Improving the Database for Sustainable Aquaculture Development
Many countries do not have sufficiently developed information systems to allow them to prepare proper policy instruments and plans for the sustainable development of aquaculture. As a result, policy-makers and planners often operate with poor information, with a high degree of uncertainty about the impact of the selected policy directions and development plans. National databases need to be established (or strengthened), maintained and updated to provide sufficient relevant information in support of policy formulation and development planning. Data bases on production, production economics, markets and trade, employment, main information sources, etc. form part of such information systems. New types of data sets dealing specifically with resource use and resource degradation, as well as social and economic conditions, will also have to be developed gradually to monitor and assess the sustainability of development activities.
Some valuable information is available at the national level, but it is often dispersed among institutions, collected on different, often non-compatible databases, and is generally in need of collation, evaluation and updating before it can be put to effective use in planning. In strengthening the information base, it is essential to ensure the relevance of the information to local needs and to the purpose at hand, and to take into account any constraints that can limit or prevent the utilization of the information.
In view of this, and to help countries organize the information they need, the Fisheries Department of the FAO is devoting increasing attention to the development of specific data bases and information systems in collaboration with FAO Members and national and regional institutions. This will be linked increasingly with on-going efforts in capacity building which are being pursued through networking at the regional level. The GFCM Mediterranean Aquaculture Networks and supporting information system (SIPAM), highlighted in a previous issue of this newsletter, is an example. A mission is in the field at this time to prepare plans for the establishment of an aquaculture information network in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a preliminary consultation will be held in Asia, early in 1997, to review existing aquaculture-related data bases and assess the need for a SIPAM-type system, amended as necessary to meet national and regional needs. The possibility of linking the information system to a regional aquaculture network, managed in collaboration with existing regional institutions, will also be discussed. A mission is also planned in 1997 to review and strengthen the SIPAL system for Latin America, a precursor of SIPAM developed under the regional project AQUILA II. The Department is also continuing to refine the use of GIS for strategic analysis of aquaculture potential on a regional and continental basis, and is assisting interested Member Countries to develop a capacity in this methodology and to put it to use in aquaculture development planning at the national level.
Ziad H. Shehadeh
Senior Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture)
Fishery Resources Division