Aquaculture has played an increasingly important role in food security, employment and income of many countries in the region. During the past decade, there has been a rapid development of aquaculture in the region, resulting in a threefold increase in the aquaculture production from 1986. The production of fish and shellfish in the Asia-Pacific region in 1997 amounted to 25.6 million tonnes (mt), or 89 percent of the world aquaculture production. Including seaweeds, the regions production amounted to 32.8 mt or 91 percent of the total world aquaculture production (Table 6). The major contributors to the rapid increase in the aquaculture production of the region were China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
The East Asian sub-region accounts for almost three-quarters of the total world aquacultural production with China being the main producer. The Chinese production of fish and shellfish, mainly freshwater species, amounted to 19.3 mt in 1997. With the additional production of 4.7 mt of seaweeds and other aquatic species, the Chinese aquaculture production (Figure 9) accounted for some 67 percent of the total world aquaculture output. This remarkable growth is attributed to expanded aquaculture areas, the introduction of new species and new systems such as cage culture, artificial propagation programmes, the control of unwanted species, habitat modification and environmental engineering of the water bodies. Chinese aquaculture is generally characterized by finfish farming, low-stocking densities, and semi-intensive, polyculture, pond based systems.
In contrast to the Chinese aquaculture practices, Japan employs intensive and more technologically advanced aquaculture methods to produce mainly carnivorous marine and diadromous species such as Japanese amberjack or yellowtail (Seriola quinqueradiata) and red seabream (Pagrus major). Fish and shellfish production from aquaculture in Japan rose from 692,762 tonnes in 1986 to 806,534 tonnes in 1997. Seaweeds and aquatic plants also provided additional 533,327 tonnes. The aquaculture production of Korea, excluding seaweeds, declined from 428,212 tonnes in 1986 to 392,427 tonnes in 1997, mostly due to the decreased production of molluscs such as oysters, cockles and Japanese carpet shells. Environmental concerns are becoming increasingly important issues for future aquaculture development in the sub-region. These concerns include pollution in water bodies, disease outbreaks in ponds, and high density coastal aquaculture practices in Japan and the Republic of Korea.
In the South and Southeast Asian sub-region, traditional aquaculture has been practiced since time immemorial. In recent years, with advanced methodologies and techniques, total aquaculture production in the sub-region increased to 4.9 mt in 1996 (Figure 10). The increase in value over the same period was even more notable, viz., from US$2,277 million to about $9,000 million, or a fourfold increase during 1986-1996. In volume, the main producers are India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Finfish are the main species in volume, followed by crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. Shrimps represented more than 50 percent of the total value in 1996.
For the Oceania, aquaculture is being developed. The current production derived mainly by Australia and New Zealand (Figure 11) and based on few species such as Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), oysters and mussels. Attempts are being made to develop aquaculture in the South Pacific islands to support food security in the SIDS.
The rapid development of the aquaculture industry in the sub-region, especially intensive and semi-intensive brackishwater aquaculture has created difficulties similar to those experienced in the East Asian sub-region. There is a need to establish better aquaculture management systems to attain sustainable aquaculture through integrated rural or coastal area management programmes. In addition, the role of aquaculture in poverty alleviation and food security is increasingly recognized. The development of aquaculture to improve household food security, poverty alleviation and gender equity as well as to promote environmental sustainability should be considered as an important factor in rural development, especially in developing countries. To achieve these goals, small-scale farmers should be provided with aquaculture technologies and management systems that are appropriate for sustained rural development.