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Towards Sustainable Aquaculture Guidelines

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Raising sea bass and sea bream off the northern coast of Tunisia.
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FAO is working with Mozambique to develop aquaculture sustainably.
©FAO/Crespi
FAO worked with this community in Haiti to add aquaculture activities to their community farming work.
©FAO/Napolitano
Delegates in the last session of FAO’s Subcommittee on Aquaculture, held in Rome.
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FAO worked with this community in Lao PDR to expand their aquaculture activities, allowing them to diversify their diets.

Aquaculture has seen spectacular growth over recent decades. Global aquaculture production increased by an impressive 228% by volume and 492% in value since 1995 – the year in which the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted.

July 2018’s 33rd session of FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) recognized aquaculture’s important role and its potential to meet the growing demand to fill the gap in global fish supply but it also stressed the need to focus substantial effort into fostering the sustainable development of aquaculture production.

From the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its related instruments to the 2013 launch of the Blue Growth Initiative or the 2018 Technical Guidelines on Aquatic Genetic Resources, FAO has actively supported ways to balance economic growth, social development, and sustainable use of aquatic living resources on global, regional and national levels, while simultaneously pursuing its universal goals of food security, nutrition and poverty eradication.

However, sustainable aquaculture development has not been uniform globally, and the sector has performed differently in different contexts, countries and regions. Some aquaculture development efforts have failed to promote socioeconomic and environmental progress, while other efforts have proven successful, leading COFI to recommend that FAO develop global guidelines for sustainable aquaculture development.

This followed from the decision of the 9th Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of COFI for FAO to identify successful aquaculture initiatives and to document and compile those examples to help countries and aquaculture stakeholders achieve a better implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, while engaging and enabling their aquaculture sector to effectively participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This week FAO hosts an Expert Consultation on the Development of Sustainable Aquaculture Guidelines, held at FAO Headquarters 17-20 June.

“We’re excited about welcoming a group of aquaculture experts to FAO to initiate work on a methodology for approaching the case studies that will feed into the Sustainable Aquaculture Guidelines,” said FAO’s Rodrigo Roubach, Senior Aquaculture Officer. “We will be working with a group of aquaculture experts from around the world and determining the criteria for selecting case studies, discussing how to document them and how to identify lessons learned. This will be an interesting discussion, and we look forward to the expert consultation on how to move forward with these Sustainable Aquaculture Guidelines.”

“This meeting is timely, and we have a lot of good material with which to work," added Matthias Halwart, Head of the Aquaculture Branch of FAO.
"Many countries have implemented various strategies in support of successful and sustainable aquaculture development, some of which include technology-intensive innovations, innovative governance, and other good practices. Harnessing the opportunity of aquaculture production in a sustainable manner that is responsive to environmental, social and cultural challenges requires the establishment of enabling policy and governance frameworks that will foster the adoption of sound aquaculture production practices. We’ll be discussing these and other issues this week's with our expert group” added Matthias Halwart, Head of the Aquaculture Branch of FAO.

Currently, the Sustainable Aquaculture Guidelines (SAG) are expected to include three components:

  • Component 1: Possible pathways towards successful implementation of sustainable aquaculture in different regional contexts, based on case studies of accomplishments in comparable settings or regions.

  • Component 2: A series of practical thematic modules describing the rationale and attributes for approaches and practices on each specific topic, the existing guidelines and the key recommendations for successful implementation and capacity development, based on the achievements and difficulties highlighted by case studies.

  • Component 3: A series of case studies describing the process, the accomplishments and the constraints, to illustrate the possible pathways and thematic factsheets.

The thematic modules of the SAG will cover both the aquaculture farms and their wider environments (e.g. at the sector, value chain, landscape, territory, country and region levels). The thematic modules will focus on business management, site selection, risk assessment and mitigation measures, system construction, engineering or rehabilitation, environmental impact management, farm operation, biosecurity and aquatic health management, market access, food safety and quality management, animal well-being, decent and safe work, and special business operations, including aquaculture-based fisheries, capture-based aquaculture, and offshore and high-seas aquaculture.

Following this week’s Expert Consultation FAO will organize a series of regional expert meetings to discuss progress on the Guidelines. The proposed approach emerging from this week’s Global Expert Consultation will also be discussed by member states at the 10th Session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture to be held in Trondheim, Norway this August.

©FAO/Menezes
Aquaculture activities outside of Kigali, Rwanda.
©FAO/Crespi
Weighing fish in Haiti, as part of aquaculture activities introduced into a larger programme.
©FAO/Napolitano
“This meeting is timely, and we have a lot of good material with which to work. Many countries have implemented various strategies in support of successful and sustainable aquaculture development, some of which include technology-intensive innovations, innovative governance, and other good practices,” says Matthias Halwart, head of the Aquaculture Branch of FAO.
©FAO/Hammi
Tunisian aquaculture off the country’s northern shore.
©FAO/Napolitano
The latest session of the COFI Subcommittee on Aquaculture held in Rome, Italy. The next session will be held in Trondheim, Norway.
©FAO
The range of products produced in rice-fish ponds in Lao PDR helped to improve the diets of this rural community.

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