Aquaculture, in common with all other food production practices, is facing challenges for sustainable development. Most aqua-farmers, like their terrestrial counterparts, are continuously pursuing ways and means of improving their production practices, to make them more efficient and cost-effective. Awareness of potential environmental problems has increased significantly. Efforts are under way to further improve human capacity, resource use and environmental management in aquaculture. COFI emphasized enhancement of inland fish production through integrated aquaculture-agriculture farming systems and integrated utilization of small and medium-size water bodies.
Integrated aquaculture has a variety of benefits for farmers in addition to the production of fish for consumption or sale. In Asia, for example, rice farmers use certain species of fish to fight rice pests such as the golden snail. With rice-fish farming, they boost their rice yields and harvest the fish. Under FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), farmers in Zambia are introducing small ponds into their home gardens for irrigation and aquaculture. Mud from the bottom of fish ponds is also an organic mineral-rich fertilizer.
In traditional, extensive aquaculture, fish can be bred in open waters such as lakes, estuaries or coastal bays, where they feed on naturally available nutrients, or in farm ponds, where they can be fed with by-products from the farm. Traditionally in China, more than five species of carp are bred together to make the best use of feeds and ponds.
The promotion of sustainable aquaculture development requires that "enabling environments", in particular those aimed at ensuring continuing human resource development and capacity building, are created and maintained. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries contains principles and provisions in support of sustainable aquaculture development. The Code recognizes the Special Requirements of Developing Countries, and its Article 5 addresses in particular these needs, especially in the areas of financial and technical assistance, technology transfer, training and scientific cooperation.