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1. A Symposium on Water for Sustainable Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture was convened in conjunction with the Twentieth Session of the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC) in Praia do Carvoeiro, Portugal, from 23 to 26 June 1998. The Symposium was convened by Mr R. Müller (Switzerland) and chaired by Mr H. Ackefors (Sweden). The Symposium was attended by 68 participants from 23 countries.

Assessment of quantitative and qualitative characteristics of water resources

2. Ground and surface freshwater resources are finite but demand on them from various sectors and interests in society is increasing. Growing scarcity is therefore leading to competition between the various users including fisheries and is becoming a major issue in Europe and elsewhere. The intensification of use is also leading to greater pressure on water quality through pollution and eutrophication.

3. It was concluded that inland fisheries planners and administrators need to participate pro-actively in fora at all levels concerned with the allocation of water and management of living aquatic resources. Such participation is necessary to:

a) ensure that water is assigned for the maintenance of aquatic ecosystems and living organisms. Such allocation should include criteria for water use, including quantity, quality and timing which should be established on the basis of scientific evidence;


b) ensure that the aquaculture sector is not penalized by unrealistic requirements for effluent quality. It was recognized that for its part the aquaculture sector would need to be responsible in its approach to improving the quality of its discharges;

c) limit the potential damage resulting from introductions and transfers of exotic fish, and other animals and plants within the inland waters of Europe; and

d) promote awareness and knowledge of the social, economic and environmental significance of inland fisheries and aquaculture among decision-makers and stakeholders at all levels.

Water requirements of inland aquaculture systems

4. Aquaculture was established originally in regions where water resources were readily available but supplies are now becoming a limiting factor in some areas due to population increase, industrialization, environmental concerns and other factors. Several fish farms have had to convert from production to nature conservation or recreational areas. Other intensive fish farms are also having problems in the disposal of their effluents. Despite these difficulties, the need for fish as healthy food is increasing, and efforts are being made in many countries to increase the proportion of fish in the diet. However, given current circumstances, studies and trend analyses indicate that some conventional aquaculture systems need to evolve and adapt to changing social, economic and environmental conditions in many European countries.

5. Aquaculture must be accepted and legally recognized as a legitimate user of water.

The availability of freshwater resources for aquaculture production will continue to decrease in the future but new methods and production systems are available for the more efficient use and protection of those water resources that remain. While there is little need to introduce these into many countries at present, medium-and long-term planning of aquaculture development should consider their potential for the future. Research and development of new types of water efficient fish production systems should get priority in formulating R&D programmes.

7. The possibility of integrating aquaculture into irrigation systems should be considered as an

option for improved efficiency of water use. However a flexible approach is suggested which uses all types of habitat created by existing agronomic practices, the hydrological cycle and the features of the landscape. The principle of integration may also be applied on a wider scale, and more active collaboration among the various water users, planners and administrators is necessary. Collaboration between countries in which water shortage already exists and where such problems are anticipated in the future should also be promoted in order to exchange information and execute joint projects.

Water requirements for inland fisheries

8. Fisheries scientists have an acceptable level of knowledge on the theoretical water quantity and quality requirements for fish for many aquatic ecosystems. Increasing pressures on water resources, coupled with a heightened public demand for truly sustainable development, means there are now key cross-disciplinary considerations related to the need to manage the environment as a whole. There is an increasing need for a better understanding of the different demands placed on the aquatic system and how these demands relate to one another. There is also a need for improved communication and acceptance of how the requirements of one user will modify and compromise those of another.

9. Water resources are generally under pressure under existing demand regimes. There is significant scope for reducing demand and managing impacts in order to comply with new environmental awareness. Given current levels of demand it will not always be possible to protect the environment fully, but the appraisal process must be carried out so as to balance priorities and apply mitigation measures.

10. Current knowledge is sufficient for technical interventions to mitigate continuing damage by other users or to rehabilitate impacted systems. Public incapacity to improve the aquatic system lies more in the sphere of policy making and allocation among different user groups. The new need is for political processes that will facilitate compromise by stakeholders and favour integrated resource management.

11. Fishery scientists should continue to build understanding of the impacts of hydrological change on fish communities. Robust environmental appraisal processes must be carried out to properly balance resource priorities, guide decisions on allocation and on any mitigation measures that may be necessary.


12. It is important that concepts of social and economic value and use are developed for inland fisheries so that fisheries interests can be properly represented in the allocation debate. Collaboration with local stakeholders and with other groups expressing public concern for the environment should be sought in order to influence planners and politicians.

Stocking of new species in stressed systems may provide alternative fishery resources but potential risks to the wider environment should be carefully considered and the appropriate guidelines respected.

Water resources issues and conflicts

14. Increasing demand for aquatic resources by a diverse array of user groups has resulted in environmental degradation, loss of habitat and conflict between various stakeholder groups. The mechanisms for assessing the impact of various activities are reasonably well established but overcoming the problems is still complex. This is because mechanisms for resolving conflicts within fisheries and between fisheries and other users are only now being developed. The key problem to be addressed is the promotion of sustainable use of water resources at an optimal level of exploitation, acceptable to all users whilst maintaining the potential to meet the needs and expectations of future generations.

If aquatic resources are to be exploited on a sustainable basis in the future, concerted effort is needed to resolve the conflicts between user groups. Where possible, this must be based on available scientific evidence, close liaison between user groups, full cost-benefit analysis and transparency in the decision-making process. If this is to be successful it must involve cross education of all user groups, recognition of stakeholder participation and needs, and be implemented at the local community level. It is recommended that aquatic resource planning and management tools such as the river basin management plans being developed by the European Union member countries be used to facilitate the process of integrated water resource management.

16. The proper representation of fisheries requires improved long-term trend analysis, and assessment of economic and social value of fisheries and associated externalities. It is

recommended that priority be given to developing and promoting economic evaluation of inland fisheries and marketing of its products. There is also the need for robust methods for prioritizing demands for aquatic resources, which balance human requirements against the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

Strategic planning of water resources

17. World food production has to be increased over the next three decades to satisfy the additional demands of a world population, which is expected to grow to about eight thousand million by 2025. It is not anticipated that substantial increases in supply can be obtained from oceanic fisheries. Therefore, any future growth in fish protein supply will have to come from aquaculture and enhancement of wild fisheries. In view of the problems of water supply caused by growing demand existing aquaculture production using conventional methods is likely to be endangered. Those responsible for the inland fisheries and aquaculture sectors in Europe and elsewhere must take part in the wider discussions and decisions concerning future water resources allocation and water quality management.

18. It was concluded that:

a) EIFAC member countries should be aware of a growing demand for fish in the near future that cannot be filled by catches from the sea or from natural inland waters;

b) against the background of growing world population future demand for fish will have to be satisfied through aquaculture and fish stock enhancement;

c) therefore those responsible for decisions on ground and surface water allocation and management at all administrative and technical levels must make adequate water available for aquaculture and for maintenance of quantity and timing of stream flows;

d) greater efforts in the development of more efficient purification systems are needed to protect ground and surface water from unacceptable pollution deriving from urban and industrial drainage systems; and


e) there should be a comparable emphasis on river

and lake rehabilitation and improvement to maintain and enhance valuable recreational, commercial and subsistence fisheries. C


19. The participants at the Symposium on Water for Sustainable Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture proposed the following recommendations for adoption by the Twentieth Session of EIFAC:

a) Authorities and those in charge of fisheries and aquaculture development must seek collaboration with other agencies and other sectors of society in order to improve coordination of resource management.

b) It is vital that governments empower fisheries and aquaculture authorities to promote actively the interests of inland fisheries and aquaculture, as well as adequately participate in resource management decision-making.

c) Authorities in charge of fisheries and aquaculture need enhanced capacity to implement policies and regulations related to management of living and physical aquatic resources. Greater resources must be made available to these authorities. It is realized that in many cases these authorities lack manpower and financial and information resources to be able to participate actively in intersectoral negotiations and policy-making. There is a need for research and development to fill key information gaps.

d) There is a need for management strategies for water resources in general that incorporate the needs of inland fisheries and aquaculture. Those responsible for water allocation should consult with fisheries and aquaculture authorities. Authorities responsible for fisheries, aquaculture and water resource planning should collaborate to formulate appropriate strategies, identify options for their implementation and identify key stakeholders who should participate in this process. These strategies must encompass a range of aspects including social, economic and recreational considerations, biodiversity and the wider aquatic environment.

e) In view of river basin management plans which have to be prepared for a deadline of December 1999 in the EU member states, authorities representing inland fisheries and aquaculture management must identify groups responsible for the production of these plans and ensure that the needs of inland fisheries and aquaculture are adequately represented in the plans.

f) Key government departments must recognize that inland fisheries have economic, social, biological and other values. For inland fisheries and aquaculture to be properly represented in the allocation of resources there is a need for improved economic and social evaluation of fisheries, aquaculture and associated aspects. It is recommended that priority is given to developing and promoting economic and social evaluation of inland fisheries, aquaculture production, fishing communities, fish populations and aquatic environments in general.




The report of the EIFAC Symposium on Water for Sustainable Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture will be published in:

Report of the Twentieth Session of the European Inland Fishery Advisory Commission, Praia do Carvoiero, Portugal, 23 - June - 1 July 1998, as FAO Fisheries Report No. 580 (FIPL/R580), and is available on the Home Page of the FAO Fisheries Department: FISHERY/body/eifac/1998rep1.htm


Dr Heiner Naeve, Secretary of EIFAC e.mail: or

Mr Uwe Barg, Technical Secretary of the Symposium e.mail: