HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, June 24, 2022

Fish, Whales, and a Blue Ethics for the Anthropocene: How Do We Think About the Last Wild Food in the 21st Century?

Robin Kundis Craig (University Southern California), Fish, Whales, and a Blue Ethics for the Anthropocene: How Do We Think About the Last Wild Food in the 21st Century?, S. Cal. L. Rev. (2022):

One of the lesser celebrated threads of Christopher Stone's scholarship was his interest in the ocean—especially international fisheries and whaling. Fish and whales are among the "last wild food”—that is, species that humans take directly from the wild for food purposes. While whales are primarily cultural food, fisheries remain important contributors to the human diet globally. Indeed, the food security issues surrounding marine foods are increasingly being recognized as an important international and domestic component of human well-being and equity. These concerns helped to spur the Fall 2021 launch of the Blue Foods movement and the conscious incorporation of aquatic foods into the pursuit of the United Nations' sustainable development goals.

At the same time, changes in the ocean resulting from climate change and other anthropogenic forces are making the commercial harvest of marine wild foods both increasingly unsustainable, simultaneously undermining ocean ecosystem function, marine biodiversity, and human food security. Humanity’s continued engagement in industrial-scale commercial marines fisheries is thus both factually uncertain and ethically suspect.

This Article explores the multilayered ethical issues surrounding Blue Foods in the Anthropocene, drawing from Stone's work in environmental ethics and Moral Pluralism. Finding a balance between protecting the world’s marine ecosystems and appropriately promoting the ocean’s contribution to global food security remains an important policy challenge for the 21st century, but one that nations can meet by privileging indigenous and local fisheries while simultaneously carefully expanding the more environmentally benign forms of marine aquaculture, particularly shellfish and kelp aquaculture.

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