The Cardiff Hub organised a programme of public talks on the theme Food from the Oceans, in collaboration with SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies). The programme was hosted at the Norwegian Church on 14th and 15th July and took place alongside the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival, which attracts around 80,000 people. It also featured a public debate on the theme of Can we get more food from the ocean?
Roald Dahl and the Ocean, Professor Gunnstein Akselberg, Bergen University
Professor Akselberg showed how the ocean plays a small but vital role in Dahl’s life and his literature.
Reading from Dahl’s autobiography and some of his books and stories (Boy, The Boy who Talked with Animals, Thy Shall not Grow Old, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, James and the Giant Peach), Professor Akselberg gave examples of Dahl’s connection with the sea.
In The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, he quotes the rhyme of the Duchess, a famous opera singer who thinks her jewels have been stolen:
My diamonds are over the ocean,
My diamonds are over the sea,
My diamonds were pinched from my bedroom,
Oh, bring back my diamonds to me. Etc. (Copyrighted material)
Quizzed by members of the audience, Professor Akselberg felt that Dahl often saw the sea as something quite dangerous but that it was an integral part of his life.
My work as a fisherman, not so much a job, as a lifestyle, Ian Kinsey
Ian Kinsey was born in Wales but has lived in Norway for 35 years. He shared his experience of life as a fisherman, starting in Conwy in the late 1960s at the age of 16. The life of a fisherman was a tough, dangerous one, with long hours, little money but a strong bond of comradeship. Accidents could be relatively common, bad weather was a normal hazard of the job (anything from the freezing cold, to ferocious storms). It is still a job that requires passion and a sense of adventure.
After time spent fishing in Scotland, Ireland and even New Zealand, he moved to Norway. In 2000, he bought his own boat and worked alone, often for months away at sea.
Ian described the changes to fishing industry over the past half-century, with the sector battling to show its real identity. The fisherman of today are educated, interested in science and environmental issues. Working conditions are now much improved. In some areas of the world, management of fishing is far more effective, but not everywhere. Ian now spends his time trying to build bridges between fishermen, scientists and policymakers, encouraging good management and a sense of stewardship.
Harvesting the North Seas: an archaeological perspective, Professor John Hines, Cardiff University
Professor Hines charted the history and development of fishing. He started by showing early artefacts from the Stone Age and described the gradual change in diet from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic periods, when humans took up farming. Fishing had been undertaken in shallow coastal and estuary waters but in the Middle Ages moved out to the deep sea. A ready supply of fish enabled urban societies to develop.
The rediscovery of seaweeds as food, Dr Arne Duinker, National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (Norway)
Continuing the historical link, Arne told the audience that the Vikings were eating seaweed dried in barrels. Since then, seaweed had been forgotten as a food in Norway, but not in Wales. It was now making a comeback, as people discover its unique and wonderful taste. Arne has been working with chefs to introduce new types of food into restaurants. Seaweed is one of many ‘sea vegetables’ and can be cooked in many different ways, for example, baked, fried and grilled. Seaweed can be used to enhance the taste of other food, having a distinctive ‘umami’ taste. It can even be used in desserts, like ice cream, cakes and smoothies.
Art, Architecture and Algae, Professor David Thomas, Bangor University
The interest of Professor David Thomas is in the interconnection between art and science, particularly in shapes and form, underpinned by mathematics.
Algae are not plants, as they have no flowers or roots. Seaweeds are beautiful at scale, with bright colours, strange forms and wonderful movement. Diatoms, a major group of algae, have fantastic strength in their shells, inspiring corporations like Mercedes in the design of wheel hubs on vehicles. Diatoms have also inspired architects such as Frei Otto in the design of domes and roofs, which need to be both strong and lightweight. A good example is the Olympic Stadium in Munich.