Farming the Sea, a False Solution to a Real Problem: Critical Reflections on Canada’s Aquaculture Regulations

2018
Volume 50, No 1
Angela Lee & Pierre Cloutier de Repentigny
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Abstract

Given the dismal state of world fisheries and their continuing decline—exacerbated by climate change—aquaculture is touted by some to be a promising means for fulfilling the growing global demand for seafood, as reflected in its rapid growth as a segment of the global food system. However, large-scale aquaculture presents a complex set of environmental and social issues, and the introduction of genetically engineered sh and seafood adds a further layer of complexity to the already contentious nature of conventional aquaculture practices.

This article is a critical analysis of aquaculture regulation in Canada. In addition to setting out some of the major issues posed by industrialized aquaculture, it argues that shifting the “production” of seafood from marine fisheries to aquaculture merely shifts the cause of environmental damages. Further, in the context of food security, large-scale aquaculture is an inadequate and oversimplified solution to the problems raised by coastal and Indigenous populations’ reliance on declining fisheries resources. Specifically, using two case studies, this paper criticizes the current system’s overreliance on dominant risk paradigms, which are often closely informed by science. Yet, the relationship between law and science is fraught with tensions, as the two have notably different priorities and methods. In rethinking the role of aquaculture in natural marine resource management, especially in a changing climate, it is important to ensure that careful regard is given to the sociocultural factors, inequities, and environmental degradation that are inherent in the production of seafood.

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