Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Aquaculture sector can meet Asia’s increasing fish demand without compromising sustainability

Bangkok, Thailand, 11 Oct 2012 -- A regional consultation by national officials and international experts on sustainable intensification of aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific today adopted a new framework to sustainable intensify farm raised fish, or aquaculture.

FAO, the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) jointly convened the consultation as a regional initiative to support the sustainable intensification of aquaculture in the  Asian region. The consultative workshop concluded that intensified aquaculture requires an increasingly robust regulatory framework to limit the potential impacts of overcrowding, environmental pollution, unregulated movements, biosecurity, food safety and the need for quality assurance on inputs.

According to FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, Hiroyuki Konuma, “Demand for fish and fish products has been rapidly increasing as capture fisheries are declining. Aquaculture is the key to the future growth of fish production and we have to work together to meet the challenge posed by intensification, but it must be environmentally sustainable, based on the sustainable intensification of aquaculture approach.

Simon Funge-Smith, Secretary Asia Pacific Fishery Commission said, “For the past three decades Asia has contributed the major part of the aquaculture growth now standing at 90 percent of world aquaculture production. Fish make up about 17 percent of people’s animal protein intake and are important protein and nutrient rich food resource, with the aquaculture sector currently providing more than  50 percent of the fish and aquatic products for direct human consumption in the Asian region.”

The consultation framework agreed a range of recommendations, including:

Intensifying aquaculture production by improving the performance of the cultured species. For example, there are considerable performance gains possible with selective breeding since most aquaculture stocks are not highly domesticated or remain essentially wild.

The framework calls for the establishment of a  national  and regional domestication and breeding programmes for commodity species. Private collaboration initiatives in domestication and brood stock programs should be established for Asia to benefit from the domestication of several other commodity species.

It also urges countries to strengthen aquaculture biosecurity and health management. This is because intensified aquaculture depends on high levels of health management and  is more vulnerable to the impacts of disease outbreak due to higher densities.

The framework further calls on countries to improve the efficient utilization of feeds and feed ingredients and to review and strength national feed standards.

The agreement also recommends that the intensification of aquaculture not only increases production per unit area, but also includes the conversion of other production systems to incorporate aquaculture. Aquaculture is increasingly challenged for space and water in the region and so innovations will include the use of new areas for aquaculture and increased water efficiency.

Climate change and climate variability already impacts aquaculture in the Asian region, with storm damage to coastal areas, flooding and unseasonal water shortages are now frequent threats. As aquaculture intensifies, so does investment and concentration of assets, increasing the risk of catastrophic loss and consequent impact on livelihoods.

The consultation also noted that aquaculture has an obligation to reduce its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and needs to improve the efficiency of its energy use.

The agreed framework recognizes that there is an increasing role for certification when it comes to driving demand for sustainability. It recommends that this be achieved through a range of mechanisms such as public certification, third party certification, as well as responsible sourcing arrangements by buyers.

The Director-General of NACA, Ambekar Eknath, said: “Aquaculture presents considerable opportunities to diversify rural livelihoods – especially in staple, crop-based farming systems that are becoming economically uncompetitive because of their small size. Intensifying aquaculture can offer a more competitive farming strategy that can maximize the productivity of small land units.  However, there are risks and constraints associated with the intensification or diversification of small farm systems and this requires specific policies, as well as financial and technical assistance.”

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Contact: John Riddle
Interim FAO information officer
call 08-1899-7354