An Interview with Paul Greenberg

On September 28, 2018, The Fletcher School hosted The Ocean’s Turn? conference – a one-day event that looked at the role of the ocean as an avenue, an arena, and a source, and examined it all through the lens of geopolitics, sustainability and an overarching notion of innovation.

The conference brought together thought leaders from around the globe to examine critical issues facing the world’s oceans today. One of the experts who presented at the conference was Paul Greenberg, a bestselling American author on the ocean and environmental issues. This interview was conducted by Chloe Logan, Senior Web Editor, and Samantha Chen, Web Staff Editor.

 

FF: You recently released a new book, The Omega Principle. Could you please give a brief overview of what your book is about?

PG: When people think of seafood, they tend to think about this molecule called omega-3s, which is actually a family of molecules. And they think of seafood not necessarily as a food, [but] as a nutraceutical, like it’s this food that’s also somehow a bag of nutrients. As somebody who really loves the ecology of the ocean, I wanted to take those people by the shoulders and shake them a little bit and say, “Okay, I’ll tell you about your omega-3s, where they come from, [and] how best to get them, but let’s really talk about the very fundamental parts of the ocean that make omega-3s.” They come from the bottom of the food chain, which is plankton. So, I wanted to give an ecology lesson at the same time I was giving a health lesson. There is [also] a fair amount in the book about the scientific method, and how we know if anything works, whether it’s in health and nutrition, medicine, or environmental policy.

FF: In one of your opinion pieces, you mention that the fish reduction industry has been targeting Antarctic krill. What are the global and environmental implications of removing the krill from their ecosystem?

PG: Krill is the largest single-species animal biomass in the world and some estimates put it in excess of 500 million metric tons. To put that into perspective, all the fish that humans catch is only 80 or 90 million metric tons. So, there’s way more krill out there than fish we catch. And we’re not catching that much krill; we’re catching 200 to 400 thousand metric tons, so it’s actually fairly small. That said, the Antarctic ecosystem is what ecologists call a “wasp-waist” ecosystem, meaning that it’s like an hourglass: in the middle is a single species that’s a pinch point. So, there are all these organisms beneath krill that krill eat and then there are all these organisms above krill that krill feed. And if you negatively impact the krill population, then you have this real potential to throw the ecosystem out of order. Right now, with the present amount of [krill] extraction going on, I don’t know that we’re necessarily endangering the Antarctic ecosystem. But there are a lot of people who would like to get their hands on the krill. Developing countries everywhere see it as a potential protein source – a source for animal feed. Nearly everything else in the Antarctic is protected, so I say why not protect the krill as well.

 

To see the rest of this article, go to The Fletcher Forum.

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