This article is based on the Report of the FAO Technical Consultation
 on Policies for   Sustainable Shrimp Culture, Bangkok, Thailand,8-11
 December   1997. It  has  been  prepared  by  the  FAO   Technical
  Secretariat of the Consultation.










There are few economic activities which globally have manifested such high growth rates as the culture of shrimp in coastal areas of developing countries during the last decade. This rapid development has been accompanied by increasingly controversial debates over adverse environmental and socio-economic impacts of shrimp culture.

The underlying cause for such impacts is the absence of effective planning, regulatory and economic incentive policies which address the problem of market failure in the allocation of scarce resources. Market failure is pervasive in the case of many coastal resources such as mangroves, fresh water aquifers and nearshore and estuary environment because of their joint exploitation by many users without proper recognition of their limited sustainable yields and assimilative capacities and inadequate or absent costing of their environmental, economic, social and cultural values. As a consequence, individual shrimp farmers get wrong signals about their true costs of production and hence make sub-optimal decisions on production technology and intensity, siting of ponds, and waste treatment measures.

As part of its priority programme in support of the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the FAO Fisheries Department convened the Technical Consultation on Policies for Sustainable Shrimp Culture which was held in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, from 8 to 11 December 1997. The core task of the Consultation was to develop guidelines on appropriate legal, institutional, regulatory and economic policies for sustainable shrimp culture



The Consultation was attended by government delegations and industry observers from twelve countries: Bangladesh, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States of America, and Viet Nam. These countries account for about 90 % of global production of cultured shrimp. The USA, while producing only small quantities of cultured shrimp, is the major shrimp consuming country.

The participants of the Consultation also included observers from the following inter-governmental organizations, all of which have important activities related to various aspects of shrimp culture including research, training and extension, project preparation and funding, market information and others: Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); World Bank; Intergovernmental Organization for Marketing Information and Technical Advisory Services (INFOFISH); Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia & Pacific Region (NACA); and South East Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC).

International non-governmental organizations representing the shrimp culture industry and environmental and small-scale fisheries interests were also present in an observer capacity: Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA); Greenpeace International; International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF); and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). At the international level, these organizations are among the key stakeholders for their respective areas of interest and perform tasks ranging from advocacy, support of local, national and regional initiatives to research and information dissemination.

The Secretariat included staff from the FAO Fishery Policy and Planning and Fishery Resources Divisions, the FAO Legal Office and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, as well as resource persons from the Asian Institute of Technology, and Mahidol and Chulalongkorn Universities, Bangkok, Thailand; Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, India; and Centre for the Economics and Management of Aquatic Resources, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom.



The Consultation was opened by Mr Soetatwo Hadiwigeno, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO for Asia and the Pacific. Dr Sunil P.P.G.S.N. Siriwardena, Director, National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, Sri Lanka, was elected Chairman and Mr Francisco Nieto-Sanchez, Director , Fomento Acuícola, Dirección General de Acuacultura, Mexico, Vice-Chairman of the Consultation. The Keynote Address was given by Dr Chua Thia Eng, Programme Manager, GEF/UNDP/IMO Regional Programme on Marine Pollution Prevention and Management, Manila, Philippines.

The first one and half days of the Consultation were essentially devoted to an exchange of pertinent information among participants. Government delegates reported on their countries' experiences with shrimp culture development. This was followed by summary results of a literature review on the subject, presentations and position papers by inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, specific cases studies, and a review of legislation and policies applying to shrimp culture. The written submissions made to the Consultation by delegates and observers from countries, and from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations will be published in FAO Fisheries Report No. 572, Supplement.

The principal outcome of the Consultation was produced in three working groups whose deliberations were assisted by written discussion guides prepared by the FAO Secretariat. Working Group A addressed legal, institutional and consultative frameworks; Working Group B examined planning and regulatory methods and tools and economic incentives for shrimp culture development and management; and Working Group C discussed the potential role and contents of a voluntary code of conduct for sustainable shrimp culture. The three working groups, whose composition broadly reflected the various interest groups present in the Consultation, were asked to reach a consensus on their recommendations. These were then discussed in plenary for adoption by government delegations and endorsement by observers. All government delegations adopted the recommendations which are partly reproduced and summarized below. There was broad but not unanimous agreement among observers with the report's recommendations.



The first four recommendations constitute a kind of `Preamble' and, because of their significance, are reproduced in full:

• The Technical Consultation on Policies for Sustainable Shrimp Culture produced a consensus that sustainable shrimp culture is practised and is a desirable and achievable goal which should be pursued.

• There is ample reason for considering shrimp culture, when practised in a sustainable fashion, as an acceptable means of achieving such varied national goals as food production, employment and generation of foreign exchange.

• Achievement of sustainable shrimp culture is dependent on effective government policy and regulatory actions as well as the co-operation of industry in utilizing sound technology in its planning, development and operations.

• Appropriate government responsibilities are outlined in Article 9 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. To better implement the provisions of the Code, the Consultation recommended the following.

The first of the above recommendations was adopted after considerable debate and discussion on whether or not sustainable shrimp culture actually existed, or if it is at all feasible. The final wording acknowledges that sustainable operations exist but without specifying how common these are.

Following this `Preamble', the recommendations are structured along the lines of the findings of the three working groups, some of which are summarized below. The English version of the full report of the Consultation is available on the Home Page of the FAO Fisheries Department ( and is being published in both English and Spanish as FAO Fisheries Report No. 572.



Legal, Institutional and Consultative Framework for Sustainable Shrimp Culture

The Consultation recommended that governments should have a legal framework which applies specifically to coastal aquaculture, including shrimp culture, and identified as its objectives the following:

• facilitate and promote the development of sustainable coastal aquaculture practices;

• promote the protection of coastal resources;

• promote the contribution of coastal aquaculture to food security, national and international wise.

• ensure that livelihoods of local communities and their access to coastal resources are not adversely affected by coastal aquaculture developments.

The legal framework for coastal aquaculture should be framed into the whole fabric of laws and regulations, including those applying to coastal zone management, and result from a consultative and interdisciplinary process. It should be sufficiently flexible to respond to short term needs and have a long term orientation contributing to maintaining ecological balance with respect to unforeseen events in future.

The contents of coastal aquaculture legislation may include:

• a definition of aquaculture;

• provisions on the control and protection of coastal aquaculture: an authorisation process for aquaculture projects; siting of aquaculture projects; protection of coastal aquaculture zones;

• concepts of aquaculture pollution: specific definition, control of aquaculture effluents;

• remedies or compensation systems for damages caused or suffered by coastal aquaculturists; and

• enforcement measures.

Where possible, governments should envisage the establishment of a single aquaculture management authority which would be responsible for the development and management of coastal aquaculture. Where a single aquaculture management authority cannot be created, governments should set up an appropriate administrative framework with the view to ensure co-ordinated development and management.


A specific authority or a procedure is recommended to examine and provide remedies for public grievances in relation to aquaculture activities and their impacts on coastal resources, biodiversity and coastal communities.

The Consultation recommended that relevant international organisations such as FAO should promote and support, where appropriate, the establishment of a legal framework for coastal aquaculture.

The Consultation recommended a number of specific areas for future research including, in particular, research to determine carrying capacity of coastal ecosystems for shrimp culture with an emphasis on application of this knowledge to local areas. It also recommended exploring economic incentives as a strategy to generate financial resources for promoting and supporting sustainable development of shrimp culture practices.


Planning and regulatory methods and tools and economic incentive schemes for sustainable shrimp culture

Planning, regulation and the use of economic incentives were all considered important tools to achieve development of sustainable shrimp culture. Shrimp culture should be placed into strategic and coastal zone management planning processes where its role as a legitimate user of coastal resources should be acknowledged. The Consultation stressed the importance of participatory planning and implementation approaches of all stakeholders to ensure the maintenance of local social integrity and rights of local communities.

The consultation recommended that zonal planning for shrimp culture be undertaken as component of integrated coastal area management and take into account, inter alia, (a) carrying capacity of the ecosystem, (b) technical and environmental compatibility, (c) social and economic criteria, (d) involvement of local communities and concerned stakeholders, (e) opportunities for integration into other forms of farming practices, (f) effluent and waste management, and (g) provision of appropriate infrastructure.

Recognizing the contribution made by small-scale shrimp farmers to global shrimp production, it was recommended that States should pay special attention to capacity building of the small-scale shrimp farmers through providing adequate technical and financial assistance and extension to improve their culture practices for better productivity and sustainability.

Voluntary codes

The Consultation concluded that codes of conduct, codes of practice and guidelines all have useful purposes and should be encouraged. Codes can be useful instruments for reduction of government costs, to promote efficiencies, to provide protection and assurance to consumers and to producers alike, and most important, to help achieve sustainable operations. The Consultation further concluded that the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, particularly in its sections pertaining to aquaculture, provides an accepted baseline for development of additional codes or guidelines applicable to shrimp culture. Since voluntary codes of conduct or practice specific to shrimp culture can be extremely useful, FAO should encourage their development.


The Consultation recommended that FAO convene expert meetings to elaborate best practices for shrimp culture, desirable elements of the legal and regulatory frameworks for coastal aquaculture and the criteria and indicators for monitoring sustainability of shrimp culture. Regarding the latter, the Consultation recommended that FAO specifically request governments of countries engaged in shrimp culture to report on progress in implementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in relation to shrimp culture activities to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) at its next and subsequent sessions . This is seen as a means of encouraging the use of the Code to achieve more quickly full sustainability and to maximize the benefits of shrimp culture.

Furthermore, the Consultation recommended that its report be submitted to the next session of COFI for consideration and endorsement.