Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Kofi Annan: Michael Crawford responds

Earlier in June 2012, Kofi Annan told delegates at AquaVision 2012 in Stavanger, Norway, that Aquaculture has the potential to contribute to reducing world hunger.

The former Secretary-General of the UN, who was the main speaker at the show, directly addressed the food security challenges of the coming decades.
English: Mr. Kofi Annan, former General Secrat...
English: Mr. Kofi Annan, former General Secratery of the United Nations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In response, Michael Crawford of Imperial College London, had this to say:
Kofi Annan is of course right. Aquaculture has to play a key role in the future supply of food. Fish and sea food is especially important for health and to combat the rising mental ill health through its rich provision of long chain omega 3 fatty acids needed by the brain. Mental ill health is predicted by the Global Forum for Health to be no 2 burden of ill health by 2020 world wide: just 8 years time.

There is a catch! According to FAO, the wild fish catch reached its limit about 2000. That means the amount of by-product for aquaculture must also reach a limit.

People are aware of this and are trying to feed salmon on vegetable oil. This has resulted in the amount of omega 6 linoleic acid rising from a trace amount to 10 and even higher percentages of the fatty acids in the fish oils. This is a disaster of monumental proportions as linoleic acid being an omega 6 fatty acid will compete with the omega 3 and dumb down the health benefits.

Whilst much can be done with the herbivorous fish and sea foods, the long term answer is not aquaculture but marine agriculture. We have to start farming the sea bed as is being done in Japan and Indonesia. That is we have to "agriculturalise" the oceans.

We know more about the surface of the moon and mars than we do about the oceans of our own planet. There has to be a complete paradigm shift in investment and initiative. And the reason is clear: the brain evolved in the sea 500 million years ago. Despite the greatly changing genome from cephalopds to fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds, mammals and ourselves, we still use the same essential chemistry of marine fats to build and keep our brains functional.

The likelihood is that humans evolved at the coast and the richness of the sea food powered the development of the brain. Land mammals experienced a loss of brain capacity as they evolved bigger bodies. Take for example a zebra has 360g brain. A marine mammal with a similar body size, the dolphin has 1.8 Kg brain. Chris Stringer of the British Museum points to the evidence that Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa to populate the planet around the coast lines. As populations grew people moved inland and today this is where you find iodine deficiency, the commonest cause of mental retardation. Today, there are 2 billion people at risk to iodine deficiency. The richest source of iodine is in the marine food web alongside the omega 3 essential fats also needed for the brain.

With mental ill health having already overtaken all other burdens of ill health the security of the marine food web has to be n o 1 priority. However, the hunting and gathering has reached its limit, aquaculture for the carnivorous fish which are the richest in the brain specific nutrients, will also reach its limits but will have an important role to play if managed properly. Yet population expansion is in full exponential swing. We have to agriculturalise the oceans.

Mickael Crawford will take part in of both Roy Palmer’s Think-tanks at the BioMarine Business Convention.

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