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A great disparity was encountered amongst the plans. This was not so much due to projections per se, but rather to the thoroughness and depth in which each country went to prepare its production forecasts.

Although dating back from the 1980’s, a number of FAO publications and guidelines on aquaculture planning have been produced in the context of aquaculture development. It is not the intent of this section to "reinvent" them as they remain valid today, but to provide a different perspective on the process of planning and forecasting aquaculture development. Given the increasing stress put on aquaculture to be the new supplier of fish, and thus, if one adopts this position, the obligation of countries to achieve the production targets set in their plans, it is useful to ask:

What makes a successful planning process?
What assumptions and factors upon which to base projections should be taken into account?
What decision-making methods are most suitable, and in which context?

To attempt to answer these questions, a brief overview of the logical steps of planning is presented, followed by a section reviewing planning methodologies available to planners. Based on these considerations and on the methodologies identified in country plans, some thought is given on the requirements for sound and thorough aquaculture planning.

3.1 Planning: a rational process

Documents setting out clearly the logic of planning are scarce, even in the wider context of agricultural development. Publications on planning methods, however, are available but they provide little insight into the rational process involved in the planning of the development of a sector like aquaculture.

It may be easier to visualise the rational planning process in the form of an inversed pyramid (Figure 2).

The policy framework spells out the broad directions of development a country wishes to follow, for a given sector (aquaculture for example). Each direction of development contains one or more aims, or necessary requirements for a country to develop its aquaculture sector. By their very nature, these requirements are qualitative and broad in scope. Defining a framework of development is thus the first step of the planning process. Designing a strategy comes second, as a strategy takes each requirement of the framework further by envisaging how each could be met. The concretization of a requirement will require the setting of objectives. How to go about achieving these objectives will be provided in the plan (the third step), which should specify the quantitative targets related to the objectives enumerated in the strategy, as well as the activities to implement to achieve the targets.

Figure 2: Rational planning process

In relation to aquaculture development, each step of the process is however rarely encountered, as it depends largely on the advancement of the sector in a given country. Countries wishing to develop their yet marginal aquaculture sector may only possess a framework, whilst those at a more advanced stage will have formulated strategies and plans to guide and manage aquaculture development at the national level. The country documents obtained ranged from frameworks to plans, with production targets and corresponding activities. Their close examination however revealed a great deal of confusion over appropriate use of planning terms and development logic.

3.2 Planning methods

3.2.1 Types of planning

Planning processes have been distinguished based on the form, degree of public (government) and private (enterprises) participation and nature of policies. Hence the existence of directive, indicative, incentive and strategic planning (Hamlisch, 1988; Breuil, 1999) which relied on a steering committee, usually composed on national planners, with, if necessary, representatives from development agencies, international experts and members of the public and private sectors, which, in turn, appointed a "working party" with multiple skills to draft a strategy and a plan of development (Maine and Nash, 1987). Based along the same lines, but recognising the importance to give a voice to those affected by the development of a sector, recent planning methods have placed a stronger emphasis on the participation of both stakeholders and the public, often at the strategy level, by privileging a more consultative and participatory approach. Drawn from the three types of planning methods given by Hamlisch (1988) and with emphasis on participatory processes, Sevaly (2001: 83) describes today’s three main categories of stakeholder involvement as instructive (when "the government makes decision but mechanisms exist for information exchange"), consultative (when "the government is the decision-maker but stakeholders have a degree of influence over the process and outcomes"), and cooperative (when "primary stakeholders act as partners with the government in the decision-making processes").

3.2.2 Participation and consensus

Benefits of public participation in natural resources planning and management are now well established and the literature contains a wealth of examples from this field. However, despite its advantages, public participation, in the form of consultation forums, public comment processes and opinion polls, has shown its limitations when it fails to quantify trade-offs and consequently results in conflicts (Ananda and Herath, 2003). In addition, barriers to successful planning have been identified as the lack of agreement on goals, the rigidity of the design process, the procedural requirements and the lack of trust, all being due to institutional defaults (Lachapelle, McCool and Patterson, 2003). To overcome problems inherent to the nature of participation, a number of methods to rationalize decision-making and ensure its transparency and legitimacy (Mascarenhas and Scarce, 2004), have been developed and documented, often with reference to forest and water resources management - the fisheries sector notably missing from the literature on the subject. A range of Multi-Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM) procedures, including Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), Expected Utility Method (EUM), Compromise Programming (CP) have been used successfully to rank, according to their importance, interest groups, issues studied and alternative plans after public opinions and preferences were elicited (Pavlikakis and Tsihrintziz, 2003). The incorporation of preferences in decision-making processes through the modelling of stakeholder values was also shown to be a suitable process to quantify trade-offs and thus minimise conflict by making the right choices (Ananda and Herath, 2003). This complements structured decision-focused approaches which can be used to specify and organise values, in turn using these to create alternatives and assess trade-offs to achieve a balance between key objectives (Gregory and Keeney, 2002). Finally, scenario planning, which consists of contrasting a few scenarios to explore the uncertainty surrounding the future consequences of a decision, has proved useful in the field of conservation biology (Peterson, Cumming and Carpenter, 2003). Underlying all methods is, of course, the need for putting a group of people together, whose interests and concerns are representative of those at stake.

One aspect these approaches tend to overlook, however, is consensus-building not only for management of a resource, but also its future development, understood here in terms of utilisation and enhancement. One method appears to stand out to reach consensus on how this could be envisaged: the Delphi method. This method, applicable to any professional field, is a simple and "flexible" group facilitation technique, based on an "interactive multistage process, designed to transform opinion into group consensus" (Hasson, Keeney and McKenna, 2000). In the context of natural resources management, it allows multiple requirements to be given equal weights and expert opinion to be voiced on any natural resource issue whilst moving towards greater agreement (Taylor and Ryder, 2003). In the context of foresight studies, it has been used as a tool forecasting development (e.g. investigation of market niches with potential for Austrian dominance in the next 15 years) whilst enabling the coordination of expectations and decentralised actions (Tichy, 2001). This latter case closely matches what the planning of aquaculture development requires.

3.3 Reflections on aquaculture country plans and strategies

3.3.1 What are the criteria for a successful planning process?

The above review has highlighted some criteria which could be useful in assessing the contents of national aquaculture plans and strategies. They are listed in Table 11, with the number of times they appeared to have been taken into account during the formulation of national plans and strategies indicated opposite.

Table 11: Criteria for a successful planning process with corresponding number of times encountered in country plans1

Criteria 1: legitimacy. Involves three sub-criteria:

1. fair representation: government, industry representatives, academics, general
public, interest groups, international organisations.


2. appropriate government resources, reflecting government commitment.


3. consensus-driven process (Mascarenhas and Scarce, 2004).


Criteria 2 - transparency over methods used to achieve goals.


Criteria 3 - agreement on (Lachapelle, McCool and Patterson, 2003):

1. goals set


2. flexibility of method used


3. clarity of procedure used


4. trust amongst participants


5. examination of alternatives


1 The figures corresponding to each criterion are subjective and as such, they should be viewed only as indicative of the weight given to the criteria in individual country plans.

3.3.2 What should be the assumptions and factors upon which to base projections?

Complementing the above, a number of relevant and country-specific factors upon which to base projections have been extracted from the analysis of individual country plans and strategies. Some of the generic factors used by individual countries to establish a diagnosis of the status of their activity as well as devise future plans and define targets have already mentioned in section 2, under Regional Forecasts. A list of them, which attempts to be more specific and exhaustive, is presented in Table 12. Again, indicatively, the number of times these factors were taken in consideration in plans is presented opposite each factor.

This table highlights that national perspectives receive stronger emphasis with respect to aquaculture development. Whilst this is justified, the positioning of aquaculture products on international markets remains of prime importance in a strategy oriented towards exports. Few countries gave international market trends, potential competition amongst producers, along with international treaties are codes, the recognition they deserve in their planning processes.

It is suggested that the criteria listed in Table 12 could be used to guide the formulation of future national strategies and plans for aquaculture development.

Table 12: Assumptions and factors upon which to base projections with corresponding number of times encountered in country plans1

National context

Analysis of past trends/results from past plans


Analysis of past and present domestic economic environment:

- prices


- incomes


- demography


Analysis of past and present domestic markets/demand/consumer preferences


Analysis of present natural resources and state of the environment (in relation to aquaculture):

3 (general)

- carrying capacity


- areas to develop


- conflicts over resource use.


Analysis of status of present production and transformation facilities.


Evaluation of present research capabilities and technical expertise.


Analysis of present legal and regulatory frameworks:

- in place


- to enforce


- to create/develop


Evaluation of present financial resources:

- available and where from


- to attract (and how)


Analysis of trade-offs associated with each decision, evaluation of alternatives.


Clear separation between projections for the capture and the culture sectors


Overall evaluation of opportunities and constraints/SWOT analysis


International context

Analysis of global/regional economic environment and economic trends:

- evaluation of other country plans (comparison)


- price trends for specific commodities


- orientation of future demand (high-value vs. low-value products)


Analysis of international markets:

- evolution of import/exports trends


- evaluation of potential future competition amongst products


Explicit consideration given to international treaties and codes (e.g. FAO Code of Conduct for responsible aquaculture development)


Evaluation of international public opinion and environmental/social concerns.


1 The figures corresponding to each criterion are subjective and as such, they should be treated with caution and viewed only as indicative of the weight given to the criteria in individual country plans.

3.3.3 What decision-making methods are most suitable, and in which context?

It is important to remember that, no matter how attractive the decision-making and consensus-building techniques may be, they bear a high cost, both in terms of time and money. Interestingly, all the references cited above concerned developed countries, where such resources may not be a limiting factor. Only one example of the development of a ‘consensus’ participation model (achieving both a collaborative consensus and including the disenfranchised poor in the process) in the case of planning the management of protected areas of a developing country - Zambia - was found (Warner, 1997). This may be an indicator that long, complex and costly decision-making processes may not be within the (financial) reach of a developing country, with little or no aquaculture.

The task of setting targets has been recognised as "formidable" given the diversity of factors, interests and possible changes to account for (De Silva, 2001: 450). Yet, more than hypothetical figures, targets indicate priorities, help to mobilise and allocate resources and introduce accountability (Christiaensen, Scott and Wodon, undated). The Delphi method, by having demonstrated its usefulness and practicality in reaching consensus and by being flexible may allow overcoming both the financial constraint and the difficulty inherent to target setting. Moreover, its adaptability to a wide range of contexts provides the additional benefit of incorporating both qualitative elements (to agree, for example, on the components of the framework or the strategy) and quantitative elements (e.g. fixation of production targets, development and implementation of activities, costing) in a single process.

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