ABUNDANT HARVEST AND FISHING FOR TROUBLE
In An Allegory of Water Jacobo Bassano uses a fish market to show the abundance that comes from the sea. The market is being set up on the waterfront just before dawn. The iconography, a mélange of realistic, biblical, and mythologic subjects, is animated by the give and take of ordinary people. The rich harvest of fish and brisk activity so early in the day, the backdrop of classical ruins, and divine presence signal that all is well in this community so heavily reliant on water. As long as Neptune is not angry and the waters flow calm, the abundant catch will feed the multitudes.
So it was, 400 years before overfishing, globalization, and aquaculture altered the bounties of the sea. Bassano’s water idyll and its harvest benefiting the local populace is not just a Renaissance tribute to the physical elements and their allegorical presence in human lives. It is also a record of a local industry long gone. With Neptune out of the picture, climatic and biological tempests, among them foodborne and occupational zoonoses, are unleashed. Moreover, manipulation of local water resources can expose larger groups to higher levels of contagion, as in northern Vietnam, where fish-borne zoonotic trematodes have infected an estimated one million residents of the Red River Delta. Public health research that identifies reservoirs and mechanisms of transmission provides the management framework for effective and efficient interventions. Without them, fishing for the masses can overflow the boundaries of food safety.