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Samia Sarkis-Hillier
Aquaculture Program
Bermuda Biological Station for Research
17 Biological lane
Ferry Reach, GEO1
Tel: +1441-2971880 Ext.255
Fax: +1441-2978143


The development of aquaculture in Bermuda has been investigated at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (BBSR) since 1987. BBSR is a Not for Profit Organization incorporated in the U.S., and obtains its funding from various sources. Aquaculture is an unprecedented activity in Bermuda; although, there is a long standing tradition of fishing, and of fish consumption by locals, there has never been any history of rearing marine organisms. In the past, Bermuda boasted plentiful populations of fish and shellfish. This is no longer the case for various reasons; hence aquaculture has been recently considered as a tool for both enhancing the natural populations and providing a reliable source of seafood product for local consumption.

The Bermudas are an isolated group of oceanic islands situated in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean (32°N and 64°W), surrounded by the Sargasso Sea. Despite its northern latitude, the presence of the Gulf Stream entrains a marine fauna and flora, which is very similar to that of the Caribbean. The entire 35km Long Island consists of seven major islands which are linked by bridges; this results in several semi-enclosed bodies of saltwater, referred to as inshore waters. There is no freshwater source in Bermuda. In the 1970’s, residents and scientists alike observed the dramatic decline of several populations of finfish and shellfish in the inshore waters, generating a growing interest in the utilisation of aquaculture as a means of restoring the natural resources. As a first step to evaluate the feasibility of this type of activity into Bermuda, a workshop was hosted in 1983 at BBSR, with experts from the U.SS. and Caribbean region This paper will provide a brief background on the evolution of aquaculture in Bermuda, a synopsis of the culture method practised, and the current status of the program and conclude with the existing opportunities for the replication of this system in the Lesser Antilles

Results of Aquaculture Workshop, 1983

The 1983 Bermuda workshop conclusions favoured aquaculture in Bermuda, encouraging the focus on native and/or endemic species, and outlined some of the main advantages and disadvantages in conducting aquaculture activity in Bermuda.

The disadvantages were as follows:

  1. Aquaculture is a labour intensive activity, and the cost of labour is very high in Bermuda, rendering possibly a high cost of production.

  2. The lack of available land for an aquaculture-type activity, related to the heavy exploitation of land in Bermuda (97%). Available sites for a land-based facility were scarce, and many of them were also prime sites for residential areas.

The main advantages outlined in favour of aquaculture development were the following:

  1. Local seafood is a luxury commodity in Bermuda for both tourists and residents. This situation is due to the high import of finfish and shellfish, amounting to more than 80% of the seafood consumed. This implies the presence of an important local market.

  2. The price of seafood is very high in Bermuda, and local products are more expensive than imported products. Prices for locally caught fish range from $ 5.00 per lb. (wholesale) to $ 10.00 per lb. (retail). Hence, it could be assumed that a cultured product would command a high market price.

  3. Water quality is very good in Bermuda on the whole, despite the presence of some point sources of pollution. This is due to the high exchange rate with oceanic waters providing high dilution factors. Good water quality is a must for the set up of land-based facilities and for the successful growth and survival of animals in the field.

  4. There is no income tax; whether corporate or individual. This facilitates the running of a small business.

  5. The enforcement of an embargo on imported products is a possibility, providing assurance of sale of locally produced seafood. This is a common practice exercised by the Department of Enforcement for agricultural products. There are several criteria for this embargo to take place, namely the reliance of ample supply of local products, with a competitive price and comparative quality

  6. As aquaculture was an unprecedented activity on the island, and concerned parties (government bodies, funding sources and the general public) were relatively ignorant of the potential consequences often rendering them sceptical of the success of such an operation, a strategy of short-term goals with evaluations at every step was set-up. Results were demonstrated, discussed, and the subsequent steps agreed upon by the concerned parties, prior to continued funding.

The first step in developing a successful aquaculture program is in the well thought-out selection of a culture candidate.

Selection of a Culture Candidate

It was evident that in Bermuda, a tourist and offshore-based revenue where food security is not an issue, aquaculture would be a luxury operation. Furthermore, any production would be for local consumption only, as export to other countries would be difficult due to the high production costs, resulting in a lack of competitive prices on the international market. Finally, the species would preferentially be a locally occurring species as importation of species was frowned on by Bermudian scientists and government, in fear of impacting Bermuda's marine ecosystem. Hence, the selected candidate would have to be:

  1. A native and/or endemic species to Bermuda

  2. A luxury item, with a high market demand and associated high market price

  3. A species with a rapid growth and survival rate, minimising any potential risks

  4. Hardy and lend itself to culture techniques

  5. Available in substantial numbers for the collection of a start up stock for research studies and as an initial broodstock required for controlled reproduction

  6. Of interest to the general public for successful marketing and facilitate the raising of funds for research

  7. A species with a low environmental impact to leave Bermuda’s ecosystem unaffected by culture operations.

The animal selected as first candidate was the Bermuda sand scallop, Euvola (Pecten) ziczac. This animal was considered a delicacy by Bermudians, and was recreationally fished for local consumption in the past, it was relatively abundant in the inshore waters of Bermuda, inhabiting shallow sandy areas. Due partly to overfishing, partly to ecological changes, its population declined dramatically in the '70's putting it on the protected species list by 1978. The second scallop species considered was Argopecten gibbus, the calico scallop; this species was not as highly praised by Bermudians, but was nevertheless of value as an endemic scallop species. It was selected as a precautionary measure in ensuring a successful aquaculture operation, in the event that results proved discouraging for the sand scallop. The calico scallop was never found in high numbers in Bermuda, but was also placed on the protected species list in 1978 due to its low population numbers. Bivalves were considered a preferred candidate as their culture entrains minimal environmental impact compared to finfish culture

Both of these species have a wide distribution range throughout the sub-tropics and tropics, with Bermuda as the northernmost distribution. Euvola ziczac is distributed from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina through Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to as far south as the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Argopecten gibbus ranges from slightly north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico to the northern side of the Greater Antilles. In order to have some notion of the local market, a survey was conducted prior to the commencement of the program, attempting to evaluate the quantity of scallops imported on the island, a comparative demand with a local fresh product, and the potential price for a cultured Bermuda seafood. This survey consisted in part of a questionnaire sent to 35 restaurants and hotels. Results were very positive, confirming the demand, and the market for a local product, potentially overriding the use of imported frozen scallop meats. This candidate thus looked suitable for pursued investigations in culture techniques.

The constraints in culturing these two species was firstly, the lack of knowledge on the culture requirements; neither of these species has been cultured on a large or commercial scale to our knowledge, although they both have supported a fishery at one time, in Brazil for E. ziczac and a current fishery off Cape Canaveral, Florida for A. gibbus. Secondly, there was a limited broodstock available in Bermuda for research studies on culture techniques; such that a broodstock first had to be reared in the case of E. ziczac, and imported in the case of A. gibbus in order to commence the program.

Brief History of the Programme: 1987-2002

The evolution of the project is divided below into three general phases.

Phase 1. Research on natural populations, behaviour and growth in the natural environment.

The program started as a student project, implying a small budget, in light of enhancing the natural populations of Bermuda's inshore waters. This objective was environmentally friendly, and generated interests in the general public, wishing to see their "backyard" revert back to the good old days when they could fish scallops out for lunch. Funds were therefore supplied by private sources, but with clear understanding that this was a preliminary project to assess the growth and survival rate of this species, and its hardiness in culture systems. Results of this program showed the potential for growth of these species, where adult/market size could be obtained in 12months, and a high survival rate of >90% from juvenile to adult stage in the field.

Phase 2. Focussed studies on controlled production in laboratory

A second phase was hence begun, considering juvenile production under controlled conditions. Interest was further generated by private individuals, in light of potential commercialisation, to optimise the production of juveniles under controlled conditions. Experiments were hence conducted at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research Inc. (BBSR) investigating the larval and post-larval rearing requirements for both these species. At the end of this phase, juvenile production proved successful, but the major constraint in pursuing this work was the lack of adequate hatchery/nursery facilities.

Phase 3. Expansion of techniques to large scale culture for both hatchery and grow-out.

Fortunately, the Bank of Bermuda granted us substantial funds for the continuation of the work in light of providing Bermuda with an alternative industry, and for the production of a reliable supply of seafood product to be consumed locally. Despite the increasing commercialism character in the project, work continued to be conducted at the Bermuda Biological Station under the umbrella of Research. This allowed for the approval and support of the government for the expansion of culture scale.

This paper will focus on Phase 3, outlining a synopsis of the culture techniques developed, and a summarised description of the purpose built facilities constructed at BBSR. This will provide a clear understanding of the available technology and of the modular hatchery designed at BBSR; both of which can be easily replicated in a similar sub-tropical/tropical environment.

Synopsis of Culture Techniques

One-year old broodstock is stimulated to spawn following exposure to a thermal shock. Eggs and sperm are collected separately, allowing for cross-fertilisation of the eggs. Fertilised eggs are distributed into 1000litre insulated larval tanks, filled with 1µm filtered seawater. D-larvae develop within 24hours; during the 12 day larval life, larvae are fed a daily diet of an algal mixture composed of algal species cultured on-site. At the end of their larval life, larvae metamorphose, developing a substrate-search behaviour enabling them to settle on various types of substrate. These pediveligers are settled on sieves made of Nitex mesh, and held in a raceway system with flowing filtered seawater. Settlement occurs over the next ten days, at which point post-larvae are referred to as spat. Spat are maintained in the nursery environment until they reach 5mm in shell height.. At this time, scallops have to be transferred to the natural environment. The easiest and most cost effective method for grow-out is the use of pearl nets, which are suspended on longlines 4’ below the surface. During this phase, culturing techniques consist of grading scallops to reduced densities as they grow, and cleaning of nets on a three months basis to prevent fouling and decreased flow, entraining mortalities. The whole cycle takes approximately one year which is relatively rapid for a bivalve, during which scallops attain 50mm shell height.

In summary, there are therefore three stages to bivalve culture:

  1. Hatchery phase, which requires a land-based facility, and involves the production of larvae;

  2. Nursery phase, which is also land-based and involves the production of spat or seed; and

  3. Grow-out phase, which occurs in the natural environment and allows for the rearing of juvenile scallops to adult size. The construction of the hatchery/nursery facilities for large-scale production of larvae and spat was the main point of focus during Phase 3.

Modular Scallop Hatchery

The constraints in building a hatchery in Bermuda were the limited land availability, and the short window between the granting of the funds and the spawning season, when a functional facility was required. In light of this, a low cost “temporary” hatchery was built in June 1999 based on three refrigerated “reefer” containers. This facility was designed and fitted for larval and post-larval rearing of bivalve species; the main goals were to develop techniques for large-scale production and to conduct experimental work towards optimising culture techniques for all stages of scallop life cycle. Flexibility of usage was a fundamental part of this model hatchery. This facility has now been in use for three spawning seasons, and has proved compact and efficient for the rearing of scallop species.

Hatchery and nursery facilities are compactly arranged in 2x20’ insulated, air-conditioned, glass-fibre containers with an additional 12’ container dedicated to algal culture. Culture facilities comprise:

  1. An independent seawater system providing a continuous supply of filtered seawater.

  2. A temperature control system for seawater in support of broodstock conditioning and requirements for larval and juvenile rearing.

  3. 1000 litre insulated polyethylene and 200 litre conical, glass-fibre tanks for standard larval rearing in closed systems, and for experimental rearing in flow-through larvae culture systems.

  4. Flexible usage 450 litre round tanks, and stacked raceways for setting pediveligers and growing spat. Raceways may be either connected together as a single open-flow or semi-recirculating system, or used independently of one another, or as holding tanks for a series of small, independent aquaria.

Hatchery and Nursery Facilities

One of the interconnected containers forms the hatchery area, accommodating 4 semi-square 1 000 litre insulated tanks. These are used for conventional, closed system rearing of bivalve larvae. These tanks have proved very reliable in rearing scallop larvae, maintaining temperature within 1?C of the required for a 72h period. In addition, there are three 200 litre conical tanks currently used for experimental work in flow-through larval rearing. A total tank volume of 4 600 litres is therefore available for larval rearing.

The nursery area, occupying the other linked container, has been designed for flexible use in setting procedures and for early nursery culture. Two 450 litre circular tanks are available as either closed or open systems for setting larvae on collector mesh. Two 6’ x 2’ x 0.5’ deep flow-troughs are mounted on a side-wall, one above the other, acting as raceways. They are connected to a sump tank of 220 litre capacity fitted with a small pump and 250W heaters to deliver water to either or both troughs at the required temperature through water delivery pipe work. This system is extremely versatile; each raceway can be used independently as an open, closed, or recirculating system. This allows for the setting of larvae on sieves, conducting experiments in a series of independent aquaria, or using both raceways as one larger system with a total capacity of 510 litres, in, for example, the early nursery culture of spat.


The independent algal culture container is fitted for the UV light disinfection of prior 1 µm filtered, ambient temperature seawater. Cultures of a variety of useful algae species range in scale from 500 ml flasks to 100 litre tanks. They are maintained in a climate controlled environment with 24 h a day illumination, and are continuously supplied with a mixture of air and CO2. The current maximum output of about 100 litres per day is sufficient for the current operations of the hatchery/nursery facility.

Current Production

The current capacity of the hatchery/nursery facilities equate the production of 250 000 5mm spat, which would lead to approx. 200 000 adult scallops or 13 tonnes of live weight. Production has not attained maximum capacity over the past three years as there has been no need for it at this time. Hence, the actual production of the aquaculture facility at BBSR was of 1 tonne live fresh weight of scallops in 2001, and of 5 tonnes of live fresh weight of scallops in 2002. Five tonnes of scallops equals approx. 80 000 market size (>45mm shell height) of scallops. A staff of four people is present during the spawning season, manning the hatchery/nursery, algal cultures and grow-out; during the off-season, staff is decreased to 2 people managing the grow-out.

Marketing of Product

Production techniques for rearing scallops on a relatively large scale were therefore complete; the question now lay in the marketing and selling of scallops to the local market. Marketing is a key issue in aquaculture, one which is often overlooked by aquaculturists; however, this is truly the component which will render an operation viable. In order to explore the Bermuda market, sample baskets were provided to various chefs around the island. Responses were very positive, and sales to selected restaurants were initiated in 2001. Scallops are sold at a high price of $ 1.00 a piece, a value within those attributed to local seafood products and some imported products. The outlook for commercialisation was promising. However, for full commercialisation to take place, several issues need to be addressed.

Aquaculture Permits

Up to the present, aquaculture activity in Bermuda has been conducted under the umbrella of research. This has facilitated the administrative procedures in obtaining permits for various aspects of this type of operation. The only permit needed at present has been that allowing the sale of the cultured animals. However, with the development of the program, and its increasing evolution towards commercialisation, the following issues need to be addressed and resolved by the respective administrative bodies.

  1. The species cultured in Bermuda are on the protected species list; hence a policy needs to be devised with the Ministry of the Environment (Department of Enforcement) which provides a simple and efficient method for tracking the source of sold scallops to the culture operation. This prevents poaching and fishing of animals from the protected natural populations.

  2. The grow-out areas consisting of longlines should be zoned and marked as aquaculture areas. Due to the high traffic of small boats in the inshore waters of Bermuda, these areas can only restrict anchoring and mooring, but allow for the passage of small boats. This policy has been agreed with the Ports Authority in Bermuda, providing that longlines are submerged 2-3m below the surface. Surface markers at every corner would delineate the boundaries, for which an annual fee would be levied, as for a mooring.

  3. As longlines occupy an area above the seabed, as does a dock for instance, an agreement on a lease for the seabed needs to be agreed with the Ministry of Works & Engineering

  4. Should a more permanent hatchery be built, the zoning of the land as an industrial and non-resident area would have to be taken into consideration, and permission for building would be required by the Department of Planning. Strict regulations are enforced in Bermuda on the type of buildings erected, and the sites chosen for these.

Extension to Private Sector: Phase 1

Although the logistics of developing aquaculture in Bermuda are not simple due mainly to the lack of precedence, extension of the program to the private sector needs to be considered for continuation of aquaculture on this island. The investment for building a hatchery, the set-up costs, running costs, training of individuals, and time required are a deterrent to a private sector which has no history of aquaculture activity. Hence, it is important to devise a system of expansion which is user friendly, with minimal investment, and which proves successful on the short-term. The current proposal put forth by BBSR is the selling of a small and manageable number of juveniles (25mm) to one or several selected candidates. To minimise investment, the equipment required for grow-out is provided by BBSR, as well as the existing longline systems for a period of one year. Following hands-on training by BBSR aquaculture staff, growers become responsible for rearing scallops to market size, harvesting and selling them to restaurants of their choice under their name. The lending of grow-out equipment would be viable for a period of 1 1/2 year, when all scallops should be sold.. The appeal of this system to the growers lie in the minimal financial investment and low technology required; furthermore, a return on investment with a profit should be made within one year if proper procedures are followed. This initial demonstration is heavily subsidised by BBSR in terms of support and equipment as it needs to be successful, and show the viability and profit-making potential of scallop culture in Bermuda. In this way only will aquaculture move ahead on this Island. Simultaneously, it is also necessary for BBSR to maintain a pilot grow-out farm as an example to growers, and as an assurance that proper culture techniques entrain a reliable seafood production. The Department of Enforcement has approved this program, and gives its support in providing the selected candidates with an aquaculturist registration, and a permit to sell cultured scallops to restaurants. This program will commence in December 2002.

Summary of Aquaculture Programme in Bermuda

This program began in 1987, and has been running intermittently since. The major downfall of the entire project has been the lack of continuity in funding, forcing it to stop and re-start with several years interval in between; this yields a lack of continuity in research, in the trained staff, and in the availability of a good broodstock of scallops. For this main reason, further compounded by the small budgets made available and the inadequate facilities utilised, the evolution of the program was slow. Moreover, the Ministry of the Environment was non-committal during the first few years, rendering administrative procedures slow. The general lack of support coupled with the limited information on the requirements for culturing these species, reduced the program to a snail’s pace. It has only been since 1999, when funds were made available for a facility, and for a small staff, that the project advanced rapidly. However, it must be noted that the driving force behind this program since its inception was the knowledge that the market demand was present, and that it would command a high price.

Replication in the Lesser Antilles

A turn-key operation, with a well tested technology, a production of juveniles, and a modular hatchery is now available. The species reared are tropical and sub-tropical and should prove to perform well in the Caribbean region. The modular hatchery can be easily replicated, with the only requirement being that of access to good seawater. Moreover, this hatchery can obviously be utilised for other bivalve species. The grow-out systems differ for both species of scallops, and depending on the nature of the island, the best system may be adapted for successful culturing. Calico scallops are reared on longlines, in semi-protected bays with a minimal depth of 10m. Sand scallops are reared on sandy bottoms, in protected shallow bays of preferably 2-3m depth. The whole culture system could be easily adapted to Caribbean islands, as aquaculture in Bermuda faces many of the same constraints as those faced by several Caribbean islands. In order to transfer and implement this technology successfully to other areas, a stepwise approach should be considered:

Current Transfer of Technology Programme

There are currently two programs underway for the transfer of scallop culture technology from Bermuda to the Caribbean region.

The first is one with the Turks and Caicos Conch Farm in Providenciales, TCI. This project is a 12-months trial for the grow-out of the sand scallop in existing conch parks located in a protected sandy bay. Approximately, 1000 juveniles (25mm shell height) are sent from BBSR hatchery and distributed in the conch parks for determination of growth and survival rate in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The purpose is to develop scallop culture on a commercial scale in these islands complementing the current culture of conch, Strombus gigas.

The second is a proposed technical cooperation program (TCP) between Cuba and Bermuda, sponsored by the FAO of the UN, for the implementation of scallop culture in Cuba. This proposal is currently being assembled; it is a two year program, where the first year is one of grow-out evaluation on an experimental scale, and the second year is one of expanding to the Fisheries Enterprises on a commercial scale.

Both of these programs are the first in transferring the technology outside of Bermuda. BBSR has in its mission a strong component of education and training, necessary to these types of programs. This mission statement coupled with the infrastructure and scientific support available, render BBSR a useful link to the rest of the Caribbean region for sustainable aquaculture development.

Sand scallop Euvola (Pecten) ziczac

Calico scallop Argopecten gibbus

Synopsis of scallop culture cycle in Bermuda

Algal culture in 100 litre vessels

Tanks for spat settlement and rearing



Raymon Van Anrooy
Fishery Planning Analyst
Fishery Policy and Planning Division
Food and Agriculture Organization
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome
Tel.: +39-06-57053031
Fax: +39-06-57056500


The fisheries sector generally plays a minor role in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Lesser Antilles. The contribution of the sector to the national economies of the Lesser Antilles countries is often less than two percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The service sector (including tourism and financial services) is much more important to the national economies, in terms of income, employment and contribution to the GDP. Still, the fisheries sector in should be considered as important in terms of its contribution to the daily diet of the islands population. Fish proteins take up between 14% (Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and 22% (Antigua and Barbuda) of the total animal proteins consumed by the population.

As the populations of the islands continue to increase, between 0.2% per annum in St. Kitts & Nevis and 1.4% per annum in St. Lucia and the Bahamas (World Bank, 2001), and as capture fisheries continue to fluctuate, aquaculture development could play a role in guaranteeing a stable and sufficient supply of fisheries products to the islands’ populations.

The members states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), recognized in their 1998 amendment to the treaty establishing CARICOM (protocol V: Agricultural Policy), that aquaculture development programmes should be established. Under this protocol, it is stated that “aquaculture development should facilitate and promote the development, management and conservation of the fisheries resources in and among member states on a sustainable basis.”

Aquaculture production in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles (Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis) has increased from 2 metric tonnes in 1990 till 39 MT in the year 2000. On the other hand, the aquaculture production of the Bahamas has decreased over the same period from 49 mt to only 2 mt. Seen in the perspective of the Caribbean as a whole the aquaculture production in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas is less than 0.1 percent of the total Caribbean aquaculture production. Causes of this limited aquaculture development are numerous and have technical, biological, environmental, economical, social, legal and political backgrounds. In the following paragraphs some of these causes will be discussed and specifically aquaculture development constraining and promoting policies will be reviewed.


The opportunities for aquaculture development depend on the availability of sufficient land/ water sites for aquaculture. For freshwater aquaculture, which is currently practiced much more than marine aquaculture in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles, freshwater resources are needed that provide a sufficient quantity of good quality water when needed. In contrast, for marine aquaculture development there should be locations that are suitable for this purpose. The interaction with other aquatic environment users is obvious for both activities (fresh as well as marine aquaculture); therefore negative impacts of aquaculture on other activities should be limited or avoided. Similarly, the effects of other activities should not harm aquaculture production (e.g. industrial and city wastewater might pollute nearby aquaculture farms). Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are in many European countries (UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Greece) requested to those willing to start up aquaculture enterprises. Whether they are requested or not often is conditional upon the scale of production and expected pollution in the waste (water) of the farm.

Another critical factor is the decision on the choice of specie(s). The species to be produced should be suitable for the local situation in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles, i.e. water temperature, water quality. Feed should be available, reproduction should be technically possible, and last but not least there should be consumer demand for the specie selected and opportunities for potential increase in demand locally or in accessible markets. The limited size of many local markets in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles and the (in some cases) considerable distance from other potential markets, requires careful examination of possible alternative marketing channels and approaches.

Managerial factors should be considered as well as aquaculture development requires capacity on technical issues as for instance pond management as well as people with knowledge and expertise about the management of farms/enterprises. Farmers in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles are currently facing problems in selecting environmentally sustainable aquaculture production technologies. Mechanisms for acquisition of information are not easily accessible and, as a result, many pilot schemes have, more often than not, failed. Therefore, the selection of appropriate technologies at the farmer and entrepreneurial level is crucial (FAO, 1998).

As important as biological and technical feasibility is economic viability (Ridler & Hishamunda, 2001). Numerous attempts to develop aquaculture with the main goal of providing high value protein to the rural population in developing countries have failed as (even small-scale) farmers were less interested in producing for home consumption than in producing for the market. For aquaculture to develop, demand for the product must exist, and with the promise that farm-gate price will exceed per unit production cost (Ridler & Hishamunda, 2001). Economic viability of aquaculture (shown by sectoral profit figures, business plans and financial analysis) will facilitate the investment in the sector and allow farmers/entrepreneurs to increase access to credit to establish and develop their aquaculture business.

The accessibility to financial services as for instance credit, savings, money transfer services and insurance is beneficial to the development of the sector. With regard to insurance, this is especially an issue in the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles as natural disasters (mainly hurricanes and storms) are frequently interfering with the establishment of (aquaculture) businesses.

Aquaculture development in the SIDS could benefit from the existing capture fisheries sector institutional framework, its affiliated industries (e.g. post harvest processing, nets and other inputs importers, domestic market fish wholesalers and fishery products exporters) and the infrastructure already established (e.g. cold storage, harbours, markets, ice plants and processing facilities).

The development of aquaculture should be socially acceptable as well; this will make it possible that investments in aquaculture infrastructure will be allowed. In this respect, in some countries (e.g. France, Australia and USA) shrimp aquaculture has received a lot of negative media attention (mainly related to its sometimes negative environmental impacts) which might result in some sort of public resistance towards new establishments of shrimp culture in these countries.

The existence of good aquaculture legislation can provide an important contribution to sustainable aquaculture development; moreover, it can limit (or avoid) environmental damage and can contribute to the development of an environment in which aquaculture is economically viable (Percy & Hishamunda, 2001). Issues as right to property, right to sufficient clean water and avoidance of unnecessary cost (e.g. by using a single window approach) should be addressed in aquaculture legislation. Enforcement of the rules and regulations should be part of any good aquaculture legislation; a permit or license system might provide a solution here.

In SIDS, with few exceptions, there is a total lack of, or a very limited, institutional and financial capability to allocate resources for promotion or development of aquaculture. This sub sector has, in general, been given scarce economic weight, due to either the recent introduction of aquaculture in some SIDS, or to the lack of awareness of its potential. As a consequence, the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles experience common problems with aquaculture development planning and, therefore, often have similar requirements for information on production technology and on the marketing of aquaculture products (FAO, 1998). In addition to the above points the macro political situation as well as the level and kinds of government involvement with business operations is affecting the development of aquaculture.


The aquaculture sector is not (yet) considered as one of the main contributors to the social and economic development of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles. However, as sub-sector of the fisheries sector aquaculture is considered in an amendment of the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), (Chaguaramas, 1973), namely “Protocol V: Agricultural Policy” (1998). It is also considered in the recent CARICOM Agreement establishing the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) (2002). In Protocol V of the CARICOM agreement the issue of “establishment of development plans for aquaculture” is raised (under article 49a). The CRFM agreement states more specifically that “the CRFM shall be guided by the principle of promoting aquaculture as a means of enhancing employment opportunities and food security, nationally and regionally” (article 5: General Principles, sub-paragraph f).

The CRFM agreement further states that the member parties are “aware of the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982); the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995); the Agreement to promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (1993); the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (1995); Sustainable Development of the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (1994) and the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife in the Wider Caribbean (1990).”

With respect to aquaculture the reference above to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) is specifically important as the CCRF contains specific articles with valuable guidelines related to aquaculture development (article 9, please see annex 1) and developing countries (article 5).

Internationally, at the twenty-first session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), held in Rome, March 1995, “some delegations underscored the potential importance that the development of aquaculture might play in future in SIDS. It was noted that aquaculture could be vital for food and economic development, and could permit a reduction in fishing effort where this was called for” (paragraph 38 of the report). At the same session several delegations considered FAO assistance to SIDS should assign priority to six areas, among which “aquaculture and inland fisheries conservation, management and development”.

At the twenty-second session of COFI, held in Rome, March 1997, the six priority areas were confirmed and “the elaboration of the FAO Programme of Fisheries Assistance for Small Island Developing States, as strongly endorsed by the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, was appreciated. FAO was urged to proceed with the Programme's implementation without delay, however no donors could be found for the elaborated programme.

At the twenty-third session of COFI, held in Rome, February 1999, COFI “expressed its support for the FAO Programme of Fisheries Assistance for Small Island States but was concerned with the limited progress achieved in securing funding for the Programme”. Similarly “Several Small Island Developing States (SIDS) expressed their concern that the special programme for SIDS had not materialized due to the lack of funding” at the twenty-fourth session of COFI held in Rome February-March 2001. While in the twenty-third session the issue of fisheries and aquaculture development in the SIDS received considerable attention, there seemed to be a lack of interest during the twenty-fourth session to follow up on the earlier discussions.

At the first session of the Committee on Fisheries: Sub-Committee on Aquaculture (SCA) held in Beijing, China, 18-22 April 2002, “some delegates noted the importance of aquaculture for small island developing States, as well as the potential for the culture of ornamental fishes and live fish feed” (FAO, 2002).

From the above it can be concluded that aquaculture development in the SIDS (including the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles) is still on the international agenda; indicating that importance is given to its development. However, at the same time it is clear that the international community is not giving priority to assisting the SIDS in the development of aquaculture. The CRFM should therefore be regarded as a good step forward, taking regional level initiative in aquaculture development.

Although not making specific reference to SIDS, the outcomes of the “Conference on Aquaculture Development in the Third Millennium” considered priorities and strategies for development of aquaculture in the next two decades, in the light of future economic, social and environmental issues and advances in technologies (FAO, 2001). The resulting Bangkok Declaration and Strategy for aquaculture Development beyond 2000 is frequently used as background document in the formulation process of aquaculture development strategies worldwide, and could be of value to those SIDS of the Lesser Antilles planning their strategies.

Apart from fisheries sector related policies it should be noted here that general non-sector specific macro-economic policies are critical to aquaculture development opportunities as well. In this respect one could think of enabling policies that would include good governance, openness to trade and macro-economic growth, and emphasis on private investment (Ridler & Hishamunda, 2001).

Good governance is essential to reducing poverty and economic growth. It can be defined as public institutions functioning transparently, accountably and responsively to citizens (Temple, 1999). Good governance includes administrative and managerial processes being well arranged by the government; their ministries and other (local) governments need to be effective and productive. Characteristics of good governance are participation of the population in governing and policy development/implementation, as well as using democratic procedures, separate of powers and respect human rights.

Political stability is a major factor contributing to economic growth and investment, as well as taxation schemes, legal systems and soft and hard infrastructure (Education, financial and health systems, transport, communication, etc.). Countries with lack of political stability encounter difficulties in attracting foreign direct investments (e.g. Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Venezuela, and Colombia). High taxes discourage investment while free trade zones, tax holidays and rebates show in increase investments as they are supportive in forming a favourable business environment. Good governance implies also that there exists a legal framework that provides clarity on property rights issues (ownership, transfer, length of lease/usufruct rights), shows coherence and harmonization between various sectors, addresses inequalities and is transparent. The co-operation among the CARICOM Governments under various treaties and agreements is important as it addresses issues that are relevant and of common concern to all member states of the Caribbean community. Some of those include: the agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income profits or gains, capital gains for the encouragement of regional trade and investment and the harmonizing acts on various issues such as trade unions, employment and fiscal incentives

Corruption is one of the main factors constraining poverty alleviation and economic growth. Sectors such as agriculture and aquaculture, where investments are generally made for the long term attract less foreign direct investment as a consequence; which is harmful for their development. The World Bank states that an effective anticorruption strategy builds on five key elements: 1) Increasing Political Accountability; 2) Strengthening Civil Society Participation; 3) Creating a Competitive Private Sector; 4) Institutional Restraints on Power; and 5) Improving Public Sector Management. Starting-up aquaculture entrepreneurs are highly reliant on the provision of public services, and are generally not capable of paying the extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the misappropriation of economic and other privileges. Corruption is thus also constraining aquaculture development.

In creating a favourable business environment addressing issues as financial infrastructure development are necessary for the national governments. Every business (starting-up as well as mature) needs access to banking services, credit and insurance in order to be able to work effectively. Most of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles are well equipped with financial institutions that can provide these services, although part of the financial sector (specifically those institutions providing insurance) have suffered from the natural and man-made disasters lately, which made some go bankrupt and others restructure their programme.

Openness to trade and macro economic growth policies are positive determinants of private investment (Ridler & Hishamunda, 2001). A sector like the fisheries sector is largely dependent on private investment; for instance in vessels, ponds, hatcheries processing plants. Public investment is also important but is generally limited to infrastructure (ports, roads and communication) and education and extension. Government policies that support economic growth, for instance through maintaining low inflation levels, low interest rates, low national budget deficits (or even better having surpluses) and stabilizing exchange rates at realistic levels, will automatically contribute to the creation of an environment in which private investment (also in aquaculture) flourishes.

International, regional and bilateral trade agreements, specifically the ongoing establishment of the CARICOM “Single Market and Economy” (CSME) can be important stimulants to the development of the fisheries sector. At regional level the CARICOM countries have signed agreements on a Caribbean Court of Justice, Free movement of goods, Free movement of skills. Free movement of capital and capital market integration are still under negotiation within CARICOM. In view of the significant task in preparing the region to compete effectively in the increasingly global market place the establishment of the Regional Negotiating Machinery is important as it contributes to the region’s capacity to effectively negotiate for Caribbean interests in international fora and agreements.

Some trade agreements signed between CARICOM and other parties, with relevance for exports and imports of aquaculture products, are among others:

  1. Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) that gives all CARICOM members (excluding Suriname) access to the US Market.

  2. CARIBCAN which provides for access to the Canadian market.

  3. Cotonou Agreement (2000) and the EU General System of Preferences (GSP) which provide a framework for supporting the mutual trade and development aid between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union.

In contrast to the above trade agreements, the national governments in the SIDS could also promote the aquaculture sector development by establishing trade-barriers (e.g. using tariffs that shield the domestic aquaculture sector from foreign competition). Using the infant-industry argument governments can allow their sectors to grow for a certain period, lowering the foreign competition till such a sector is mature and ready to compete at more or less equal levels. For small sectors like aquaculture, which products generally compete with those of the capture fisheries sector, establishing such barriers seems less appropriate. Particularly in view of the need for import of certain inputs (e.g. feeds and chemicals/drugs) as no industries providing these inputs are available in some of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles.

Many SIDS of the Lesser Antilles have benefited or are still benefiting from development programs such as World Bank funded emergency recovery and poverty reduction projects and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded agricultural sector reform programmes (e.g. in Trinidad & Tobago). These development banks urge the loan obtaining governments to implement the, in their opinion, right policies that generally include trade liberalization policies and measures.

As discussed above a well designed legal and regulatory framework is a prerequisite for aquaculture development. Such a framework should be practically and its implementation should be as cost-effective as possible. Many countries, among which most SIDS of the Lesser Antilles (e.g. Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago) have fisheries laws that address environmental issues; often with the aim to reduce negative externalities (e.g. pollution, environmental degradation, overexploitation, conflicts over resource ownership and use). Specific aquaculture related regulations generally include procedures for obtaining permits or licenses, tradable or non-tradability of permits, EIA requirements and bureaucratic procedures. Absence of specific aquaculture legislation and regulation may handicap development of the sector (Ridler & Hishamunda, 2001). The majority of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles does not have a specific aquaculture legislation (yet), nor procedures for EIAs and Codes of Best Practice. Countries like Dominica and Grenada address issues such as controls on the introduction and import of exotic/non-indigenous fish species. However, not all SIDS of the Lesser Antilles have such policies yet or do not implement the policies properly.

Finally, governments have a role to play in increasing public confidence in the sustainable development of the sector, through addressing issues of public concern in a fair and transparent manner. Investment in science and risk management approaches to be able to provide the population with clear and concise information on health, safety and environmental issues is required.


Governments of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles, possessing an aquaculture sector that cannot be considered mature yet and seeing aquaculture as a means of enhancing opportunities for employment and food security, could decide to intervene at farm level to promote the sectors’ development.

Possible government interventions, at the farm level, could include:

Some of the SIDS of the Lesser Antilles already apply exemptions of duty and taxes for aquaculture (e.g. St. Lucia), while other countries’ governments provide policy assistance to the sector and free of charge technical expertise and extension services.

Government assistance to starting aquaculture entrepreneurs is well accepted in many countries. A large number of governments support education, research and extension services in aquaculture (e.g. EU, USA, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, PR China, etc.). This support has direct effect on the interest in aquaculture as it creates awareness on aquaculture products, technologies and production processes. In a number of countries (e.g. Netherlands, Canada, Norway, France, etc.) public-private partnerships in the aquaculture sector carry out research on various aquaculture related issues, such as: technology development, fish feed improvements, environmentally and socially sustainable production processes, vertical chain marketing of aquaculture products, etc.

Starting-up aquaculture entrepreneurs generally lack access to credit, as commercial banks require collateral and relatively large own investments. Some governments (e.g. Madagascar, Netherlands) assist starting entrepreneurs to write business plans and carry out financial and economic feasibility analysis, which can be used to show banks that the plans are viable. This is especially necessary as many banks hesitate to invest in aquaculture because of the expected risks involved (related to culture of life animals). Other governments have established credit programmes or provide funds to commercial banks to maintain credit programmes that work with subsidized interest rates and less restrictive conditions (e.g. prolonged payback periods), making loans to sector cheaper. In this respect it is worthwhile to mention that in many countries there exist NGOs, investors and development projects that are sometimes willing to provide cheap loans to support aquaculture development.

Innovation in aquaculture is often supported by the government (e.g. the EU Aquaflow and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Research programme). Some provide starting up grants to innovative initiatives, give tax holidays or allow starters to employ labourers with subsidized salaries or tax exemptions.

In order to develop a sustainable aquaculture sector, the affiliated industries should be developed as well at the same time (as discussed in chapter 2), so that aquaculture entrepreneurs can access sufficient supplies of inputs (e.g. fingerlings, feed, chemicals and drugs). This will enable them to market their products. Especially in Africa and South East Asia there are many governments (e.g. Uganda, Ghana, Vietnam and PR China) that support the development of the sector through construction and maintaining hatcheries that provide the necessary fingerlings to the sector. However, caution should be taken here as such government hatcheries sometimes hamper the development of the sector at a later stage, as competition is less chance to develop when subsidized government fingerling production is around.

As mentioned earlier the role of the government in regulation the development of the sector is important. Individual entrepreneurs should receive clear instructions on what is allowed and what not. Administrative procedures for obtaining permits should be kept to a minimum and be as simple as possible (e.g. using a single window approach for obtaining all necessary documents). A permit system that includes issues of access to land and water resources and clearly defines rights and obligations of the permit holder has shown to be a helpful tool for many aquaculture entrepreneurs. Moreover, under public-private partnerships developed codes of practice that practically address the environmental, technical, social and economical sustainability of aquaculture have proven to be (e.g. in Thailand, United Kingdom, Germany) valuable guides for individual aquaculture entrepreneurs in the development of their businesses.


FAO. Programme of fisheries assistance for small island developing states (SIDS). Rome, FAO, 1998, 46 p.

FAO. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium: technical proceedings of the conference on aquaculture in the third millennium. NACA, FAO, Department of Fisheries of Thailand, Bangkok, 2001. (Cd-Rom).

FAO. Report of the first session of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture (SCA) of the Committee on Fisheries, Beijing, China April 2002, FAO Fisheries Report No. 674, Rome, FAO, 2002. 37 p.

Percy, R.D. and Hishamunda, N. Promotion of sustainable commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Volume 3. Legal, regulatory and institutional framework. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 408/3, Rome, FAO. 2001. 29 p.

Ridler, N. and Hishamunda, N. Promotion of sustainable commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Volume 1. Policy Framework. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 408/1, Rome, FAO. 2001. 67 p.

Temple, F. Good governance: the key to poverty reduction & prosperity in Bangladesh. Opening Remarks at Joint World Bank/ERD Seminar on Loan Administration Change Initiative (LACI) & Financial Accountability, Dhaka, Bangladesh, World Bank, 1999.

World Bank. Country Profiles (, data profiles 2001.

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