How aquaculture can aid mental health

A DEFICIENCY of omega 3 in diets is linked to an increase in mental disorders, a decline in IQ and a rise in anti-social behaviour.
This was one of the conclusions drawn by Michael Crawford, of Imperial College London, in the opening session of Aquaculture Europe 2017, being held this week in Dubrovnik.
Crawford – in a talk titled ‘Is substitution of fishmeal and fish oil compromising our omega 3 position?’ – credited the success of homo sapiens as a species to the evolution of the human brain.
The brain is composed of 60 per cent fat, derived from the ‘marine food web’; it has evolved from the sea over 500 million years, using marine fat, or DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid.
Studies have shown that the chemistry of the brain over time has remained more or less the same which, said Crawford, is compelling evidence of the ‘essentiality of DHA’.
He pointed out that the first human beings lived by the sea, and that as a species we could not have evolved on the savannahs, where there is little DHA in food.
DHA is irreplaceable in brain structure, yet our diets increasingly rely on land based  products. We have developed the wrong kind of fat – storage fat – and as we feed food like salmon, a source of DHA, a more plant based diet, DHA levels are further diminished.
Crawford painted a grim picture of the consequences of this trend, saying that brain disorders, ‘although beneath the radar’, are now the greatest challenge to human health, and there is a global crisis in nutrition.
To address this, the seas and oceans must be agriculturalised. Some 10,000 years ago we developed agriculture on land and now that ‘homo sapiens is threatened’, we must develop agriculture in the 70 per cent of the world’s surface that is covered by sea.
At present, man ‘is using the oceans in a Neanderthal way’, hunting and gathering, but increasing consumption of DHA can’t come from capture fisheries.
Crawford’s vision is for a new, marine, industrial revolution, with the creation of artificial reefs for ‘pasture development’, as is happening in Japan, and greater exploitation of coastlines.
The UK, for instance, has 19,000 miles of coastline – including ‘some of those unpopulated islands around Scotland’ – which could be put to use.
‘We have a staggering potential to meet our food needs…we need to get it right and it’s up to you,’ he told his audience of international aquaculture delegates.
Aquaculture Europe 2017, organised by the European Aquaculture Society and with the theme ‘Cooperation for growth’, runs from October 17-20.