Aquaculture is simply defined as the farming and management of aquatic animals and plants. When practised efficiently it provides marketable products competitive in price to those harvested naturally.
Aquaculture has many advantages. It requires less energy and gross space than land-based husbandry of domestic farm animals, poultry or crops, and is capable of high yields. Its products are often high in immediately-utilizable protein, and favoured for dietary health. Although still a minor resource of food for human consumption, its importance relative to existing natural resources is increasing rapidly. The two economic driving forces behind this are the escalating costs of intensive agriculture dependent on oil-derived fertilizers, and lower returns from traditional capture fishing as wild stocks are depleted.
Investment in aquaculture is increasing (using the word 'investment' in its broadest sense of both expended effort and capital investment), but at a rate insufficient at present to support all the development opportunities which arise. The rate of investment, however, has not been helped by a high incidence of endeavours and ventures which have not fulfilled their production targets or economic projections. A selection process is therefore necessary to ensure that all investments which consume national resources and skilled people are deployed to best effect. This process involves good quality planning and management, and requires evermore critical attention as this emergent sector, now based on modern and often sophisticated technology, becomes an important national economy.
The enduring success of investment depends on the unequivocal commitment of government. Recognition of aquaculture as a valuable economic entity in the national structure of development is manifest in many ways, notably in statements of government policy and legislation. Clear pronouncements by government ease the institutional and legal obstacles to progress. Collectively, these measures attract interest and investment from a wide variety of sources among which, in developing countries, are international assistance agencies which sponsor projects designed to persuade entrepreneurs to invest.
There are many conflicting national, social, and economic interests which have to be reconciled before organized sector development can take place, and governments often have difficulty establishing a coherent and realistic policy to justify the inclusion of aquaculture in their strategic plans. Few countries have the experienced human resources which can command the knowledge necessary for identifying the relevant details of these conflicts, and for analyzing all aspects of long-range sector planning for aquaculture development. Considerable information on aquaculture development has been assembled and analyzed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This agency recognizes its responsibility to take the lead in initiating and guiding the policy-making process.
This report is prepared by the Aquaculture Development and Coordination Programme (ADCP). By its publication, ADCP continues to fulfil a commitment to advise and inform governments on the new technology of aquaculture. It is intended as a guideline document only, prepared in simple outlines, aimed at countries which see a role for aquaculture in their economic development programmes. It describes one methodology for the generation of an aquaculture sector plan which can be integrated, in turn, into a large national development plan. The key elements in the sector which need attention are identified. It recommends activities which need special study (and by whom), and the analytical procedures to follow. This methodology, for the most part, is based on previous planning efforts by governments and organizations, and on practical experiences by many individuals.
The report can also be used as the basis for organizational and even corporate planning. It acknowledges, in fact, that many development agencies themselves have not established a consistent policy towards sector growth, and have not always given sufficient weight to capacity building in their investments. They have been preoccupied with biotechnology rather than the social and economic factors which are the true justification for the work. A well-executed project may achieve little unless linked with others to consolidate and expand the bridgehead created.
Finally, it must be recognized that professional planners in aquaculture do not exist. Any sector plan is therefore prepared by the collective endeavours of a multi-disciplinary team created for the express purpose. However, experience shows that such a team grows in stature and wisdom, once established, and its continuity proves useful as a driving force for the sector as well as an impartial advisory unit. Through such a group, a country gains the means to conceive and manage its own projects and, most importantly, controls the size of the sector in proportion to its economic worth.
Colin E. Nash
Programme Leader, ADCP