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Sea silk is an expensive textile derived from the byssus of pen shells. While it is evidently quite hard for land-dwellers to obtain, it seems uncertain if the same would be true with marine beings

The merfolk are humanlike, and can live in the same habitats that pen shells grow. They have the same intelligence and dexterity as humans, and can breathe underwater. Their technology is as modern

Would these merfolk be able to collect sea silk more efficiently than humans on land?

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    $\begingroup$ > Would these merfolk be able to collect sea silk more efficiently than humans on land? Yes. $\endgroup$
    – wokopa
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 0:12

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No.

In modern society, farming sea life is a pretty common activity. Oysters, pearls, seaweed and all manners of sea based resources are farmed by people on land or in a boat and rarely divers.

The main issue isn't access to these underwater resources, its that sea water will naturally corrode and destroy and equipment used to harvest, store and process the materials when applied at scale.

Modern farming means modern machinery, and since sea water corrodes metal 10x faster than it sitting in the air, your Merfolk are going to have an insane amount of upkeep to constantly replace the equipment they need to compete with modern farming. Not to mention the rest of the manufacturing process.

So your Merfolk might be able to maintain a nice and profitable boutique Sea-Silk operation, Or they could be a Cog in the machine that is the global consumer market that will harvest millions of pen shells in one country. Ship them across the world to be processed in another. And ship them back across the world to be sold.

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Being more efficient does not necessarily mean cheaper. There are other important factors in play, too, such as law of supply and demand.

Merfolk could also have a monopoly over sea silk, eg. by eliminating competition, chasing away poor land-dwellers whenever they try to harvest the valuable byssus, and effectively being able to dictate the price of the luxurious sea silk, because no one can sell it cheaper... because no one else can produce it.

See eg. how price of diamonds is determined: Is it true that the price of diamonds is based on a monopoly?

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