Azara Blog: Egyptian fisheries allegedly benefit from agricultural fertilizer run-off

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Date published: 2009/01/20

The BBC says:

Fertilisers and sewage discharges entering the Nile delta have boosted fish stocks in Mediterranean coastal waters nearby, a study suggests.

A team of researchers found that the dramatic increase in fish populations coincided with a sharp rise in the amount of fertilisers used by farmers.

At least 60% of the area's fishery production is supported by the run-off entering the Nile's water, they added.
"This is really a story about how people unintentionally impact ecosystems," explained co-author Autumn Oczkowski from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.
Ms Oczkowski acknowledged that the findings differed from the prevailing view that excess sewage or fertilisers entering bodies of water was detrimental to marine ecosystems.

"We're programmed in the West to think of nutrient enrichment of coastal systems as bad," she said.

"It's a major issue in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico where run-off of fertilisers... into the Mississippi River has caused a dead zone in the Gulf.

"But the Egyptians don't think it's a bad thing.

"For them, it's producing tonnes of fish and feeding millions of hungry people."

However, she added: "It remains to be seen how sustainable these 'artificial fisheries' will be over the long-term.

"Some preliminary evidence indicates that increasing nutrient loads may stimulate (fish) landings up to a point, beyond which the fisheries decline [as a result of] poor water quality or overfishing."

It's only one study, so has to be taken with a pinch of salt. But it's definitely produced an interesting result, if it is indeed the correct interpretation.

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