Centuries of food and job security for coastal peoples
Coastal communities gain excess food and jobs. They can stay home and host newcomers with their new flexible floating fishing reefs.
Developing country coastal communities can feed the world (several times over) while restoring ocean biodiversity.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Restorative aquaculture addresses the root causes of forced migration by creating a new food resource for coastal people. This new resource (new infrastructure) can sustainably increase local fisheries yield well beyond the local need for food and jobs.
Many coastal communities are experiencing declining fisheries on top of climate change (droughts, floods, sea level rise, ocean acidification, ocean heatwaves, etc.). Restorative aquaculture allows these communities to stay home adapting to climate change while achieving a developed country quality of life.
The fisheries yields can be increased beyond the needs of the existing community such that additional talents (refugees) are welcome.
Communities also earn money from exporting seafood. The diagram above shows how the structure supports abundant growth of local types of seaweed, which support increased numbers of local types of small fish, which attract larger commercial sized fish. It also supports local varieties of shellfish, crustaceans, sponges, etc. There can even be a layer for sea cucumbers and other bottom feeders to thrive and be harvested.
In other words, we create an optimized reef ecosystem, even better than natural reefs because we adjust the depth at different times of year for maximum productivity.
These artificial reefs provide safer stable fishing platforms closer to shore and controlled by the local community, less likely to experience poaching and raiding by foreign fishers.
Circular plot of migration flows between and within regions 2005-2010. Tick marks show the number of migrants (inflows and outflows) in millions. Only flows containing at least 170,00 migrants are shown. Credit: Abel et al. 2014, Science/AAAS. (https://www.educationsansfrontieres.org/spip.php?article49518, Scientific American)
Note that most migrants stay on the same continent. Exceptions include Southern Asia, Oceania, Latin America & Caribbean, and Northern America.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
Every developing country coastal community. Restorative aquaculture appears better suited to developing country communities cooperating to protect and harvest many species in the area around their cluster of fishing reefs. Traditional aquaculture (penned finfish) has a developed country perspective, uses high cost fishmeal and is uncomfortable with free-range finfish, harvesting multiple species, and permanent rope reef structures.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Floating flexible fishing reefs vastly increase seafood production everywhere, thus making receiving communities able to handle more refugees. They are analogous to finding "new farmland". Each reef is new land that is farmed without freshwater. Developed countries could fund the creation of more new land (reefs) and training for the refugees proportional to the number of refugees that a community welcomes. Refugees would bring a huge new labor resource to match the new reef resource.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
These reefs directly meet the following UN Sustainable Development Goals: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good health, Clean Water, Economic Growth, Climate Action, and Life Below Water.
Global objectives – Give coastal people food, jobs, and hope for centuries. Food, jobs, and hope accomplish many UN Sustainable Development Goals. Centuries of food and job security allow coastal people to stay home and welcome refugees to their community.
Solve Global issues – People become refugees when home becomes unlivable. Homes become unlivable for many interrelated reasons, often acerbated by climate change:
• Insufficient food – Crop failures, fisheries collapse, and associated job loss (drought or running out of groundwater/snow melt; floods; changing sea level)
• Violence and associated job loss – Wars, gangs, sometimes power and wealth-control struggles, but often traced back to crop failures and insufficient hope for a job.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
Coastal communities can design, build, and operate their own fishing reefs as a new kind of aquaculture. As an example of a well-managed natural reef, consider the people of Punta Abreojos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. They manage abalone on nearby reefs for a sustainable developed-country income and quality of life. Every coastal community could have similar income and quality of life, if they had similar resources. Every coastal community could have similar resources in the form of a floating flexible reef. Every important natural reef could become a marine sanctuary with all the fishing on the natural reefs now moving to artificial floating reefs, which are scientifically designed and constructed and operated to be more productive per hectare.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
Restorative aquaculture involves large (20-hectare growing area per reef ) floating flexible fishing reefs. The reefs are installed in the open ocean at seafloor depths between 40 and 200 meters. The reef’s growing surface is normally at the ideal depth for local seaweed, 3 to 10 meters below the ocean surface. Some reefs may submerge to avoid storms. The reef’s ecosystem can be left to nature or planted. Species that will volunteer or can be planted include seaweeds, seagrasses, epiphytes, giant clams, oysters, mussels, conch, abalone, crabs, lobster, sea cucumber, sea urchin, sponges, herbivore finfish, filter-feeding finfish, sea turtles, aquatic mammals, predatory finfish, sharks, and more. Only some of the species on the reef will be harvested. Most of the species are left alone to reproduce, grow, and feed the harvested species.
Fishmeal is not required for fish production. Instead, plant nutrients replenish the nutrients harvested from the system by photosynthesis.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
These communities need access to the ocean, plus some people who have a history and interest in fishing. In many coastal developing countries (especially the least developed) foreign industrial fishing fleets, especially bottom trawlers, have put local fishers out of business by sweeping the coast of all fish, destroying the marine ecosystems so they cannot self-recover, especially when polluted by effluents from farms and inadequate, malfunctioning sewage systems. Fortunately artificial floating reefs can be scientifically designed and operated with seaweed and shellfish to transform excess pollutants into food for other creatures. Your fishing reef goes beyond sustainable. Your fishing reef goes beyond restoring local ecosystems to pre-human conditions. Your fishing reef can increase biodiversity and productivity in spite of climate change.
Left: Aquaculture as done in developed countries.
Right: Restorative aquaculture is more suitable for developing countries
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Economics – As the cost comparison at right suggests, most of the cost for restorative aquaculture is for infrastructure. Most of the cost for penned finfish is for unsustainable consumables. (Neither example includes boats, equipment and labor costs.)
Open-ocean restorative aquaculture can be combined with Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). For example, finfish pens may be attached to the flexible reef. Or the entire reef enclosed to be one huge pen. People could supply the penned finfish with fishmeal. The penned fish urine and feces become the fertilizer for seaweed and shellfish.
The cost of restorative aquaculture (top picture) is in the "new land". That is the cost of building a permanent floating flexible fishing reef. The cost situation and the sustainability is like that of renewable energy.
The cost of penned finfish aquaculture is in the feed, a consumable. The cost situation and the sustainability is like that of fossil fuel.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
We seek people in or from coastal communities with some local ocean fishing expertise. They might be about to move due to declining fisheries, or on the move. Ideally, those about to move would be open to hosting and training those on the move. Where there are welcoming hosts, we recommend installing more fishing reefs to provide more food and jobs than needed by the existing community.
The local community will design, own, and operate each fishing reef. Like a cluster of natural reefs, each new reef cluster will have a custom structure, custom substrate, custom sea creature shelters, custom harvest techniques, unique ecosystem, and custom economics. For example, some coastal communities may emphasize seafood selling for less than $1/kg at the dock. Other coastal communities may emphasize exports selling for $3/kg at the dock or restoring prehistoric fisheries such as Giant Clam in the Gulf of Thailand or Queen Conch in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Leaving a community of origin
Idea Proposal Stage
Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.
Group or Organization Name
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
The OceanForesters’ open-ocean permanent-reef concept for restorative aquaculture builds on Dr. Ricardo Radulovich’s near-shore multi-product sea-farms in Costa Rica. Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) MARINER program supported refining the design of one possible reef structure with associated scale and economics. The service life of the reef structure developed for ARPA-E exceeds 15-years, in locations with Category 5 tropical storms. The OceanForesters-organized team is led by the University of Southern Mississippi and includes faculty from University of New Hampshire, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, University of the South Pacific, U.S. Naval Academy, Florida Atlantic University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and University of Louisiana at Lafayette. We are grateful for informal assistance from Dr. Radulovich, Dr. Alejandro Buschmann, Dr. Kevin Hopkins, NOAA, Samson Rope, and Applied Fiber.
Type of submitter
We are a For-Profit Startup or Startup Social Enterprise
Organization Headquarters: Country
United States of America
Organization Headquarters: City / State