Offshore fish farming needs to be reeled in

There is now little doubt that the world's fisheries are in crisis, and many are making the case that farming fish offers the solution to meeting growing seafood consumer demand. As coastal fish farming's impacts become a widespread concern, more interest has focused on the development of offshore aquaculture facilities like the one featured in your Oct. 29 article "Fishing for a solution."

Farming mollusks demonstrates the most promise, as does cultivating primarily vegetarian fish that feed low on the food chain, such as catfish. But most of the fish species being pursued for commercial production in salt water are carnivores, such as salmon, and farmed in net pens. Unfortunately, this type of fish farming exports problems to the surrounding environment, such as discharge of untreated wastes, use of chemicals and antibiotics, displacement of and harmful genetic interactions with wild fish, transfer of parasites and disease, and the use of large amounts of wild fish for feed.

Moving fish farming farther offshore only removes the issues from the public eye and away from scrutiny. Before offshore fish farming progresses, we need to develop strong regulatory frameworks and ensure public participation in decisionmaking regarding private use of the oceans, a public resource entrusted to the government for all.

As a relatively new industry in the US, aquaculture can be steered in a sustainable direction with close attention paid to species and site selection, containment of fish, use of chemicals, and other environmental impacts. Aquaculture is necessary, but it must be conducted in a responsible way.
Bill Mott
Providence, R.I.SeaWeb Aquaculture Clearinghouse

Manifest Destiny or manifest density?

Regarding your Oct. 29 editorial "Building Homes in Hot Spots": You state "If humans are going to live in tinderbox landscapes, they need to clear out the tinder to survive." The solution is not just in how you build your house, but where. If Americans weren't so driven by Manifest Destiny to eschew sensible urban planning, people would live in high-density centers (i.e. cities), with industries outside that and agriculture, forestry, wildlife, and parkland beyond that. The latter areas thrive on fire.

As we carve up and fragment the tinderbox landscape (whether it's ponderosa pine land in Colorado or chaparral in California) by choosing to live anywhere we please, we exponentially increase the infamous "urban-wild land" interface. Wildfire is nothing new, but millions of humans choosing to "get back to nature" by living in fire-dominated ecosystems sure is. It has to stop.
Brad Bergstrom
Valdosta, Ga.

Ten years ago, my parents' house - the home I grew up in - burned down in a Malibu wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes. Recently, thousands of homes burned in southern California. In both instances, there were stories like yours, blaming Californians who prefer to live in remote areas for creating the difficulties (and disasters) that firefighters and city planners face.

Yes, California has a growing density problem - and so do many communities in Florida, where hurricanes take a toll. There's also growth in areas that face flooding and tornadoes.

The problem is not really the California lifestyle attracting people to the fringe of civilization. It's more a matter of the world population growing. The Census Bureau tells us the US population will double within the next 100 years. All these people have to live somewhere.

The result: Every natural disaster - in California and elsewhere - will take an ever- increasing toll.
Monika Robertson
Malibu, Calif.

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