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1. Introduction

1.1 Context and scope

"States should consider aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, as a means to promote diversification of income and diet. In so doing, States should ensure that resources are used responsibly and adverse impacts on the environment and on local communities are minimized."

Article 6.19
General Principles
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

Aquaculture is currently one of the fastest growing food production systems in the world. Most of global aquaculture output is produced in developing countries, and, significantly, in low-income food-deficit countries. With stagnating yields from many capture fisheries and increasing demand for fish and fishery products, expectations for aquaculture to increase its contribution to the world's production of aquatic food are very high, and there is also hope that aquaculture will continue to strengthen its role in contributing to food security and poverty alleviation in many developing countries. However, it is also recognized that aquaculture encompasses a very wide range of different aquatic farming practices with regard to species (including seaweeds, molluscs, crustaceans, fish and other aquatic species groups), environments and systems utilized, with very distinct resource use patterns involved, offering a wide range of options for diversification of avenues for enhanced food production and income generation in many rural and peri-urban areas.

In view of the significant nutritional, social, economic and environmental benefits, which generally can be associated with most existing aquaculture practices, and the good prospects for further development and expansion of the sector, it is important for efforts aiming at the sustainable development of aquaculture that potential social conflicts and environmental problems are minimized. Aquaculture, like all terrestrial farming systems, is to face a number of challenges including increasing competition for limited resources, such as water, land and feed inputs, environmental degradation of resources utilized or needed, lack of recognition as legitimate resource user, lack of institutional and legal support, over-regulation and, recently, harmful publicity, which resulted from relatively few cases of environmental degradation and social disruption caused by certain types of aquaculture practice.

From the economic standpoint, the major constraints to be addressed while promoting the development of aquaculture will be to reduce externalities. Two broad categories of externalities will need to be considered. First, those externalities generated by activities which create unsuitable conditions for others, such as various forms of pollution or destructive impacts of human activity and which are not compensated for or paid by those responsible for the external effect. Second, the externalities generated by competition in access to a limited resource (for example, water or a segment of the coastal area) and which lead to economic inefficiency as more capital and labour are invested while obtaining less benefits. Care should be taken to reduce externalities to limit, to acceptable levels, negative impact or economic wastes resulting from aquaculture activity, as well as resulting from the decision or action of other economic agents on aquaculture activity.

While the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries stipulates actions to be taken by States, it is also meant to address persons, interest groups or institutions, public or private, who are involved in or concerned with aquaculture. Government authorities will increasingly have a key role to play in enhancing effective collaboration with and among many players, in order to promote sustainable development of aquaculture. Responsibilities for sustainable aquaculture development will need to be shared among government authorities, aquafarmers, manufacturers and suppliers of aquaculture inputs, processors and traders of aquaculture products, financing institutions, researchers, special interest groups, professional associations, non-governmental organizations, and others.

A major task here is to generate commitment for constructive dialogues and effective collaboration, among partners in aquaculture development, at local, national, and international levels. Collaboration for sustainable aquaculture development will need to recognize the diversity of aquaculture practices as well as the diversity of the political, social and economic conditions in which they take place, or will be taking place. The capacity of developing countries to implement the recommendations of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries should be duly taken into account (see the Code's Article 5 - Special Requirements of Developing Countries). It is important that circumstances and conditions in developing countries are fully recognized and addressed, in terms of their needs for financial and technical assistance, technology transfer, training and scientific cooperation, in order to enhance their ability to implement aquaculture-specific recommendations of the Code.

The present document cannot, and is not intended to, address all challenges and issues associated with current aquaculture developments, their sustainability and the needs and means for enhanced collaboration and responsible actions of all actors involved. Due to the very diverse nature of aquaculture practices around the world, it can only provide annotations to the Principles of Article 9 - Aquaculture Development - of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. These annotations may only serve as general guidance, and should be taken as suggestions or observations intended to assist those interested in identifying their own criteria and options for actions, as well as partners for collaboration, in support of sustainable aquaculture development, and in recognizing the sometimes very different needs and perceptions which may be associated with sustainable development and aquaculture production.

More detailed guidelines on specific issues and topics covered by Article 9 of the Code are in preparation, or will be developed in the future, by the FAO Fisheries Department, in collaboration with interested partners. There may be a need to provide specific guidelines on certain types of aquaculture systems, on selected species groups or commodities, or on aquaculture development efforts in certain environments or regions. It should be noted that, in addition to FAO's efforts, there are numerous local, national, regional and international initiatives promoting sustainable development of aquaculture. FAO encourages collaboration in this regard, as well as in relation to the implementation of the Code's principles. It is hoped that collaboration in the preparation and implementation of specific guidelines for sustainable aquaculture and responsible practice will also contribute to greater recognition of aquaculture, particularly in terms of its benefits and of the diversity of practices and people involved.

It should be noted that other guidelines on the Code's Articles, including those issued on "Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management1", "Fisheries Management2" and "Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions3" are covering relevant aspects related to aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries. Additional relevant guidance material is under preparation or is being finalized, including:

1.2 Structure and content of this document

The document is organized following the structure of Article 9 Aquaculture Development of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (from here onwards termed the "Code" or CCRF). Each principle is specifically addressed in order to provide the reader with related annotations containing suggestions and observations. Article 9 contains four sections, as developed during the preparation of the Code. The first section addresses issues to be considered primarily in areas under national jurisdiction. The second section deals with aspects which, while the prerogative of sovereign states, might affect other states. The third section covers issues relating to the use of aquatic genetic resources. Finally, questions to be considered at the production level are dealt with in the fourth section.

The principles, as adopted for Article 9 of the Code, are highlighted in bold. The annotations are supported with additional notes in boxes and selected references which may be useful in discussions and further follow-up work. References provided are numbered throughout the text, and can be found at the end of the document. Readers are encouraged to exchange with other interested persons any technical documentation, guidance material and information on experiences which may contribute to the implementation of actions required. Readers are also invited to send such information to FAO's Fisheries Department, and thereby contribute to the development, improvement and updating of guidelines being prepared in support of sustainable development of aquaculture.

1.3 Use of terms


Aquaculture is defined here according to the definition currently used by FAO for statistical purposes, i.e: - "Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. For statistical purposes, aquatic organisms which are harvested by an individual or corporate body which has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture while aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, with or without appropriate licences, are the harvest of fisheries."

Culture-based Fisheries:

The text also includes provisions for culture-based fisheries which are taken to mean capture fisheries which are maintained by stocking with material raised within aquaculture installations. However, this definition is too narrow to cover the range of management practices collectively known as enhancements, and for the purposes of this document the following working definition4 for culture-based fisheries is given as: - Activities aimed at supplementing or sustaining the recruitment of one or more aquatic species and raising the total production or the production of selected elements of a fishery beyond a level which is sustainable through natural processes. In this sense culture-based fisheries include enhancement measures which may take the form of: introduction of new species; stocking natural and artificial water bodies; fertilization; environmental engineering including habitat improvements and modification of water bodies; altering species composition including elimination of undesirable species, or constituting an artificial fauna of selected species; genetic modification of introduced species.

Food Security:

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (Reference 1).

Sustainable Development:

Sustainable development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable. (Ref. 2).

1 Integration of fisheries into coastal area management. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 3. Rome, FAO. 1996. 17p.

2 Fisheries management. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 4. Rome, FAO. 1997. 82p.

3 Precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions (FAO Fish.Tech.Pap., 350/1), reissued as FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 2. Rome, FAO. 1996. 54p

4 Definitions for culture-based fisheries will be discussed in further detail during the forthcoming FAO Expert Consultation on Fisheries Enhancements, to be held in April 1997 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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