Towards a Sustainable Seafood Future: Overfishing and Economics

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Project Team

Authors: Andrea Binz, Colin Amos

Institution: University of Southern California

Instructor: Aroussiak Gabrielian

Studio: Landscape Beyond Land; Graduate Landscape Architecture; Spring 2021

Partners: (1) Dr. Ariel Levi Simmons, Postdoctoral Scholar in Marine Ecology and Environmental Biology, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; (2) Maddy Harden, PhD student in Evolutionary Genomics and Marine Conservation, Nuzhdin Research Laboratory USC Dornsife; (3) Jordan Chancellor, PhD student in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, Nuzhdin Research Laboratory USC Dornsife; (4) Thomas Grimm, Aquafarmer, CEO & President of Carlsbad Aquafarms

Project Description

Our oceans are increasingly threatened by overfishing. The current structure of the commercial fishing industry is exploitative of both the environment and working-class communities. To transform the industry and reestablish it from the bottom up, “Towards a Sustainable Seafood Future” proposes a resilient and sustainable modular “aquahabitat” system for Southern California that would generate kelp forest habitat and launch a new mariculture paradigm growing marketable local fish species alongside algae and shellfish. This integrated multi-trophic aquaculture approach creates a permeable, functional habitat in to attract and serve wild marine populations while creating novel opportunities in the Blue economy and reconnecting communities with the ocean and our food sources.


Additional Links

Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

“Whether we speak of fishing zones or fish migration, coastal resilience or tropical storms, the ocean is both a frame for regulatory controls and a field of uncontrollable, indivisible processes. To characterize the ocean as catastrophic—imperiled environment, coastal risk, or contested territory—is to overlook its potential power.” – Pierre Belanger, “The Other 71 Percent,” Harvard Design Magazine, Vol 39: Wet Matter, 2014 In this design-research studio, we will be extending landscape thinking beyond land to address “the other 71 percent” of our planet’s surface - our oceans. Composing much of our planet’s biosphere, the ocean contains 97% of the Earth’s water and is an integral part of both the emergence and maintenance of life on earth. It is the single largest store of carbon on our planet and forms a significant part of the carbon cycle. Ocean currents and temperatures influence the climate and affect our weather patterns, and oceanic evaporation impacts both the frequency and force of precipitation, all of which are dramatically shifting due to ongoing anthropogenic forces. Its physical extents spans both depth (to some 36,000 feet below water) and distance, and this incredible volume hosts some 230,000 known marine species, including bacteria, archaea, algae, fungi, and up to 2 million unknown species, given that much of the ocean is still unexplored. Some of these species comprise a significant percentage of our food, as the ocean serves as a major source for edible flora and fauna, including shrimp, fish, crabs, lobster, seaweed, (etc). Meanwhile the ocean, like other natural systems, is facing unprecedented threats. Pollution, 80% of which is from land-based origins, including sewage discharge from industrial plants and factories, pesticide runoff from industrial agriculture, and plastics (to name only a few), all contribute to ongoing hazardous conditions such as oxygen depletion, harmful algal blooms, coral bleaching, alterations in chemistry, temperatures and many other oceanic processes, which are detrimental to the overall health of the ocean. Moreover, the rise of invasive species on the one hand and overfishing on the other, are additionally disrupting the ecological balance and diminishing the biodiversity of marine life. Landscape architecture has tackled the ocean as a site of intervention but with a focus on the coast. As climate change increasingly makes palpable global inequities in terms of degrees of impact and risk, it additionally heightens the tension between the force of the ocean against the fixity of land. The rising or surging ocean is seen as a “threat” to our coastal areas and communities with particular concern over damage to property and infrastructure as well as beaches and marshes that serve as natural buffers that “protect us” from the ocean’s “encroachment.” “The ocean remains a glaring blind spot in the Western imagination,” says landscape architect Pierre Belanger in the introduction to Wet Matter. Stopping at the coastline as the hard line between land and the undefinable or unknowable sea is clearly not an affective strategy to understand how to live (and die) in the crises we have created. Whether terrestrial or marine, we are all immersed in and part of the atmospheric forces of the hydrologic cycle. The ocean cannot be Othered as something “out there” since it binds as together on this fracturing planet. This studio asserts that our skills not only apply to the “design” of our oceans, but that they are in fact critical and necessary in addressing some of the most pressing ecological and climate issues of today. As a planetary system, imagining the future of our oceans is essential to our obligatory efforts at achieving improved health, equity and resilience.