"Seafood Innovation and Food Security"
Some classical economists, most notably Malthus, predicted that scarcity would undermine long-term human well-being. John Stuart Mill, in contrast, predicted that the threat of scarcity creates incentives for innovation that help to avoid some of the worst outcomes. Popular claims of marine ecologists often apply the Malthusian narrative to supplies of seafood with a litany of dire consequences for global food security, livelihoods, and human health. Yet, alarming messages about fishery declines contrast sharply with sustained increases in global production and consumption of seafood. In the seafood sector, innovation in response to and in anticipation of scarcity accounts for sustained growth despite continued challenges of overfishing and ecosystem degradation. Scarcities induce technological, policy, and market innovations that enable seafood supplies to grow and contribute to food security in both developed and developing countries. These innovations can also build on each other. The emergence of a global aquaculture industry, which now supplies half of the world’s seafood for human consumption and is the world’s fastest growing food production technology, illustrates the importance of innovation. Nevertheless, the aquaculture industry’s recent problems with disease outbreaks highlight the need for further technological and policy innovation. The challenge for policy makers is to avoid simplistic responses to Malthusian narratives that could stifle innovation and instead craft policy responses that encourage innovation while recognizing physical limits of ocean resources.
Martin Smith is the George M. Woodwell Distinguished Professor of Environmental Economics in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He earned a PhD at University of California, Davis and a BA at Stanford University. Smith studies the economics of the oceans and has published research on fisheries and aquaculture, ecosystem-based management, genetically modified foods, the global seafood trade, and coastal climate change adaptation. He has served on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Marine Resource Economics, and as a member of the Ocean Studies Board of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He has published over 100 scholarly articles, book chapters, and reviews, including works in The American Economic Review, Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Smith has made appearances on NPR and BBC Radio to discuss seafood issues and has received national and international awards, including an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.