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5. Responsible aquaculture at the production level (CCRF Article 9.4)

"States should promote responsible aquaculture practices in support of rural communities, producer organizations and fish farmers."

(CCRF Article 9.4.1)

Promoting aquaculture development. Given the significant growth in production and value, and expansion of aquaculture and aquaculture-related activities, it is generally believed that aquaculture and culture-based fisheries hold much promise for meeting increasing food demands. In fact, aquaculture is overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world, especially in Asian countries, providing important nutritional and economic benefits to rural communities, and, with few, if any, adverse environmental effects being experienced with low-input systems that make up the bulk of aquaculture production. (Ref. 91, 92, 93). Exports of high-value species earn much needed foreign currency in many developing countries. More importantly for food security, the production, processing and sale of fish offer the prospects of improved nutrition in rural and urban areas by providing a ready source of affordable high-quality protein as well as giving an opportunity to generate income, while diversifying production and reducing risks of relying on production of one or few types of products only.

Promoting responsible practices and attitudes. The trends within many countries toward the use of more intensive aquaculture systems and more higher-value species often in sensitive coastal areas could increase the potential for environmental damage and may put additional stress on the socio-economic structure of local communities, if sustainable development approaches are not adopted. Therefore, it is essential that the aquaculture industry and all the stakeholders involved adopt a strong commitment for cooperation and self-regulation. It is the responsibility of States to support individual aquafarmers and the aquaculture industry in general in developing its own standards for responsible aquaculture practices. Where not existing, States should promote the establishment of self-help aquafarmer groups and producer associations, and foster the collaboration between the private aquaculture sector and government authorities, research institutions and other food producer organizations, at local, national and international levels. In doing so, government authorities should generate awareness on the need for responsible attitudes in the aquaculture sector, given the fact that, increasingly, aquafarmers and those associated with aquaculture are being made accountable for their actions. Consultations on possible incentives for the promotion of sustainable practices, may be held involving government authorities, aquaculture producers and members of rural communities. Training on regulatory aspects governing aquaculture practice should be provided to aquafarmers and their associations, to enable them to participate in the formulation and improvement of aquaculture-specific legislation.

Benefits of association and self-regulation. Major benefits which can be derived from association in producer organizations and the development of voluntary codes of practice and guidelines are (Ref. 94):

"States should promote active participation of fishfarmers and their communities in the development of responsible aquaculture management practices."

(CCRF Article 9.4.2)

Enabling participation. Government officials, in collaboration with experts in aquaculture and rural development, and other relevant fields, should seek to promote, at both national and community levels, the active participation of individual farmers and producer organizations in the development and management of all existing and future aquaculture practices. This in order to ensure that the aquaculture practices selected, promoted and improved meet the general needs of local communities as well as the environmental conditions of given sites. Advice by experienced aquafarmers can be important for the selection of appropriate sites, species and systems, as well as for decisions for design, maintenance and operation of aquafarms, and should be considered in conjunction with area and site surveys, and, where appropriate, development of geographical information systems, when planning for resource uses in coastal and inland areas. Likewise, interests and needs of local communities should be identified when planning for sectoral, integrated or participatory developments, possibly by using appropriate rural and participatory assessment tools. (Ref. 95, 96, 97).

Participation in research. Research efforts for aquaculture should aim at improved aquafarming methods, with a clear focus on the development of sustainable aquaculture systems, bearing in mind the need for increased food supply and poverty eradication. Renewed efforts should be made to involve aquatic and terrestrial farmers, their organizations as well as their communities, in setting research priorities and directions, including specific objectives and needs for particular research projects, and to make research findings accessible to them. (Ref. 98, 99, 100).

Training, extension and capacity building at farm level. Rural areas in many developing countries are generally poorly equipped in terms of technical and financial resources and educational infrastructure, and serious food security and other economic and social problems can result from lack of income opportunities, failure to crop and to maintain production systems, inadequate distribution of commodities, inputs and consumer goods, and limited access to public services. Appropriate and up-to-date technologies in both terrestrial and aquatic farming are required to promote modernization of local production methods. Full benefit from such technologies would require training, education and skill development programmes for local human resources. States should try to establish ways to assist farmers and local communities with extension, training, and other local capacity building activities. When these activities are small-scale and at some distance from urban centres, the provision of such assistance has proved difficult and costly. Relevant aquaculture authorities, aquafarmers and their communities may find it useful to collaborate closely in extension work with agricultural extension programmes in their areas, as these may be better equipped and have larger numbers of staff available. (Ref. 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106).

Labelling of inputs used in aquaculture. States may have a key role to play in ensuring that inputs such as equipment, feedstuffs, chemicals, etc., utilized by aquafarmers are properly labelled, and that other important information on such inputs is accessible to them and their communities. Local languages and illiteracy should be considered.

Record keeping. In the interest of efficiency in operation and effective accumulation of experience in management of hatcheries, aquafarms and water bodies utilized for enhanced fish production, records should be maintained on the quantities and origin of all inputs (including species or strains) used, harvests and sales, and other operational and financial data. Such records are valuable in case of disease outbreaks or accidents to stocks or workers, and in understanding if and where mistakes were made. Further, they may be vital in defending the operation against any claims by outsiders of mismanagement or irresponsible actions.

Stress management and fish health maintenance. Incidence and severity of infectious disease are very often dependent on the quality of the environment in which the organism lives. Thus, the first and most important step in controlling infectious disease is by maintaining the best quality environment possible in the culture unit to minimize stress on the organism under culture. Stress in fish can be defined as the alteration of one or more physiological variables to the point that survival may be impaired in the long-term. Such alterations often result from changes in the physico-chemical, biological, and microbial quality of the aquatic environment, and the feed and space availability. Stress can be reduced by maintaining realistic stocking densities and providing best possible culture conditions. Reduction in stress will minimize the potential risk of becoming infected and thus reducing mortality and related losses. Collaboration on fish health management aspects among farmers, extensionists, and fish health experts should be promoted to increase awareness and capacity on fish health maintenance and farm management efficiency (Ref. 107, 108, 109).

Interactions with predatory wildlife. Wild predators, particularly birds and aquatic mammals, can be a significant problem to aquaculturists, not only by consuming stock, but also by damaging nets and other equipment and transferring diseases and pathogens. Farmers should be encouraged to use all feasible means to shield their stocks from predators rather than attempting to destroy them.

Environmental management for enhancement of fishery yields. In order to increase fish supply in many rural areas, a wide range of techniques is being employed successfully to maintain and increase fish harvests particularly in many inland water bodies. Many fisheries have been intensified, through the provision of stocking material produced in aquaculture installations or collected from the wild, and through combinations of ecological, chemical and physical modifications of natural and artificial water bodies utilized. (Ref. 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118).

Given that such intensification measures can significantly contribute to additional food supply, and long-term food security, - in many countries there are numerous under- or non-utilized water bodies with high potential for culture-based and/or enhanced fish production - , it should be ensured that such practices are carried out in a well-planned manner. In this context, it is important that benefits and costs of such practices are evaluated, that rights are established for all those utilizing such water bodies, and that unacceptable effects on local environments and resources are avoided. Involvement of local stakeholders and communities in planning and management for the sustainable utilization of water bodies should be promoted, also in view of possible additional benefits which can be derived from activities aiming at recreation, and rehabilitation of aquatic environments.

"States should promote efforts which improve selection and use of appropriate feeds, feed additives and fertilizers, including manures."

(CCRF Article 9.4.3)

Selection and use of feeds and additives. The responsible use of feeds (including feed additives, where necessary) contributes both to efficient production and reduced impacts on the environment by minimizing wastage. Feed manufacturers and suppliers have a responsibility to provide appropriate quality feeds, and to assist farmers in managing and presenting these feeds on-farm in ways which facilitate efficient and optimum uptake by the stock. In many cases, supplementary feeds can be used in addition to factory-made feeds, and the use of locally available ingredients should be promoted, whenever possible. Responsible use of feed additives, including antibiotics and growth promotants, requires particular care in adjusting the quantities and rates of delivery to obtain the desired effects with minimum wastage, as well as paying close attention to withdrawal periods to ensure products which are free of possible contaminants. Wherever possible, the use of antibiotics in feeds (if at all) should be carried out only with veterinary (or equivalent qualified officer) prescription and supervision. (Ref. 119, 120, 121).

Selection and use of manures and fertilizers. Some culture activities, such as seaweed culture and the pond culture of herbivorous or planktivorous fish and crustaceans, use manures or chemical fertilizers to improve the production of natural foods in the ponds. In order to avoid unacceptable changes in the receiving waters as well as maintain water quality in the production ponds and minimize input costs, fertilizing should be carefully controlled by the farmer. The responsible use of animal and human manures can contribute to efficient and safe recycling of nutrients within semi-intensive/extensive pond-based farming systems. However, the use of animal and human manures must be managed carefully to avoid contamination of the product with human pathogens, parasites, heavy metals, antibiotics and other substances potentially harmful to consumers. (Ref. 122, 123, 124, 125).

"States should promote effective farm and fish health management practices favouring hygienic measures and vaccines. Safe, effective and minimal use of therapeutants, hormones and drugs, antibiotics and other disease control chemicals should be ensured."

(CCRF Article 9.4.4)

Use of drugs, antibiotics or other chemicals to control disease. An adequate range of tested and approved materials to treat aquatic disease problems should be available to fish producers, and guidelines and training in their responsible use should be available. Preferably use of such materials should be under veterinary (or equivalent qualified officer) supervision, and the marketing and use of drugs which have not been certified for aquatic use should be strictly regulated, if not prohibited. To ensure maximum and continuing effectiveness of antibiotics, both for use in aquatic farming and especially for treatment of human disease, preventative (prophylactic) use of such materials should be avoided as far as possible. (Ref. 126, 127, 128, 129, 130).

Box 9. Because of limited markets and the high costs of testing and gaining approval of relevant authorities, few drugs have been tested and certified specifically for aquaculture use. The misapplication of some chemicals (e.g. the excessive prophylactic use of antibiotics) is often due to aquafarmers lacking access to information on appropriate use, or due to the lack of effective yet economic viable alternative management measures or suitable alternative chemicals which would help reduce the use of some potentially hazardous chemicals. At present the promotion of certain chemicals by "middlemen" (salesmen, retailers, etc.) or pharmaceutical companies may also play a significant role in the misapplication of chemicals.

Use of hormones for controlling reproduction or as growth promoters. Hormones are sometimes being used in some forms of aquaculture practices for inducing or preventing reproductive maturation, for sex reversal and for promoting growth. While hormones may be widely used in animal husbandry, their use in aquaculture is not well documented and sometimes carried out without adequate understanding of the quantities needed and of their persistence in the environment or in aquaculture products once treatment is removed. Although the use of hormones for regulating reproduction is unlikely to result in contamination of stock destined for the market, when used as growth promoters, such use should be fully documented, and withdrawal times prior to harvest should be carefully observed.

"States should regulate the use of chemical inputs in aquaculture which are hazardous to human health and the environment."

(CCRF Article 9.4.5)

Regulating the use of chemicals in aquaculture. In order to promote and regulate the safe and effective use of chemicals in aquaculture, competent government authorities should work together to clarify and specify relevant mandates and responsibilities of various line agencies in charge of public health and food quality, agriculture, animal health services, environment, etc., and develop enforceable and practical aquaculture-specific provisions and guidelines on the responsible use of chemicals. Collaboration between aquafarmers, researchers and pharmaceutical and pesticide manufacturing industries should be promoted, to allow for testing and licensing of chemicals for use in aquaculture, as well as for formulation of sound and effective regulatory instruments on the production, distribution and use of chemicals which are known to be hazardous to human health and environment.

"States should require that the disposal of wastes such as offal, sludge, dead or diseased fish, excess veterinary drugs and other hazardous chemical inputs does not constitute a hazard to human health and the environment."

(CCRF Article 9.4.6)

Safe disposal of fish and chemical waste. Offal which is fit for hygienically acceptable processing should be so used. Other offal, dead fish and other waste that may be hazardous either to the aquaculture establishment or the public should be disposed of in appropriately designed facilities, approved by the relevant supervisory agency. Sometimes, cremation or burial may be an adequate method in the case of animal carcasses or parts of these. If treatment is not feasible or successful, diseased and dying fish should be humanely killed and disposed off safely. Different facilities are required for the disposal of unused or expired pesticides or veterinary drugs, and if not available on farm, such materials should be transported to licensed sites for disposal.

"States should ensure the food safety of aquaculture products and promote efforts which maintain product quality and improve their value through particular care before and during harvesting and on-site processing and in storage and transport of the products."

(CCRF Article 9.4.7)

Harvesting and product quality. A good quality product is not only a responsibility of the producer, but is an important factor in long-term financial profitability and growth. Good farmers and farm managers know that product quality depends on proper management throughout the entire production cycle. Nevertheless, particular care is necessary in the period leading up to harvest, in harvesting and on-site processing, and in storage and transport of the products. Prior to harvesting, it is important that the stocks have been freed from any residual drugs or hormones used, and their digestive tracts freed of algal or other materials that produce off-flavours. Harvesting should be carried out quickly and efficiently, to minimize damage or contamination. Availability of adequate storage facilities and/or immediate transport should be ensured before harvesting is started. (Ref. 131).

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