The development of profitable aquaculture production, especially in sea-water, relies on the simultaneous satisfaction of five major issues:
the existence of a species, whose biological characteristics are compatible with captivity, and which is well adapted to the existing environment (chiefly temperature and salinity). Juveniles must be available either through capture of wild animals or through controlled reproduction in hatcheries.
a capacity to provide adequate fish feed to allow the development of production (after a choice between the strategy of using local products versus imported raw material).
high initial market prices covering the costs of culture, taking into account the potential price decrease when production increases.
certain pre-conditions regarding: local geography (sites), socio-economics (existence of economic actors, aptitude to organise the development, general economic environment); and legal framework (allowing fast development of the activity). Each has to be evaluated with regard to potential parallel operations competing in the same markets.
local capacity to solve the biological problems (nutrition, pathology), which will undoubtedly appear in the research/development phase.
At present, not all these conditions are satisfied in Jamaica, and the emergence of marine cage fish-farming will require a preliminary research/development phase before profitable marine aquaculture can emerge. Significant favorable factors exist, but the most negative factor at present is the lack of a species for which rearing technology has already been mastered under local conditions.
On the other hand, Tilapia culture has proven to be a profitable aquaculture activity in freshwater, well applicable to the socioeconomic context of Jamaica. Ways of expanding the present production by entering new environments (brackish waters) and techniques (intensive pond farming in freshwater) should be explored to rapidly expand the existing production.
Such phased research and experimental trials programmes could best be overseen and administered by the Scientific Research Council (SRC), possibly with parts of it handled by some local private sector companies.
The implementation of such research activities could, if significant complementary funding is identified from external sources, be undertaken by new aquaculture specialists to be recruited under the SRC and/or under the Port Royal Marine Laboratory of the Marine Science Unit, UWI.
Once a promising medium-scale marine-cage culture technology has been demonstrated by the trials programme, it is expected that the Jamaican private sector would be prepared to adapt it to local conditions, identifying by itself, the development capital required.
If however the technology demonstrated is more suitable for the small-scale producer, then credit and technology transfer arrangements will have to be devised for the small-scale entrepreneurs, but a numberof Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) would be well equiped to organize the technical and financial assistance required.
A proposed progressive approach to overall aquaculture development in Jamaica, comprising 4 project profiles and partly integrated in a global Caribbean framework is presented in Annex 2.