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The Roman Empire, Food Sustainability and 2012

Posted on January 06th 2012

There are many theories on why the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. One overlooked theory is about food sustainability.  The Romans advanced their culture with a great base of food production in North Africa as well as precious metal production with a strong mining industry in the Mediterranean region. Wheat and gold were the backbone of the military and fed and financed the advance of the Roman culture throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa and later on Northern Europe. While there was a gradual collapse of the political, economic, military and other social institutions, it could be argued that the Romans got busy with non-productive divisive exploits and forgot what had made them one of the World’s greatest military machines: production and control of food.

The sea was largely overlooked by the Romans as a source of food. Although the Navy enjoyed great status, fishing or fish consumption is rarely mentioned in writings of the Roman period. Most of the fishing was left to the Jews and the early Christians. The power of the Roman Empire began to fade and what we do know is that the food production in Northern Europe increased significantly as well as fish consumption in southern Europe. 

While 2011 will be remembered for many reasons, such as The Arab Spring, The Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami (and the resulting nuclear disaster), and the Economic Collapse in Europe—most notably Greece and Italy—there are 2 milestones that should be highlighted: the Earth’s population exceeding 7 billion and the fact that more than half of the seafood consumed worldwide is now farmed. 

There is no doubt that the world is growing richer despite the current Economic challenges in the “Developed” world, especially in the Far East.  As the population continues to grow in size and wealth, the demand for high-quality protein and energy for food will increase significantly.  We will only meet this demand by farming our seas, sustainably. With over 50% of seafood now coming from aquaculture we are well on our way.  Let’s make 2012 a year remembered as one that recognized the significant and essential contribution of Aquaculture to the production and sustainability of the world’s food supply.