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The recent great interest In aquaculture, or the breeding and rearing of aquatic plants and animals in enclosures/confinements, was spurred by the oil crisis of the early seventies that made the exploitation of aquatic resources through fish capture highly uneconomical and due to declining fish catches in major traditional fishing grounds in a number of developing countries in the world. The farming of fish was seen as the best option to catching fish to feed the growing masses, provide them with alternative livelihood opportunities for their socio-economic upliftment, as well as generate much-needed foreign exchange to service foreign debt.

In many countries, especially in the developing world, fish and other aquaculture products serve as the main source of cheap protein to combat malnutrition and under-nutrition, fish having essential amino acids that are often lacking in cereal protein substitutes. Value-wise, cultured fish products compete with poultry and livestock in the local market. Nutrition - wise, however, aquaculture species are more efficient in converting food into body tissue than poultry or livestock (Liao, 1988).

In Asia, aquaculture products are essential in improving the largely high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet predominant in the region, where paradoxically enough, a great number of people, especially in the rural areas, engage in labour-intensive work but subsist on low-protein diets (Liao, 1988). A relatively small amount of fish protein in combination with a cereal-based diet would enhance the nutritional quality of the cereal protein, improve the overall quality of the diet, and therefore increase labour efficiency.

Table 1. World aquaculture production in 1986 in tonnes








Percentage of World Total

Africa, N & NE

49 307


49 521


Africa, South of Sahara

11 616




11 909


North America

237 472

45 014

145 994

428 480


Central America

8 013

4 968

40 648

53 629


South America

61 744

36 576

2 834

5 332

106 486



16 664




17 129



399 153


643 636

1 042 887



305 000

305 000





21 149

2 368

24 605



4 490 489

311 769

1 488 170

2 734 095

30 123

9 054 646



5 580 438

398 808

2 342 871

2 742 005

30 173

11 094 295

Percentage of World Total






Source: ADCP, 1989b

Table 2. Aquaculture production of finfish, crustacea, molluscs and seaweeds by 16 leading countries in 1986 in tonnes


4 860 500


1 290 000

Republic of Korea

993 000


470 000


417 000


382 500


305 000


266 500

Taiwan Province of China

236 000


236 000

Viet Nam

204 000


133 500


121 500


116 400

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

99 000


89 200


10 220 100

Source: ADCP, 1989b

In addition to supplying cheap protein for human consumption, aquaculture provides excellent opportunities for employment and income generation, particularly in the more economically depressed rural areas. Aquaculture employs large numbers of people either directly in fish farming activities (as for example, fish pond/fish pen/fish cage operators, caretakers, construction workers, pump tenders, vehicle/machine operators, harvesting aides) or indirectly as employees in related or ancillary industries (as net manufacturers, boat-makers, fry gatherers, bamboo suppliers).

Although the number of people directly involved in aquaculture production is difficult to estimate for lack of statistical information, especially on a global basis, China's 350 000 people employed in its 22 000 village-operated fish farms and the Philippines' approximately 250 000 fish pond employees, give some indications as to the magnitude of the aquaculture industry's labour force (Baluyut, 1989a). Moreover, it has been shown that aquaculture labour is more productive than comparable agricultural activities and that income and profits generated from aquaculture are generally higher than those derived from other agricultural activities (Trono, 1988).

Aquaculture has also been the best means of alternative livelihood for fishing communities whose traditional source of income has been substantially adversely affected by the over-exploitation of coastal municipal fishing grounds. The introduction of small-scale aquaculture in many such areas has been shown to create employment and improve the socio-economic status of subsistence fishermen. Doty (1977, as cited in Trono, 1988), noted that incomes of artisanal fishermen in the South China Sea region have increased several times over with their participation in seaweed farming. Likewise, the introduction of seaweed culture has transformed Sitangkai, a small, sleepy fishing village in remote Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, the Philippines' southernmost province, into a very progressive town (Trono, 1988).

In this sense, aquaculture therefore not only provides employment/livelihood opportunities; it also contributes to the development of rural areas. It also helps maximize the use of idle or marginal lands in a number of developing countries where land is still the basis of wealth and social status and thus, general well-being. Aquaculture has, for example, helped restore economic activity in Negros Province, the Philippines to usual high levels after the collapse of the sugar industry caused severe economic dislocation, especially among the rural farm workers. (At present, Negros Province has the most intensively managed shrimp ponds in the country, most of which have been constructed from what used to be sugarcane fields.)

Aquaculture is also an important alternative for those countries whose traditional fishing grounds have been severely reduced by the imposition of the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), primarily by the introduction of fish farming in areas well within the EEZ (Liao, 1988).

Aquaculture has likewise proven to be an excellent source of foreign exchange for aquaculturally-producing countries with the export of high-value species like penaeid shrimps, oysters, and seaweeds. For example, the Republic of Korea has a monopoly of supplying salted sea mustard (Undaria) or "wakame" to Japan, of which it exported 23 000 t valued at US$ 30 million in 1982. It is also an exporter of oysters, mainly canned, to the USA, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands, bringing in resources of US$ 27.5 million in 1982 (Baluyut, 1989a).

In the ASEAN countries, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have all registered increasing export earnings from aquaculture. For example, the Philippines has become a leading exporter of jumbo tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, mainly to Japan, with 24 292 t valued at US$ 251 226 428 in 1987. It is also a top exporter of dried and processed seaweeds, earning an estimated US$ 26 848 238 from 26 651 t shipped out in 1987 (Baluyut, 1989a).

Aquaculture development also spurs the establishment and growth of related industries in support of production, as feed-milling, fish processing, ice-making and cold storage, net manufacture, and even construction. In major aquaculture producing countries, the manufacture of fish/shrimp feeds and support equipment, supplies, and materials has expanded side by side with the expansion of aquaculture. Taiwan, Province of China (PC) is a case in point. The phenomenal growth of shrimp culture also saw the proliferation and expansion of shrimp feed-milling enterprises and of manufacturers of aquaculture equipment like paddlewheels, aerators, and various pumps.

In the Philippines, the introduction and subsequent expansion of fish pen culture in Laguna de Bay spurred the growth of ancillary industries like net manufacture, bamboo-cutting, and milkfish fry collection.

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