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WHALE CULTURE—A PROPOSAL GIFFORD B. PINCHOT* In the summer of 1964 my wife and I, with friends as crew, sailed our yawl Loon to the South Pacific. This was primarily a pleasure cruise, and I was on a leave ofabsence fromJohns Hopkins University. Science was not entirely forgotten, however, and in fact quite the opposite turned out to be the case. A happy combination of scientifically stimulating crew members and the biologically fascinating areas we sailed in produced good scientific conversation, which in turn led to the proposal presented here. This is that the large plankton-eating whales, such as the blue, humpback, and sei whales, can and should be raised in captivity to provide food and especially animal protein for the rapidly expanding human population of the world. This can be most effectively done in the coral atolls of the Pacific Ocean. An added reason for doing this, and doing it soon, is that thesewhales are in imminent danger ofbeing exterminated by the whaling industry. Science was temporarily ignored in favor of racing during the first leg of the voyage from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda in the biennial Bermuda Race. This did not have the anticipated or at least desired effect ofmaximizing our racing performance, and we finished well down in the middle of our class. Following the race, most ofour non-scientifically oriented racing crew returned home, and Dr. W. D. McElroy signed on for the 800-mile leg from Bermuda to the Virgin Islands. He and I share an interest in marine biology, and he is much concerned with population problems. We also shared a watch together, and the talk naturally turned to the role the ocean must play in feeding the peoples ofthe world. One has only to read the newspapers' reports of the impending famine in India to realize that in * Careerinvestigator, U.S. Public Health Service. Contribution No.476 from the McCollum-Pratt Institute and the Department ofBiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218. 33 many parts of the world the population has already outgrown its food supply. Moreover, famine alone gives only part ofthe picture, since protein deficiency is even more of a problem than inadequate supplies of calories. It has been estimated, for instance, that one-halfthe deaths in the world between weaning and five years ofage are attributable to deficient intake ofanimal protein. It has also been stated that protein deficiency is now a basic barrier to social and economic development in more than onehalf the world and that approximately one-third of the population now suffers some degree ofprotein deficiency. This situation will become much worse because ofthe tremendous increase in population taking place now and the even more rapid rise predicted for the future. The problem of growing enough food to feed this population is a vast and challenging one. In the final analysis all life (with the exception ofa few specialized bacteria) depends on using energy from the sun in photosynthesis to convert inorganic nutrients into organic foodstuffs. This process is carried out by plants on land and in the oceans. All the rest of us, who are not capable ofphotosynthesis, live either directly or indirectly on these plant products. Since the oceans cover almost three-quarters ofthe surface ofthe earth, they receive roughly three times as much sunlight as the land and therefore have the potential ability to produce much more food than the land. This potential is, however, clearly only a potential at the moment, since we have not yet learned to seed, fertilize, and harvest the oceans as we do the land. In spite ofour advances in technology ashore, we still hunt the oceans rather than farm them. In addition, great expanses ofthe oceans, particularly in the tropics, produce very small amounts of food, because inorganic nutrients are present in such low concentrations in the surface water that plant growth is extremely slow. The deeper water is rich in nutrients, but these are unavailable for photosynthesis since light does not penetrate to these depths [i]. Ryther's figures [i] give an idea ofthe barrenness of tropical seas. He states that on land, under optimal conditions, plants are capable ofproducing io g of organic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 33-43
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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