and the NYT focus on people living in seclusion in nature (They have had a spate of articles like that---why? Because it feels modern to "go there"--they`ll capture reader`s interest that way).

And thank you, Gail for your constant efforts to bring in new ideas and highlight different facets of PO.

Thanks for your thoughts about Japan. I know fish have been very important to many people. I know my ancestors are from Norway, and there, too, fish was a very important food. We are so spoiled by Supermarkets and an abundance of food or all kinds today, that we don't appreciate how appreciate have important fish was, and still is, to many people.

With higher price oil, you are right, there will probably be some cutting back on fishing, especially from great distances. This may help fish stocks replenish, but it will be harder to get adequate nutrition for those who depend on them.

What does the whale-hunting issue look like from where you stand? Is it debated over there, or more defended as a cultural right, etc.??


My feeling is that local people in the areas where whaling has "always" been done want to continue it. Schools don`t serve whale meat anymore. People don`t eat it a lot--maybe only the elderly.

Factory farming of pigs and chickens used to be non-existant so whaling was one source of protein. I wouldn`t eat it though. I like whales too much. When factory farming becomes untenable then I wonder what people will do? they love fatty meaty dishes sometimes (I don`t, but then again I periodically become anemic and have to take iron pills and vitamin B12!)...Meat of all kinds is a little gross when you think about it----flesh of an animal. Yuck. I keep seeing their faces (cow faces, the pigs faces, etc.) when I have to buy meat in the supermarket. That is why I avoid eating it altough I cook it for the family members who swear they need it.

Chocolate consumption and high meat consumption go hand in hand with industrialization. People become so tired when they work in offices and fatories. They don`t stay at home doing chores and resting on and off, and eating cabbage and grains. Instead, it`s "wolf down" a high calorie hamburger....back to the daily grind& driving also makes people tired I bet.

The people who used to catch whales didn`t have farm land, they were fishermen but the whales were nearby I guess, so that became their food. It is kind of like those people who follow reindeer herds around near the Arctic....there isn`t anything else. I still think they should cease whale hunting. But that is just me.

factory farmed pigs have become less fatty, so said a history of breakfast foods show i watched off of history channel. then on ABC nightline they said bacon was making a come back,

Lots of change just around the corner.

thanks for the insights.


"Little by little the high oil prices will choke off the business of these large boats"

Sorry but it will be too late by then, by this time some say we will only have jelly fish left. Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have fallen by 60% from 1997 to 2007. Stocks have fallen by about 85% since the industrial fishing era began.

Disappointingly the Japanese have worked successfully to block a CITES motion to ban bluefin fishing from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ‘‘I think it was a good decision,’’ told reporters, expressing hope that prices for the fish would not rise further. Japan consumes some 80% of bluefin tuna catches from the waters against the backdrop of strong demand from sushi restaurants and others.

I've raised both Tilapia (output to Hydroponics) and trout. I have a farm with a good spring and a pool which is under giant trees
so I bought fingerlings and raised them to about 30 inches. I fed them for a year and then let them eat bugs for the next four years,
my goal was to breed them, and that was a complete failure, so eventually I just ate them and gave up. Looking back I probably should
have made caviar out of the roe that I was harvesting. I'd like to make another attempt at this, but it would take some major investment
in building multiple pools and such.

I found a free 2000 gallon translucent plastic container and put it on skids, i then built a greenhouse around it and installed a solar pool
heater which i ran during the day to heat the water. I also used an outdoor furnace to heat the greenhouse during the winter. I then
successfully raised tilapia in a fish tank and got them to breed, and as they got big enough put them in the 2000 gallon tank. The filtrate
from the large tank was used to feed the hydroponics (about 500 sq feet of it), raising beans, tomatoes etc. This was all reasonably successful, as algae was essentially the main input for the tilapia.

I have since converted the greenhouse to Eliot Coleman's four season gardening as I tired of keeping the wood
furnace going after year three. The hydroponics et al is now stacked in one end of the greenhouse. I've used my experiences to help some 3rd world orphanages use tilapia in much warmer climes. My general goal was to explore the power requirements for various hydroponic technologies, as well as understand how closed loop I could be with the fish/hydroponics (i fed the leaves and stalks into the tank).

Since central pennsylvania is so cold and I'm absolutely sold on Coleman's strategy, I've been thinking about resurrecting the hydroponics
with a new fish (specifically catfish) and cold vegetable hydroponics during the winter, going say as low as 35. It would require some more tinkering and probably a lot of false starts. An alternative as pointed out by another poster would be to move my rabbits into the greenhouse
and use them as the input to the hydroponics.

schoff, I grew up in Brazil and raised various species of cichlids that we called "Tilapia" in multiple connected 500 liter water tanks. I have to admit to taking my hat off to you for raising them in Pennsylvania...(I used to dive at Dutch Springs quarry when I lived in NYC)

If you do decide to tweak your system to a lower temperature I'd love to hear how you do!


I've raised trout on and off for 25 years, and other fish. Trout are some of the more easily trainable to feed on artificial feed. If you have a springwater source, it's relatively inexpensive. I have earthen ponds, but these are the worst from a production standpoint. In addition to being more difficult to harvest(tho much more fun as much is via dry fly), these have been subject to large predation losses for me. Ospreys are notorious, I've had them grab 36 inch char and get airborne in front of me. And the char usually remain near the bottom. Herons are a nightmare, often missing, but leaving the fish with a hole drilled in it's head or back, to die later. Eagles are a pest also. And we haven't mentioned the mammals yet.

Maintaining sufficiently cold water in the summer is a problem, so the pond must be deep enough for self shading. In much of my growout ponds, I use large plastic stock tanks(1000 gal or more), which can be covered cheaply with netting for birds, and large tarps for the summer sun. Prior to the plastic stock tanks hitting the market, I would fiberglass the old metal ones. Galvanized metal is extremely toxic to fish.

As one learns the fish and pitfalls, you can tweak the guides. A no no is ponds in series, but with diligence you can modify your operations. I have up to 3 in series, with fecal collection via gravity, in between. It does get real dicey in the summer as water holds less O2 at warmer temps, and metabolism is surging. Easy to lose a 1000 fish a day, so I don't recommend it. The guides are grounded in reality. I have both a fish house (converted old milking parlor) for fry and fingerling growout, and outdoor tanks and ponds for fish growout. The fish house and outdoor tanks are located on high ground, the outflow is used for gravity irrigation in the pastures. Solid waste is spread in the gardens.


Should add, since I'm in the midst of it now, another drawback for commuters is swimup stage. Fish must be fed 6-8x/day. After a period determined by temp, yolk sac is absorbed and the fry swim up to the surface. It's a period of high loss anyway, and all the deformities/fused embryos/etc show up. But the fish must fed almost continually, as there is zip stomach for storage.

This is no solution what so ever.

If we do get to the point where we rely on these extremes we are basically F*#@ed.

Fun to contemplate though.

I agree, eeyore. Not sure why Gail asked this question. World natural fisheries are all in crisis. Do we imagine that we can replicate the seas in private mud-ponds?

Yes, this makes me chuckle, talk about diminishing returns.
We'd be way better off just destroying hydro and letting "our" natural "services" heal. no smiley

Do we imagine that we can replicate the seas in private mud-ponds?

Try reading some of the links posted by the other readers. Your question as posted has very little merit.

"World natural fisheries are all in crisis."

So do the math. If people (with the space to) had fish ponds as well as gardens, don't you think this would take a lot of pressure off the other fisheries?

(Mud probably won't work as well as plain old water)


I think it makes sense to bring ideas up, even though there is no obvious good solution because:

1. Someone may have a solution I haven't thought about.

2. A lot of people just assume that if the grocery store is closed, they can walk to the nearest stream, and catch a few fish. The plan might work for the first few, but it won't work for very many.

3. On a transitional basis, some things may sort of work, that don't work long term.

being defeatist is one way to look at it, looking for solutions is another way to look at it. While I could just go kill myself and get it over with, I prefer to seek a few more days of growing things, planting trees whose fruits I may never eat. If I were to die today, someone else could eat what I had planted, or the fish I stocked in my pond.

I get gloomy at times, but that is my own depression talking, those blood clots back in 2005 didn't help that much, but I still love to bake bread, test new recipes, taste new plants, and hug my friends, and maybe getting better at playing pool along the way. If I die in the next heartbeat so be it, but I died once, so what I have now is gravy.

Biowebscape designs for not being dead just yet

I don't know anything about the fish industry. All I know is that I love my salmon sashimi and I'd be very upset if that came to an end. Prepared raw salmon contains a lot of stuff that keeps our cognitive function sharp and our arteries saturated with good cholesterol that drives out the bad cholesterol. And I know many people who find it tastes amazing. Even cooked most of the goodies are retained, though I hate the smell and taste of baked fish.

Can a non-doomer give me a rational answer based on your understanding of fish farming. I know a lot of salmon is now coming from controlled fish farms and that the quality is supposedly not as good as wild salmon. Why is this? Why can't we take hundreds of squared kilometers on the ocean with a fine mesh as a the farm barrier (something the fish won't get caught in), and carefully control the food chain down to the algae? Assuming we have an abundance of electricity, and thus taking energy out of the equation, is there a possibility that we can avoid depletion of fish stocks? Lastly, please someone tell me why salmon is so expensive.

You have some good questions and there are answers to them, if may suggest, take a look at this operation that I already liked to up thread, they address most of your questions at least in a general way.

Thanks a lot for sharing that.

Are you the founder / an employee?

I really like the founder's vision. It's a good example of a venture that's trying to solve a genuine problem that we are going to need to do sooner or later. It reminds me very much of a lot of greentech startups, but it's for fish instead of energy. I personally wouldn't throw money at it as an investment because I don't know enough about the science, but I'm really glad to see some people are proactive about capitalizing on the need.

Is there a limit to the scale they can achieve? The website didn't say if they can farm salmon or maybe I didn't read closely enough.

Are you the founder / an employee?

No, just someone who likes their vision ;-)

The website didn't say if they can farm salmon or maybe I didn't read closely enough.


Salmon farming depends on very different techniques than what they are doing which is partly why they are farming Cobia.

Here's some salmon farming info

One off the issues with salmon farming is that the fish food is produced from othes spicies that are deemed not suitable for human cosumption, Like Argentines, Boar fish,Scad ,
The boats in the link are unloading straight to the fish meal plant,
This cheap source off protien is then used to make cattle feed , fish feed etc. This is all going to come to a crash stop.
From memory only abot 25% of salmon feed is eaten by the salmon in the farm the rest ends up on the sea bottom.
Then ther are all the hidden costs off running the boats above, fish meal plant etc.

We recently had an interesting TV program in Australia about farmed salmon:
There's an ongoing environmental controversy and some startling facts came out, for instance that a dye has to be put into their food to make their flesh turn pink.

I still think it's better overall than eating sashimi tuna though. Those poor suckers are doomed and I'm not even a doomer!

That's interesting.

"it might be at the end of the day that these fish farms need to be moved onto a land-based closed loop system".

This suggests as I said in my earlier post that perhaps the entire system can be converted into a closed system where the participants are extremely well-controlled. However, this is opposite the technique that the guy above was saying, with the open-ocean farming. Surely by now we understand the biology of aqua life to be able to design a system that could work. In particular, can we cut out the fish feed that needs to be caught in the wild, replacing it with a "closed loop system" that replenishes itself??? Can we escape the need for synthetic chemicals? I'm also not sure I understand what is so toxic about these fish. Some copper is quite okay for humans. Mercury is definitely not, but surely we could cut it out from a closed system. Organic chemicals, like antibiotics, eaten by the fish do not imply unhealthy meals for humans as if the chemicals are truly organic they are reacted and broken down. I'd rather believe the farmers that claim they can improve their process instead of crazy environmentalists like Suzuki.

However, this is opposite the technique that the guy above was saying, with the open-ocean farming. Surely by now we understand the biology of aqua life to be able to design a system that could work. In particular, can we cut out the fish feed that needs to be caught in the wild, replacing it with a "closed loop system" that replenishes itself??? Can we escape the need for synthetic chemicals? I'm also not sure I understand what is so toxic about these fish.

We do have a pretty good grasp of how to raise certain kinds of fish in controlled closed loop systems. This doesn't work for all species. Open ocean farming in cages is a radical departure from this system. Each system has its pros and cons for sure.

Yes we need to find better ways to to get the fish feed, see my comment to Gail up thread as to what Open Ocean guys are doing.

The problem with synthetic chemicals in fish farming is similar to any large scale land farming, it has to do mostly with disease control, antibiotics, nutritional supplements and such. BTW The Open Ocean system doesn't depend on these added chemicals due to the fact that their cages are constantly being flushed by clean ocean water.

Wild salmon, as everyone knows, are orangish pink on the inside. What most people do not know, however, is that salmon are pink because of what they eat. Salmon are carnivorous fish that dine on krill, tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that contain carotenoids, naturally-occurring orange pigments.

Farm-raised salmon, on the other hand, eat feed that is made of other fish. Consequently, unless color is added to their food, farmed salmon do not turn out orange, but rather a less appetizing light grayish color. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for darker-colored salmon. Thus, although adding color to salmon feed is expensive, salmon farmers find it worthwhile.

I guess it depends on what they are adding to give the fish their color...

The farmed fish are not toxic. This is usually more of a problem with wild fish that are at the top of a food chain and toxins such as mercury will accumulate at the end of the food chain.

By the way, it's not really appropriate to call it a dye I think. That's a little misdirected. You just are what you eat, or in this case, what you're fed. It's sort of like food colouring LOL.

But EP,
If you have to add 'Salmon Coloring' to make it look like a Salmon again, isn't it reasonable to ask whether they are actually nourished and sound, the way you would want your food to be? Poor coloration is very often an indicator of an animal that is not thriving.

I don't have a link.. but look in the mirror the next time you're really ill.

We are what we eat.

Bob, this is the whole bleepin thing.
We were given our senses to determine good food from bad, if it looks bad, don't eat it. If it smells bad, don't eat it. And then comes the oral tradition, that mushroom is called the deathcap, don't eat it.
seems to me the oral tradition has morphed into the sophist tradition, You deserve a break today, I'd like to teach the world to sing. What feckin ever. Maybe we could get the POPE behind farmed salmon, at least he wouldn't be behind our kids any more

I'm still pissed off about most every thing, thank you for being so snoopy

I hear you.

..and which reminds me, I need to get outside and frolic.

Snoopy is my muse.

(obey your thirst!)

Salmon are getting depelted because of their spawning grouds being ruined, and because of over fishing of their wild food fish.

When we started sending factory ships out into the world's oceans we were killing our future. The big dredge nets kill not only the fish the factory ship wants to harvest but it also kills everything else along with it, hundreds of species are affected. As Pi says above, if Japan is fishing in Iceland's waters which are in another ocean altogether then there is a problem.

If it gets down to us eating jellyfish, which is eaten in some regions and has been for a long time, then we have gone down a road we might not recover from in most of our lifetimes. Not all jellyfish are of the edible kind, and there is an uptick of the kinds we can't eat when you kill off all the fish that eat them. Like killing all the hawks and getting an over population of rats to eat your grain bins dry. Just because we can eat some jellyfish does not mean we can survive on them for very long.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

-Why can't we take hundreds of squared kilometers on the ocean with a fine mesh as a the farm barrier (something the fish won't get caught in), and carefully control the food chain down to the algae? -

The cost of controlling nature would be prohibitive, if it is even possible at that size. Food webs are immensely complicated. 100 kilometers sounds a lot. But we have about 7 billion people to feed.

You want more fish? Kill 5 billion people.

Wild salmon will probably get more exercise, they will also have a different diet.

food chain down to the algae?

The most lucrative aqua-culture business is Nori

There is a statue to Kathleen Baker in Japan.

She discovered the fascinating life cycle of Porphyra.

"Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker stands on the grounds of. Sumiyoshi Shrine in Uto" Courtesy of the Kumamoto

May the sauce be with you.


(When) Once we have control again we - -

Control?! You never had control! I was overwhelmed by
the power of this place. So I made a mistake too. I
didn't have enough respect for that power, and it's out
now. You're sitting here trying to pick up the pieces.
John, there's nothing worth picking up. The only thing
that matters now are the people we love. Alan, Lex, and
Tim. And John, they're out there where people are dying
- - people are dying, you know?

Jurassic Park ..

repared raw salmon contains a lot of stuff that keeps our cognitive function sharp and our arteries saturated with good cholesterol that drives out the bad cholesterol.

And right there is your market for farmed fish. You sell it to "well off" parents for their kids and point out how the fish are not in the natural Mercury filled world.

Can a non-doomer give me a rational answer based on your understanding of fish farming. I know a lot of salmon is now coming from controlled fish farms and that the quality is supposedly not as good as wild salmon.

The explanation is that all the world's oceans are being fished out by giant factory trawlers. They are working on the last of the fish stocks, and when they are all gone, you won't be able to get wild fish any more.

This is not fishing as it is historically understood. It is fish mining. When all the fish are gone, they are gone and they won't come back because there are no fish left to produce the next generation.

People don't realize this because they aren't looking at the global situation. They only see their own little piece of the elephant. It's a classic "Tragedy of the Commons" situation, and fishermen only are interested in what they can get out of the Commons, not what is happening to the commons as a whole. They can't see that the elephant is an elephant, they only know what their own little piece is like, and they only realize that they can't find enough fish to make a living any more.

So, after all the wild salmon are gone, all you will get are farmed salmon. That's the classic solution to the Tragedy of the Commons. Privatize the Commons. You can't fish on someone else's private fish farm, and that's the only place there will be any salmon once the Tragedy reaches its final act.

Note that this is the non-Doomer explanation. A Doomer would say, "We're all going to die because there will be no more salmon." I would say, "Shut up and eat your farmed salmon; it's the only thing you're going to get."

We still have a decent, well regulated, wild salmon fishery or two left in Alaska, but with ocean temperature changes and the open sea fishing pressures they could fail. When working one of those fisheries, back in the early or mid 80's, I decided to tune in the single side band one day, a rarity since we only used VHF. I happened in on a conversation where the skipper of a Bering Sea dragger with about as deep a Norwegian brogue as you could understand was pretty much giving a monologue mostly about how bad things were getting, but in a most entertaining way. Just before he signed off he said with a matter of fact finality 'Well when there's one fish left swimmin' in the ocean there'll be a Jap right along side it to catch it.' Mind you this was a Norwegian dragger skipper talking, kind of the pot calling the kettle black, but even back then he could see what was happening.

I don't think a fishery has ever been destroyed by hook and line fishing. At a given degree of shortage, it becomes not worth the effort and the fishery recovers. I am not counting the long line operations with hundreds of hooks.

You really need to be careful what your going to eat doesnt come out of a polluted waterway. The canal here is teaming with fish but is connected to the river Maas. The river is polluted with heavy metals and there is still a lot of industry upstream in Belgium and France using the water to offload waste. Occasionaly we wake to find dead fish floating all over the canal.

Here is a link to a rather breathless description of a "closed loop" hydroponic garden/aquaculture system that is supposed to end world hunger. ( A bit of research and basic EROI analysis puts this nice yuppie fantasy firmly into the category of a perpetual motion machine that will grind to a halt without gasoline for the SUV to run to the feed store to by fish food imported from who knows where.

In order for this idea to be self sustaining, an outside source of energy (photosynthesis capture) must exist. In traditional Vietnamese practice this would involve a fairly large pond raising duckweed to feed the fish, heavily fertilized by manure from farm animals and the human waste of a family sustaining themselves from the fish protein.

In order for this idea to be self sustaining, an outside source of energy (photosynthesis capture) must exist.

Like plants or algae and sun light?

BTW you think industrial fossil fueled based raising of cows or chickens on corn is more or less sustainable than say aquaponics?

I bred tropical fish at home, in three different states in three different homes over the course of 8 years.

One thing you will have to have, is a way to get air into the water column, so you will need power, you'll also need either water pumps or air pumps, and replacement parts. There are tons of companies that will help you get started, not a cheap hobby. So you the fish keeper will have to make a lot of choices about what, where and when you are going to do things.

I've never raised fish for eating, but I have raised them for show, and selling. But the process is about the same, and I'll say it is easier to grow plants in a yard than it is to keep fish in tanks. Every system I have seen depends on what we might not have handy, electricity, but there were solar panels finding their way into the hobby even back when I was up to my neck in spare tanks and air hose.

The problem I see with a 55 gallon barrel is the depth/surface area ratio. You want more surface area so that you get better Oxygen exchange, unless you are pumping air into the system.

But if you say used an old hot tub as a tank, you have a lot of surface area and you don't have to do so much pumping, in fact you could get by with a lot of aquatic plants doing the oxygen exchange for you.

The biggest fish I have kept was a Plecostomus he/she was 18 inches when we gave it away. And the oldest fish I had was a tetra that lived 11 years.

As to your questions, I've answered the second one to a point. As to the first one. How small will you go to eat a fish? On thursday the last Sardine cannery in the US will close, most sardines are just small herrings of several species. We've about overfished the smallest fish on the docket.

We could all start eating snake, down florida way they have a problem with pythons, we'd want to start there on our food chain hunt first.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

We could all start eating snake, down florida way they have a problem with pythons, we'd want to start there on our food chain hunt first.

Snake is a really good food, nice white meat, lot of ribs though...

This last winter was very cold down here in Florida, the reports I'm getting from the snake control people is that it has put a very major dent in the python population out in the glades.
I'm sure there were a few survivors and they will come back but for now they are pretty much gone. Those gators are starting to look pretty tasty though ;-)

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and you end up with the tragedy of the commons.

I'll be brief here but I've spent decades dealing with destructive marine fisheries on an international level and managed to destroy one large one, to the benefit of no few species of swimmy things.

It seems like with the limitless ocean we oughta be able to farm fish, but most commercially valuable fish need to be fed with fishmeal, which means catching some less-valuable species of fish and grinding them up, taking the trophic-level hit to get something that will sell for more. Not really scalable very far.

I haven't done aquaculture for food, I have fish in what used to be an in-ground swimming pool but they aren't for eating, they're for lookin' at. I suppose if things got grim enough we could fry 'em up. We don't feed them, they just exist at the carrying capacity of whatever falls into the pool or grows there. Vegetarian fish like tilapia seem to do well here eating almost nothing but algae, but of course that still takes nutrients for the algae.

Vegetarian fish probably compare favorably to chickens as a resource-efficient way to do meat at home, plus chickens don't require a big pond. On the other hand, chickens will forage for bugs on their own over a large area. (Eating the bugs would ultimately make more sense, and it will come to that in places. Keypost, someone? Our bug-eating future?)

While it's true that far-seas fisheries such as those that now operate will be less economical as fuel prices rise, it will also probably be the case that enforcement of treaties by enforcement vessels and overflights will likewise be more lax, allowing pirate fishers to operate with impunity. It's pretty hard to track the suckers and prove what they're doing.

This may mean the re-emergence of large-scale pelagic driftnets which are particularly nasty, because they're more cost-effective than other techniques (and suited to areas you don't mind destroying). So peak oil may not initially be an unallayed good for marine species, although world wars generally give them a break. Sunken fishing ships make great artificial reefs... hint hint... pass it on.

Then again, as the "human starvation" thing starts catching on in the early phases of dieoff, the politics of food as well as the prices and supply/demand may do things which we don't yet expect.

And there's always the probability of perverse human silliness such as that driving the bluefin to extinction. Or perhaps the chinese will decide that endangered species of fish give them better boners, creating a rationale for finding and killing the last member of any species. They've certainly done it to death with terrestrial animals, I could tell stories that'd curl your hair.

Most fisheries conservationists have little clue about peak oil & peak everything; I've tried pushing it at the highest levels of those circles for nearly 20 years and gotten blank stares.

ah well. I'm used to it.

and gotten blank stares.

This is more evidence that Tony Wright is right in his book
Left in the Dark

Our dominant Left hemisphers evolved to deal with endocrine disruptors in fruit. The dominant Left is malfunctioning, hence the blank stares.

Hence you haven't a clue what I am on about.

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and you end up with the tragedy of the commons."

That wins my quote of the day award! :)

Thanks. It's more true than funny, though. For instance, a huge percentage of the total pelagic biomass was destroyed by proliferating driftnet fleets prior to the 1991 UN moratorium. Where did they come from? The UNFAO had promoted them as a solution a couple of decades earlier.

First let's not forget that we need to control human population, above and beyond anything else we do or all other discussion becomes moot. Having said that...

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man capitalist to fish and you end up with the tragedy of the commons."

or even 'Teach a Diesel Fleet to fish..' if you will.

By all means, there are too many humans for them to be fish predators. Any system in which the predator biomass outweighs the prey biomass will not fare well.

Moreover, the ocean fish we "like" to eat are mostly top carnivores. About as efficient as making tiger steaks a staple food.

But it isn't just capitalists who indulge in TOC-type stuff. For instance, in the 60's and '70's the USSR, which claimed not to be capitalist, colluded with Japan to kill off most accessible remnant whale populations and cook the books (as well as the whales).

I suppose one could say they were acting capitalistic, but I think it's more basic than that, and may go back to motivations we share with monkeys and many other critters.

As long as I've brought up the USSR scam, I'll note that the USSR fell, but the very same firms, ships, and even individuals who conducted this organized-crime-equivalent practice in Japan are now proposed to get special favors from the US president and others for violating IWC rules, in exchange for their promise not to start cheating again in ten years. Like anyone will be paying much attention to what whalers do by then...

As one who has experienced the seamless integration of the yakuza with corporations and government in Japan, I roll my eyes. The TOC persists because it usualy WORKS for those who abuse the commons. Just like there will never be a cheaper way of acquiring a TV than thowing a brick through a store window.


It sounds to me like a few tilapia (or other vegetarian fish) in an unused swimming pool might work in warmer climates. I know one person I talked to who is involved in permaculture puts both fish and plants in some small ponds on their farm (where they hold rainwater for later use in gardening)--I presume the fish are for eating.

Your take on the immediate impact of peak oil matches up with mine. Fish will be relatively easy to catch, and it is difficult to enforce of treaties and fishing license rules, so there may be more fishing than planned is some parts of the world, at least temporarily making fish supply worse.

It sounds to me like a few tilapia (or other vegetarian fish) in an unused swimming pool might work in warmer climates.

It's amazing to see the density of tilapia in canals here, and even in open ponds, just eating the algae that grows in the sunshine. It's sometimes hard to believe how many a small pond will support. They tend to stay very small unless you can segregate them by sex, spreading their biomass over more individuals. They'll get pretty big if they can't reproduce though. If I happen to be stuck here in the Oahu suburbs once things start rapidly going sideways, I might replace the koi in my pond with tilapia and algae. One possible source for aquaculture I could use here would be a battery-powered halogen light hung above the water during the frequent termite swarms.

Your take on the immediate impact of peak oil matches up with mine. Fish will be relatively easy to catch, and it is difficult to enforce of treaties and fishing license rules, so there may be more fishing than planned is some parts of the world, at least temporarily making fish supply worse.

Unfortunately I know what I'm talking about. It's damned hard to enforce stuff like gear limitations and catches even now, before things get stressed by permanently-declining resources and energy. As food scarcity begins to bite harder, the relative price of food versus other things may rise a lot. Moreover, there's no reason in principle you couldn't run a totally rapacious driftnetting fleet on coal. The vessels don't have to be fast. Then again, sinking them with bombs from a plane is a lot easier than chasing them back to port, and that may become a new phenomenon as nations take increasing umbrage at those who would destroy the resource.

Given the practically universal use of small-to-medium-scale aquaculture in Medieval Europe, there must be some possibilities.

I am an unabashed doomer.Regards the food chain anybody who can find a copy of Colin Tudge's book "So Shall We Reap" (penguin) will save the down time arguing.
On the fish thing I would like to add a few points just to get it off my chest once and for all.
In 1986 I went back to Uni (their token geriatric admission) to do a diploma in Aqautic resource Management.Two years later I dropped out.My nickname by the staff was "farmer".This was not an accolade but derision.I came away more aware of the issues re fishery farming.
Penned factory farms have to be way off shore out of the migratory paths of wild stock.This would go some way to countering infection transmission and reducing the need for antibiotic use which plagues feedlot operations.
Deep sea cages have their place and problemns.These can be managed and the existing fisheries fleets have no option but to address these and get with the program.The conventional fisheries world wide are critically threatened with a host of challenges and as endangered as the remaining species they predate.
On the local level and here i include freshwater options these invariably are local concerns and each has its solutions and problemns.
Farming is essential to all species survival.I have run a dairy Barn and there would be no cows left if not for farming.
Turtle farms in Mexico are viable and the cringe about this and any species being farmed is beyond the scope of my patience to address.The world wide explosion of "jellyfish" will need to be met with turtle farming the jellfish predator.
Tilapia I have seen breeding in the most polluted water imaginable near the land fill in Honolulu on Sand Island.They make brilliant fertiliser if your reluctant to eat them.They are are a threat to native species as they are the aqautic cockroach and will out compete most anything else.
The humble Australian yabby (a freshwater lobster)is a great choice for apartment dwellers and DIY aquaculture.
It all takes energy (that is why I visit the Oildrum) research and is site specific.Aeration of standing water is the big input.
The literature is out there in mind numbing redundancy.
Obstacles exist (mostly government regulation) and as the financial catastrophe overtakes common sense and mindless breeding by human beings aquaculture is an ancient and honourable endevour that can be made to work for you.
For the sailing enthusiast Alan Bombard's research on plankton nets and nutrition in general is axiomatic to getting your head around this incredible aspect of our environment.

They make brilliant fertiliser if your reluctant to eat them

When things get tough one sees the world through different lenses.

Restrictions have been introduced to ensure that the Mopani worm does not become extinct though over harvesting and damage to its habitat, robbing rural Zimbabweans of a vital source of nutrition.

For Anna Mathathu, it is incomprehensible that the protein-rich mopani caterpillar could be facing extinction in the Matabeleland region if urgent steps are not taken to conserve its habitat.

All her life, the 56-year-old villager has relied on the seasonal delicacy to supplement her meagre diet.

Oscar Nkala Daily News Harare. (Nkala means "one who cries out". Good name for a reporter.)

In conclusion, Toughen up.


Links? Details?

That supplies of freshwater fish were declining can also be inferred from a second development that occurred soon after the beginning of the second millennium. The practice of cultivating fish in ponds, known as aquaculture, was invented in France at that time and rapidly spread throughout Europe. Few people today realize the scale and importance of medieval freshwater agriculture, Hoffmann suggests, because ponds were largely abandoned by the end of the Middle Ages. A possible reason: the availability of cheap supplies of marine fish supplanted the need for freshwater farming. Aquaculture, as evidenced by the construction of fish ponds and their management in a multi-year stocking and harvesting cycle, emerged in eleventh-century France, and through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a wave of pond building swept Europe. At the height of this building, ponds covered 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) in upper Silesia and 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) in central France. There were at the time twenty-two thousand ponds in upper Franconia and a further twenty-five thousand in Bohemia.

Aquaculture ponds were created by damming streams and rivers. This process of converting long reaches of riverine habitat into lakes had the unintended side effect of rendering Europe's rivers even less able to support species of migratory fish. It blocked their access, increased water turbidity, and buried spawning habitats deep under mud. While ponds helped ensure stable supplies of fish to the elite who owned them, they could not compensate for the plummet in populations of migratory species such as salmon, trout, sturgeon, shad, whitefish, and lamprey that was caused by the transformation of Europe's waterways. This loss in productivity occurred despite the fact that species that favor warm, still, turbid waters actually thrived in the ponded and silted-up watercourses

-- Callum Roberts, "The UNNATURAL HISTORY of the SEA", p. 25 f

Notes (not transcribed) from the quoted text refer to:

Hoffmann, R.(2000) Medieval fishing. Pages 331-392 in P. Squatriti (ed.) Working with Water in Medieval Europe. Brill, Leiden.

I would recommend Roberts' book very much; in it, he tells the stories of the many almost incomprehensibly bountiful fisheries that are now utterly destroyed, interspersed with colourful anectodes from, for instance, the adventures of William Dampier, pirate, explorer, writer and hero of the British Empire.

According to Roberts, "peak fish" was in 1988, and this despite growing "fishing power".

He does, however, not go into the pros and cons of aquaculture much.

Large scale comercial fishing in western europe will be wiped out come Full peak oil, Attached some nice pict's of a couple of local boats towing Mid water for Mackrel Combined power off about 4000Hp ~ 200gal hr diesel
Another local Boat unloading about 450 tons off chilled fish for use as fish meal.
Another Donegal boat pumping fish out off bag end of trawl at night in good weather. Note the man standing on deck in the red and black immersion suit.
Same boats next day wating to unload approx 1000 toons of fish.
With thanks to BIGJOHN
Full set can bee seen here

Don't some of the big boats do canning on board? Or do they just refrigerate them and bring them to shore?

Factory ships net huge numbers of fish, process, flash-freeze (or can) and package the product within an hour or two of being caught. They cook the "leftovers" into fishmeal to be sold as feed. Very efficient, little is returned to the sea.

The German factory ship Kiel NC 105

A factory ship, also known as a fish processing vessel, is a large ocean-going vessel with extensive on-board facilities for processing and freezing caught fish. According to the FAO, there are about 38,400 vessels greater than 100 tons in the world's factory fishing fleet.[1]

Contemporary factory ships are automated and enlarged versions of the earlier whalers and their use for fishing has grown dramatically. Some factory ships also function as mother ships.

Another link to various types of factory ships:

My oldest daughter and I are interested in aquaponics. We would need to feed between seven and ten family members (according to who decides to opt in.) We are looking at the Morningstar Aquaponics system. They are just a few miles from her house. Her daughter's school has a system set up so the kids are already familiar with how it works. The nice thing about Morningstar is that not only do they sell the setup and do classes they also give setups to third world farmers.

NO expertise here, just a couple of observations:

1) Those of you who have visited Jefferson's Monticello might remember that out in back was a very deep water hole that had been dug as a holding site for fish caught down on the river. The takeaway is that a deep hole is one way of assuring that water temperatures are kept very comfortable for the fish. Maybe the 55gal drum idea above could be modified by burying the drum? (By the way, most state fish and game laws currently prohibit catching wild fish and then transferring them to a live confinement tank. I am not advocating this, but stuff happens.) I don't know if one can sustain a breeding population in such a small space; it seems pretty doubful.

2) I have heard of schemes where a somewhat larger tank is constructed of concrete blocks sealed with something to make it water tight. This is located inside of a greenhouse (which could just be a cheap hoop house constructed of PVC pipe and plastic sheeting). The water tank then does double duty as both a fish tank and a heat sink. The main problem with this, of course, is to keep the water from getting TOO hot in the summer time. I am thinking that a system to slide a hoop house over and off of the tank depending upon the seasons would be a good solution to this problem. E. Coleman describes exactly such a system in his Four Season Harvest. Alternatively, I suppose you could just build two tanks, one inside the greenhouse and one outside in the shade, and transfer the fish outside for the summer and inside for the winter. That scheme would facilitate annual cleanings and maintenance for each tank, which is probably a good idea.

And in some states - if you can't drain the pond it is treated by law as the same as a 'natural lake'.

So the 'farm raised' catfish, trout, perch - you'd be subject to no nets, daily harvest limits, and length limits.

It seems to me that the rather obvious conclusion would be to stop eating fish. However, this is not likely to be the most popular view, since fish has been heavily promoted as a healthy alternative to red meat, omega fatty acids etc etc.

"I love my sashimi - don't take that away from me" goes right next to "I love my SUV, don't take that away from me". Reality is reality. Sashimi and SUV's are going away. Or they will return to being a privilege of the uber-wealthy.

And some countries would say their economies depend on fishing.
Although, I'm not sure what their economies would do once they fish out that last of the commercial catches.

What seems somewhat absurd is that the trend in farmed fish, e.g. salmon, is to feed them chicken meal. With what we know about the conditions battery chickens are kept in, I shudder....

As someone posted above, the discussion is moot unless one can find a way to address population.

In many cases, fish in local streams and lakes are there by design, rather than nature, these days - deliberate or accidental introduction of sport fishing species, after, or concurrent with, depletion of indigenous species. If we have less energy to take care of "restocking" programs as they currently exist, what species will thrive ?

Local streams and lakes are unlikely to be able to feed a large number of people.

It seems to me that the rather obvious conclusion would be to stop eating fish

It is obvious ! We need to simply do the right and painful thing - decrease industrial fishing until stocks replenish

I am not a doomer but I think this one will be self solving - a child born today will see the oceans fished out

You may find this interesting :-

And it was produced in 2007, before we failed to ban commercial fishing of Bluefin Tuna, and the appalling practice of using shark fins for soup.
Edit : film released in 2009

As a former commercial fisherman (troll and spear), and someone who still has personal wild caught fish as part of his diet, Peak Oil will really put a damper on fishing, as the ratio of fuel burned in comparison to fish caught becomes a point of diminishing returns.
The oceans are becoming depleted, Bluefin fishing should stop immediately, and most large predator fish will no longer be sustainable, as most aren't now.
This system is not functional with 7 billion people.
I surf fish for food these days, mostly perch, which are low on the food chain and not targeted.

Sadly big pirating boats with miles of driftnets will probably be able to afford diesel far longer than small 200 fathom net permitted and regulated family gillnetting operations. Fish and game has done a decent job regulating the fisheries in Alaska, unlike The Fed which it took over from after statehood. Factory fish traps decimated many rivers back in territorial days, but back then the high seas were not near as thoroughly strained as they are today and recovery only took good local regulation.

Hi Gail, I went to Costa Rica last year and saw a pond used by a local farmer to raise Tilapia, it was little more than a puddle and teaming with fish! I would never have believed such a concentrated aquaculture was possible! Don't know what he was feeding them but it was a very primative area and can't imagine it cost him much.

The classic farm pond has been a form of aquaculture for years. In our area, if the pond isn't to be in a protected watershed and is less than an acre (total disturbed property) and is a "dug" pond, you don't need a permit. I built three small (@ 1/4 acre) ponds into a small steam system on my place. One was built by a contractor (total cost around $6K, with my help). The other two I built with rented equipment. These ponds "self-populated" with bream before I could add fish (it's recommended that one wait at least a full season before stocking a pond). I later added bream and catfish fingerlings as well as "mosquito fish", small guppy sized natives that eat algae and mosquito larvae and breed like crazy. Good feed stock for the larger fish.

The largest (lowest) pond also grows lotus plants, beatiful in summer and a great source of food. Cattails are invasive but their roots are a good starch source. I can draw this pond down a few feet for harvesting my aquatic plants. No need to feed these fish, but we do return the fish carcasses to the pond for the catfish, and we dump jap. beetle traps into the water for the bream. I have no doubt that we could harvest a lot of fish per week from these ponds without depleting the population. Bream reproduce/grow very quickly, especially if there are no larger predatory fish introduced, such as bass. They are very easy to catch on a small fly rod.

Sounds great!
I couldn't resist adding bass to the mix.

We did throw a few bass into the larger pond. I don't like the flavor of bass as much as bream and they grow more slowly.They'll also eat the smaller bream and compete for food. We thought about tilapia but would hate to mess up our balanced system.

Another point about farm ponds: they will silt up over the years. I designed ours so that they can be excavated from the bank with a track hoe. I also put in a small silt pond above the larger pond which has worked very well.

A small yard pond, say 20-30 feet across and 3-4 feet deep can grow alot of bream. Add a solar recirc/aerator, and pipe gutters, etc to fill it. Add minnows/mosquito fish to control mosquitos. You'll soon have froglegs as well!

I'm not fond on Bass myself, but they are fun to catch.
Bream and other panfish are quite tasty. I don't like tilapia either.
I'm kinda Ono centric.

Don't forget that cattails can be part of a waste water management scheme.

A few comments to add:

Tim Matson's Earth Ponds is a great resource and also a fun read.

I'm putting in a teeny tiny pond or two on my 0.4 acre village lot in the NE US. No code restrictions in the village on ponds. This is one of those areas, I believe, where it pays to start small. I've had an aquarium running in the house for about three years and the inputs in terms of maintenance, food, energy, cleaning, etc. are pretty high. Definitely looking for the low-maintenance mode. This pond will be above my veggie garden so I can feed nutrient rich overflow water down to it by gravity feed. Looking at aeration options such as solar or wind-driven pump. Not sure how to heat in winter, but my dad developed some sort of heating system such that his fish overwintered and bred.

I visited an aquaponics set up at UMass last year at the NOFA conference. Again, lots of inputs, and the hydroponic veggies were plagued with white flies. One take-away from this was that ornamental species (koi) way out-perform food fish in current economics! This may reverse when food becomes more of an "equalizer."

So it seems to me, at least in humid areas, that ponds, covered ponds and solar greenhouse covered ponds are much more efficient than tanks and aquaponics. Then again, anything can be designed so badly as to be completely inefficient.

Grass carp are invasive here in the Great Lakes area, and war has been declared, so best to avoid breeding more of them.

I like what CEOJr1963 suggested above- integrating greenhouse, fish, chickens and raised beds. As a protein source, fish are much more efficient at converting to protein, as they don't have to fight gravity as much as land animals in search of food.

I'm on a laptop at my brother's house so excuse the typos,

I have been reading several nposts and started thinking I could use a small hand dug watertrap pit, with pond liner or several layers of visqueen(sp?) as a small outdoor fish pond. I'd drop in some small plants and a Betta splendens to control the bug larva, several dozen species of bugs start out life in water.

while I was still living here in huntsville al, I used to harvest the bug larva to feed to my bettas using small nets that i had for catching betta fry. The bettas will take the watertemps up to about 85, but an in ground small pond shouldn't get to hot, if it does shade it. Bettas don't need the air in the water, having a labyrinth organ they can breath atmospheric air.

pond liner is costly but you can get smaller pieces for smaller ponds. several people here in huntsville were big into fish breeding, and there are several good pond product companies.

I've been trying to improve our water catchment system back in NLR ark, so a small in ground pond with a male and maybe a female betta, or just a few females(the males tend toward turf wars, while most females can handle a few others, not always, but I know how to handle them pretty well. Gades, I am even thinkingo f getting back into breeding them, slaps face...

a 24 cubic foot pond would be about 190 gallons, surfacearea or 12 sq feet, about 16 feet of fish length at its max range without over supplying the disolved O2 levels (indoor fish limits might not match outdoor fish limits, I'lln have to look that up).

I'mn getting that itchy feeling of a project ahead.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

There should be pond heaters you could run with power from your house. we have power going to the woodworking shed, and run cords out to any projects in the yard, but a small pond could do with something like a 250 watt tank heater. You've got about 16k sq ft of yard, how big are you planning to make the pond/s?

If your house is solar, and has a battery backup, that would help the pond. I've seen the solar pond devices being limited by the sun, most of them need to run 24 hours a day. pity I gave all my supplies away when I moved from huntsville to ark in 2006,


Back several years ago, two of my uncles and my grandfather built a medium sized (five acre??) lake on their farm. I don't remember too many details. I believe that they got government money to build the lake--flood control, or some such thing. The lake was spring fed. I know they stocked the lake with fish, and had fun fishing there, but I don't know much in the way of details. It didn't seem all that hard, from what I heard.

My cousins are lobster and crab fishermen in Cape Breton Island, NS and have been fishing there for generations. Last fall I visited with one of them who had been fishing for 45 years and he said the fishery is better now than when he started. The fishermen carefully manage the resource as their livelyhoods depend on its sustainability. There does not have to be a tragedy of the commons if the "common pool resources" are collectively managed by the people who depend on this resource. Ecological Economist, Elinor Ostrom, who recently received the nobel prize in economics for her work "Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action" addresses these types of issues in her book. She is also an editorial advisor for Dr. Costanza's new "solutions journal."

The self regulation of the North Atlantic lobster fishery by the fisherman themselves is an ongoing classic success story of shepherding a resource. Kudos to these fisherman.

Instrumental is a very selective harvest, self imposed by fisherman, and a reliance on low tech, discrete traps. This opposed to modern trawlers which can't even distinguish by catch. I, perhaps foolishly, believe that removal of corporate fishing from other stocks to reliance on individual fisherman would allow those stocks to recover.

I say foolishly after observing the effect of native spear fishing on coral reef communities, but that itself is tempered by their recent introduction of reef preserves and those effects.

There's a huge day of reckoning coming with respect with fish.
1) Wild catches have been falling for years and will continue to fall as the global population increases
2) Farmed fish (a.k.a. "aquaculture")now accounts for half of the world's seafood, with China single-handidly accounting for half of all global aquaculture.
3) Aquaculture is completely dependent on fishmeal, which was once fed to livestock but is becoming too scarce for that. Fishmeal stocks peaked in the 1990s and have been falling rather sharply ever since. Fishmeal, which used to cost a couple of hundred dollars a ton, only fell 19% during the worst of the AIG/Lehman crisis. It recently zoomed up to US$2000/tonne. It is the only peaked commodity definitely in shorter supply and rising in price more rapidly than oil.
4) There are fish that do not require much, if any fishmeal but they are greatly lacking in essential fatty acids, especially omega3.
5) The whole mantra of "fish is good for you" is built around the assummed presence of omega3 oils and certain amino acids. Take fishmeal out of farmed fish and suddenly, farmed salmon, etc. is no longer so healthy for you. The same sort of thing that happened when corn and soy was substituted in place of grass, etc. for land animals.
6) Skyrocketing seafood prices (led by fishmeal scarce farmed fish) are only at most, two to three years away.
7) High quality, omega3 rich healthy-to-eat fish is going the way of expensive wine.

7) High quality, omega3 rich healthy-to-eat fish is going the way of expensive wine.

... which means that fishing pressure on these will likely increase as their numbers plummet.

This consumer report shows that farmed fish may also be fed animal waste products such as meat and feather meal.

"And in addition to their main diet of fish meal and fish oil, farmed fish may be given rendered meat, bone, and feather meal. The goal: to fatten animals as fast and as cheaply as possible. "

That we would be using petroleum to grow corn to feed chickens to feed fish - it's beyond reason.

In an energy-constrained world, when there is limited petroleum for growing corn, I suspect chickens will go back to eating insects, and fish will drop off the menu as too energy-intensive to feed artificially.

Put another way - what is the EROEI of farmed fish ?

Sustainable fish farming:

Obviously not possible for everyone to do, but does show what is possible.

"Sustainable fish farming"

...sustainable.... gd buzzwords. What's it mean? Any definitions?

Not to pick on seanlbrennan, but rather the whole idea. Farming is mining. Some of us are just slower than others. To a degree, we're all cotton farmers of the early south, who will have to move on, some faster than others. The alternative, hunting and gathering, a slower form of mining by farming, will starve all.

Perhaps my term isn't correct, but I believe sustainable farming means no inputs from off the property and that the farm is able to sustain people without deterioration of the soil.
Watch the video and you will see that sustainable in this case means sustainable. They don't put any inputs in, no fish feed, no fertilizers, no herbicides, no irrigation....birds come in and eat their fish as part of the sustainability system and the system is improving over the years. They remove the excess fish and it is profitable.

PS the speaker also is upset with corporations abusing the word sustainable.