This field document essays a perspective on Libyan coastal aquaculture possibilities and development options. It is offered as a preliminary rather than definitive or comprehensive guide, and should only be considered as such. With respect to planning applications, for instance, whilst key elements are highlighted for the attention of SMW officials and others involved with sectoral administration and use issues, the document certainly does not represent a full scale development agenda in itself Equally, though various technical and practical considerations are raised, they are not treated in the fine technical detail that would be expected of specialists charged with the study of specific sites or projects. Nor is their any claim to exhaustive geographical coverage, although virtually all sites for which field observations or secondary information could be assembled have been reviewed.
Aquafarming worldwide has shown substantial growth, particularly in the last few decades. This has occurred in response to increasingly apparent production limitations within capture fisheries as stocks near or even exceed the point of full exploitation. It has also been facilitated by new breeding and rearing technologies that have become available to the industry. Fish culture in countries around the Mediterranean has reflected the global upward trend, most notably in connection with production of high valued species like sea bass and sea bream.
Within Libya a growing interest in aquafarming is evident through the various projects that have been undertaken since the mid-1970s. Although these ‘start-up’ activities have been valuable as trial or pilot efforts, a full planning framework setting out sectoral objectives and the programme for their attainment remains to be elaborated. Projects even of a modest scale require considerable commitment of resources and such investments normally ought to be justified in terms of anticipated returns and implemented in a way that ensures maximum overall effect. With several major new projects now under implementation or due to begin soon, the need for the SMW to elaborate a sectoral planning framework is all the more pressing.
In the Libyan context any consideration of fish farming possibilities should basically be concerned with mariculture, for obvious reasons. Whilst it is true that inland (freshwater) culture projects have been launched and that some success has been witnessed, overall results have not been particularly encouraging. It is moreover difficult to envision that they ever could be, given the prevailing geo-climatic conditions. Planning for future aquaculture enterprise must necessarily be directed largely towards possibilities to be found along Libya's almost 2000 km long stretch of Mediterranean coastline. As this coastline is not uniform in its features, aquafarming techniques that might make sense for one one locality could be totally inappropriate for others. Nor should it be supposed that there is one ‘right’ technique for each and every locality. To the contrary, it can be expected that most places will be found upon examination to be totally unsuitable for any sort of aquafarming development.
Site selection is a process of matching a complex array of environmental and socioeconomic factors with production technology in the form of onshore ponds and raceways, lagoon and wetland/saltmarsh modifications for production enhancement, or inshore and offshore cage units. Site specific factors include, for example, water quality and depth, prevailing winds and currents, extent of sheltered surface area, infrastructure availability, existing and potential markets, development and operating costs and expected financial performance, and other complementary or conflicting claims to site resource use. Taken in combination for any particular locality they may yield conditons that are conducive to several different aquafarming system options, perhaps only one, or - the more likely outcome - perhaps none at all.]
Application of standard site selection criteria quickly eliminates large stretches of the Libyan coastal zone from consideration as offering realistic aquatic farming possibilities. Many sites can be crossed off as candidates because of one simple but critical deficiency. Gulfs or bays at the mouths of a number of wadis along the Jebal Akdhar and Tubruk zones, for instance, might seem attractive locations for inshore cage installations until it is remembered that the same wadis are subject to unpredictable massive flash floods which would be bound to destroy any aquafarming project in their paths. Or, to take another example, almost the entire coastline between Sabratah and Tajura is highly unsuitable for aquafarming of any sort due to very severe water pollution and coastal environment degradation.
Observations and development option recommendations of both a general and site-specific nature presented in the main body of this document are also condensed into summary tables that appear within the annexes. Those of key importance can be drawn together as follows.
Planning and technical support
As just alluded to above, there is a pressing need to elaborate an adequate national aquaculture planning framework. The sector plan should spell out the way strategies for aquaculture relate to overall national objectives on the one hand, and how these strategies are to be put into effect through specific policies and policy instruments on the other. A properly integrated set of strategy-policy-instrument components will ensure that the overall process of national aquaculture development does not unfold in an ad hoc or uncoordinated way, lacking in sufficient coherence, direction, care, and deliberation.
One part of the policy ‘toolkit’ that warrants special attention is fisheries/aquaculture legislation. As far as can be determined there is as yet no statutary basis for the conduct or regulation of aquaculture activities in the country, although some technical guideline material has been formulated by the SMW.
Other sectoral planning-related observations pertain to the need for adequate technical and advisory support to a developing national aquaculture industry in the form of hatchery and extension services. Operators of small-to medium-scale enterprises would probably not find it economical to run their own fry production facilities or to retain full-time specialists to manage rearing cycles, disease control, etc. Centralised services at a national level, and eventually perhaps at more localised regional levels, would be appropriate to the needs of such operators. Services could be provided on a private commercial basis or through a public agency on semi-commercial lines, with users bearing at least part of the costs involved. Training of both industry technical personnel and field extension staff would also have to be provided for in some fashion, as well as essential research and development work on behalf of the industry.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Other key observations concern issues of sustained use of marine and coastal zone resources and the preservation of natural heritage. Improved environmental management is identified as an urgent priority in the case of numerous sites and several stretches of shoreline. New management initiatives for an onshore-nearshore corridor and adjacent areas should encompass measures for pollution control and abatement, restoration of degraded areas, and protection under special reserve status of important natural and scenic shorelands, coastal waters, lagoons, wetland settings, and wildlife/bird refuges. Many states around the world are turning to the model of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) as a means to deal with complex issues of resource use conflicts and the need to promote economic development without the cost of environmental degradation, and its application would certainly be of great relevance and value in the case of the Libyan coastal corridor.
The ICZM approach10 recognises that coastal areas offer special natural resources and economic development opportunities that are of concern to a variety of different agencies, groups, and individuals who have an interest or a ‘stake’ in maintaining the existence of the resource base and/or its exploitation for one purpose or another. Such ‘stakeholders’ may represent sectors as diverse as fisheries and aquaculture, wildlife conservation, shipping, tourism, agriculture, public utilities, and commercial real estate and housing. ICZM attempts to set coastal resource systems and their management in broad perspective, looking at the whole picture of resource availability, use claims, and present and projected patterns of exploitation pressure and what they imply. Its aims are thus holistic (dealing with coastal zones as a single, unified whole), comprehensive (wide scope of purpose), and integrative (seeks collaboration between all sector agencies and stakeholders in achieving objectives). Although preservation of natural settings and biodiversity are central themes emphasised in ICZM, it serves equally to promote optimal socioeconomic outcomes in the long-term. Resource preservation and extractive resource use for economic growth are therefore not cast as necessarily contradictory ends.
It must be recognized that it is becoming increasingly difficult to conserve any one particular resource in the absence of a comprehensive, integrated framework for policy, planning and management such as ICZM. Resources conservation and economic development concerns can and must be combined. Well-planned, conservation-oriented development will add to the economic and social prosperity of a coastal community in the long term. Environmentally destructive development will sooner or later have a negative socio-economic impact [Clark 1992:1].
The guiding principle is sustainability, as distinct from the shortsightedness of resource depletion through uncontrolled exploitation for the sake of quick gain. Clark (1992), following Snedaker and Getter (1985), draws on the investment analogy of ‘principal versus interest’ in stressing this point;
The criterion for sustainable use is that the resource not be harvested, extracted or utilized in excess of the amount which can be regenerated. In essence, the resource is seen as a capital investment with an annual yield; it is therefore the yield that is utilized and not the capital investment which is the resource base. By sustaining the resource base, annual yields are assured in perpetuity… [Clark 1992:13],
Sites and production modalities
With regard to the siting and utility of various aquaculture production systems for Libyan coastal application, major points to bear in mind include: a) the overall need for a gradualist approach in the building of national aquafarming capacity in order to avoid the waste and disappointment of production technologies ill-suited to local environments, uneconomic projects, and overcapitalisation (excessive capacity); b) the existence of extensive areas of shoreland which could be suitable for pond and raceway developments of both large-and small-scale; c) the rather limited opportunities that exist for the development of inshore cage farms or for production enhancement within lagoons, wadi embayments, wetlands, or sabkha (saltmarsh) areas; and d) the new opportunities offered by recent technological developments that make it possible to farm in more exposed locations offshore.
Planning, technical support, and ICZM
Steps should be taken as a matter of high priority to ensure the clear delineation of sectoral objectives with regard to the role of aquaculture and to draft a comprehensive plan laying out the strategies, policies, and policy instruments for their attainment.
This exercise should include a thorough review of existing fisheries/aquaculture legislation, which stands in need of revision and upgrading in order to serve more effectively as part of the policy toolkit.
Planners should aim at a cautious and gradual approach to the development of aquafarming capacity in the country both in terms of physical installations and provision of technical support agencies.
Consolidation and ‘tuning up’ of existing aquaculture-related establishments and facilities for better service delivery to the sector would at this stage seem a more logical and cost-effective strategy than one involving the creation of additional official institutional dimensions - agencies, departments, etc. - either within the SMW or in other secretariats.
The potential of GADA to serve as a demonstration and extension agency for promoting and servicing aquafarming enterprise amongst smallholders and large-scale investors, and of the MBRC to provide essential academic and technical staff training as well as R & D support to the industry, should thus be fully mobilised.
New planning and management initiatives for the aquaculture sector should not be conceived or implemented in isolation from other sectors and interest groups that have a stake in sustainable coastal resource development. An Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) approach should be adopted as a tool to ensure a balanced use regime for the onshore-nearshore corridor. Utmost priority must be accorded to the needs for pollution control, marine and shoreside environment restoration, and designation of sensitive aquatic and terrestrial settings and habitats as protected areas.
Sites and production modalities
Just as the overall process of national aquaculture development requires caution and deliberation for successful implementation, so too should individual projects be undertaken with due care. The temptation to ‘see instant results’ by launching projects in haste, without adequate preparation through detailed site selection and feasibility assessment work, should be avoided at all costs.
Post-implementation assessment and monitoring is equally important. For projects already underway, notably at Ain Kaam, Ain El Ghazala, and Ain Ziana, performance evaluation should be an ongoing activity. Such evaluation should help to determine whether intended objectives are being achieved and whether there are administrative or operational deficiencies that need to be remedied. It should also help to establish the effects or implications of existing projects for the wider industry. In the case of the new Ain Ziana hatchery and growout complex, it would seem especially well advised to study outcomes before embarking on any additional large-scale capacity building along the same lines. As far as the hatchery side is concerned, a project of this scale would likely be able to supply more than enough fingerlings to satisfy all present and short-term future national aquafarming requirements.
Pond or raceway culture would appear widely possible within all the five zones delineated on the maps in Annex 1 (Zuwara, Tripoli, Gulf, Jabal Akhdar, and Tubruk), wherever flat sites with sandy/sandy-clay soils exist. It is however impossible to specify exact sites without detailed ground surveys, which should be conducted in order to determine whether particular localities are suitable with respect to a whole array of additional factors (water supply and quality, infrastructure and services, site development costs, etc.).
Opportunities for enhanced production systems in lagoons through the use of extensive management, cage or raft culture for finfish and shellfish, traps, channel modifications, etc., are extremely limited along the Libyan coast. True lagoon sites are few in number, comparatively shallow and small in area, and would entail very considerable development costs relative to potential yields. Further interventions at any of the three main coastal lagoons of Farwa, Ain Ziana, and Ain El Ghazala are definitely not indicated until proper hydraulic studies have been conducted.
Extensive sabkha areas are to be found adjacent to the shoreline along various parts of the coast, especially in the Zuwara and Gulf of Sirte zones. In general such settings are not at all appropriate for pond/raceway-based aquafarming projects as they pose problems of drainage and extreme physico-chemical conditions. Serious doubts can be raised about the viability of schemes based on the simple flooding of dyked saltmarsh plains.
In the case of the Smeda Sabkha in the El Hisha Reserve, consideration could be given to the conduct of field studies to establish the practical and economic feasibility of large-scale pond operations on higher ground above the flood plains.
All major sabkha areas should be systematically investigated to determine the extent and distribution of naturally occurring Artemia populations, with a view also towards determining possibilities for production enhancement and harvest in order to supply both domestic and export markets.
Possibilities for inshore or sheltered cage culture farming systems are extremely restricted. Pilot/trial operations at Ain Kaam, Abou Dzira, and Ain El Ghazala have yet to demonstrate the real potential or viability of such systems within the context of local lagoons and small water bodies. Questions may also be raised about whether any of these sites could support expanded production, since more needs to be known about the carrying capacity of their respective waters. The inlet of Marsa Oum Eshaouch may represent one of the few other sites along the coast where inshore cage installations could conceivably be operated to some advantage, and this possibiltiy should be followed up with a detailed study.
Gulfs, bays, or estuarine lagoons lying at the mouths of the numerous wadis along the coast, especially in the eastern stretches, should generally be ruled out of consideration for inshore cage or other types of aquafarming projects. Such sites are subject to episodes of flash flooding and in many cases constitute sensitive environments of special scenic and habitat value that should not be put at risk by unnecessary development intervention.
Offshore cage farming would seem to offer greater scope for development than inshore systems. Suitable locations are those where water depths are at least in the 25 – 35 m range, pollution risks and maritime traffic interference minimal, and operating bases with good infrastructure services lie within short steaming distances to allow for easy servicing, stocking, and harvesting activities. Such locations have been identified for offshore waters around Khums, Zlitan, Misratah, Susah, Darnah, Khalij Bumba, Tubruk, and El Burdi.
Khalij Bumba appears to offer one of the most suitable sites for offshore farming, considering the existence of deep waters within close operating range and the availability of a sheltered anchorage where nursery cages might be stationed. Consideration might thus be given to the possiblity of implementing a pilot operation, perhaps to be run on semi-commercial lines, and possibly tied in to activities and facilities that exist at nearby Ain El Ghazala farm.
No aquafarming projects of any kind are recommended for the nearshore or offshore waters or the shoreline in the Tripoli zone extending from Sabratah to Tajura, owing to severe pollution problems and overall degradation of the marine and terrestrial coastal environment.
In Tajura itself aquaculture pilot facilities could and should be established at the MBRC to strengthen the Centre's capabilities as a technical training establishment and to facilitate R & D work on behalf of the national aquaculture sector.
The SMW should seek collaboration with other relevant official agencies, especially including the Secretariat of Agriculture, the Technical Centre for Environment Protection, and the New Hisha Project, with a view towards securing special reserve status for all significant natural habitats and/or scenic shorelands, inshore water areas, lagoons, wetlands, wildlife/bird refuges, and marine turtle nesting sites. A preliminary list of such localities, subject to further additions, should include several already catalogued in this review - viz: Farwa Lagoon and Farwa Island, wadi mouths and beaches in the Garabulli area (Wadi El Massid, Wadi Turglat, Wadi Bsis, and Wadi Qirim), the coastal strip of El Hisha Reserve, the Abou Dzira lake complex, Ain Ziana, El Kouf, Wadi El Khalij and Wadi El Hamassah, Khalij Bumba, and the El Kuz and El Mhetah sabkha areas.
In the case of El Kouf, which is already gazetted as a national park, the SMW should work with the Secretariat of Agriculture to ensure that a marine and fisheries conservation dimension is included in an overall strategy of parkland protection.
10 Refer to Clark (1992) for a thorough introduction to the ICZM concept and its applications. Also see Rosenthal (1994) for a discussion of aquaculture project-environment interactions and policies for sustainable development.