Enclosure & privatization

Economy and Culture

The abundance of our marine commons is threatened by the workings of an unregulated market economy in which local knowledge and control are undervalued, coupled with an increasing global corporate interest in aquaculture. Impending risks to the seaweed commons include; privatization of the commons for foreign or out of state interests, offshore biofuels kelp farms displacing culinary markets for inland producers, and ecological shifts resulting from monoculture operations.

Continuously removing large volumes of photosynthesizing macro-algae reduces the available dissolved oxygen and shelter for small fish, crabs, invertebrates, etc— essentially clear-cutting the inter-tidal habitat so critical for all fisheries. Fish swim in the large deep sea, but the near-shore areas are disproportionately important to their life cycles. 
Contamination of coastal areas with sewage runoff, heavy metals, and chemical pollutants and especially nitrogen fertilizer impacts the health and usability of algae. Toxic algae blooms are one consequence of this pollution, fresh-water blue-green algae in some cases can metabolize glyphosate.
Now is the time to think ahead, layout stewardship principles, practical harvest frameworks, policy framework, and market standards— so that aquatic farming (seaweed farming) can become a positive contributor to rural development, and not overwhelm the lively ecology at the threshold of land and sea.

Circa. 1915


South Korea’s seaweed farms can be seen from space


“Enclosure is about dispossession. It privatizes and commodifies resources that belong to a community or to everyone, and dismantles a commons-based culture (egalitarian co-production and co-governance) with a market order (money-based producer/consumer relationships and hierarchies). Markets tend to have thin commitments to localities, cultures and ways of life; for any commons, however, these are indispensable.”

– Bollier

Resistance to salmon farms

Right now local communities all over the world are fighting against the exploitation of their seaweed resources and marine habitats by major corporations. The battles for accountability (Citizens for Responsible Aquaculture), especially in the salmon farming sector, have created massive citizen distrust of aquaculture. Failure by governments and marine authorities to adequately regulate and police the current operations make it hard to trust that future, even larger scale marine operations will operate in a ‘ best practice’ manner.


Aquaculture and privatization 

Conventional aquaculture is already a massive industry with sprawling global supply chains responsible for massive mining of wild fisheries, as well as GMO inputs such as corn, wheat gluten.. creating plumes of pollution and using questionable chemicals to treat unhealthy confined fish.

Mortality rates are staggering. Despite massive public mobilization and environmental concerns about already leaky salmon pen facilities, and the impacts on wild fish stocks the so-called “aqua bounty”, genetically engineered salmon has recently been approved. There is concern that similar breeding of  ‘industrial’ kelps could have tragic impact and gene flow in the open, turbulent ocean, indeed it is marine algae and microalgae who are our biggest carbon sequestration allies-- even minor damage to this massive ecosystem could impact all life on earth. 


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