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3. Aquaculture strategies and plans

3.1 National and sub-national plans
3.2 Benefits and consequences
3.3 Awareness, cooperation, coordination and participation in responsible aquaculture
3.4 Plans for further incentives and deterrents
3.5 Conclusions drawn from the synthesis

3.1 National and sub-national plans

3.1.1 Aquaculture plans
3.1.2 Aquaculture development strategy in the absence of specific aquaculture plans

National aquaculture plans were reported to exist in Cyprus, Egypt (1985-2000), Israel (within the Fisheries Plan), Italy (within the 5th 3-year Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture, 1997-1999), and Malta (1994), but not in Bulgaria, Croatia, Morocco, Romania, or Turkey. Section 3.1.1 therefore only applies to the countries which have reported plans, while section 3.1.2 applies to the countries which have not.

3.1.1 Aquaculture plans

This section of the synthesis only covers Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, and Tunisia, the only reports which gave details of their plans.

The aquaculture sector in those countries which have published a national aquaculture plan is very diverse. In some cases the sector was previously not well developed (e.g. mariculture in Israel; intensive marine finfish farming in Italy, due to the scarcity of wild fingerlings), or production was much lower (Egypt); in others procedures were more lengthy and complicated (Cyprus), constraints on resources were growing (Israel), or the fisheries organisation was not fully involved in aquaculture development (Malta).

Before its national aquaculture plan existed, the sector in Cyprus was managed through the Department of Fisheries, on demand. Procedures were more lengthy and less clear than nowadays. The Egyptian report gives some data on production before the plan but does not discuss how the sector was administered. Before the existence of an aquaculture plan in Israel, constraints on water use were growing, trade barriers (including customs duties) were high, customers preferences were shifting from traditional aquaculture products to new ones, and mariculture was in its infancy. In Malta, the first production unit started in 1991, three years before the aquaculture plan. Until 1994, all applications for new aquaculture ventures were coordinated by the Malta Development Corporation and the Planning Services Division (which pre-dated the current Planning Authority). EIA had already been mandatory since 1991.

Aquaculture in Greece was initially planned by the Ministry of Agriculture (Fisheries Service). From 1987 its development was regulated through medium-term plans (1987-1991 and 1991-1993) which were coordinated by the Fisheries Service, in conjunction with the European Community Service. Before the enforcement of its National Plan, investment in aquaculture in Tunisia concentrated on marine fish culture, with relatively modest results (500-600 t/yr).

The major features of existing national aquaculture plans are summarised in Table 1. The common features of national aquaculture plans include:

· Specifying limitations (e.g. farm site locations, farm sizes, numbers of farms; visual impact for new farms; minimum water depths and cage separation; allowable expansion of existing farms);

· Requiring EIA (on individual sites, or on whole areas within which farms can be considered);

· Defining management norms;

· Identifying and promoting appropriate research topics;

· Providing technical support; and

· Supporting species diversification.

Most other features are specific to the differing needs of the individual countries. However, with the exception of Egypt, there is an emphasis on the development of coastal aquaculture and off-shore technology.

The national aquaculture plans summarised in Table 1 have been primarily drawn up by the relevant fisheries authorities but the planning process incorporated some suggestions and ideas from discussions with other government departments and fish farmers (Cyprus); included representatives from academia, producers and other relevant government and other organisations (Egypt, Italy, Tunisia); and included other government departments (Malta). A subsequent review of the plan in Malta involves the producers association, as well as government authorities. The plan for aquaculture in Israel was drawn up mainly through initiatives from government and academic institutions, but the "Public Committee for the Evaluation of Marine Aquaculture" has promoted the plan (no indication of membership of this committee was provided in the report).

The existence of national aquaculture plans have produced a number of improvements, both from the perspective of producers and from an administrative point of view, include the clarification of authority; simplification of procedures; creation of opportunities; identification of constraints and measures to resolve them; provision of technical and sometimes financial support; and the promotion (though not necessarily acknowledging it as such) of responsible aquaculture development. In Cyprus, the plan clarifies the role of government and private sectors, simplifies procedures, and defines monitoring procedures. In Egypt, the plan creates expansion opportunities, provides more facilities and support for the private sector, and enables the administration to evaluate the requirements for training, extension services, etc., for the forecast expansion in aquaculture production. Greece has a well-articulated National Plan, which includes a major relevant plan (the Operational Fishery Business Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture) and two complementary plans (the Pesca Business Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Private Investment Plan of the Ministry of National Economy). These conform with EU Directives, which combine infrastructure expansion and improvement, the investment and marketing promotion, environmental care, and the improvement of working conditions. Plans for aquaculture within the fisheries plan of Israel provide priorities for research and development, highlight constraints and identify the means to combat them, provide new research and development funding, mobilise financial support for private investment, identify the value of aquaculture for food security, assist the efficient use of marginal desert waters; and target a customs rate decrease of 50% by 2001. In Italy, the plan favours the development of a responsible attitude by defining criteria for the issuance of grants and loans. In Malta, the plan provides a clear perspective of development for the next ten years to the private sector, identifies development and conservation areas, promotes responsible aquaculture through health and environmental monitoring programmes, and identifies the Planning Authority as the prime authority for granting development permission. The identification of available aquaculture sites, as well as appropriate rearing techniques and market opportunities for the main aquaculture sectors (inland and marine fish culture and mollusc culture) are features of the Tunisian plan.

Some linkages between the aquaculture plans and other relevant plans are described in the national reports. In Cyprus the aquaculture plan is mentioned in the current 5-year strategic development plan (which is based on "indicative planning") but there is no specific link between the plans for the various development sectors. The aquaculture plan of Egypt is part of the fisheries resources development plan, which is in turn part of a multi-sectorial national development plan. The aquaculture (within fisheries) plan of Israel complies with other national and regional (with Jordan) targets aimed at maximising the efficiency of water use. The Maltese aquaculture plan is linked with other planning documents concerning development outside built-up areas, and the use of farmhouses and agricultural buildings. Linkages between a major and two complementary plans, within the Greek National Plan, have already been recorded above.

The concept of the precautionary approach has been employed in the development of aquaculture plans, which seem to be promoting a responsible attitude to aquaculture in the countries where they have been introduced. These plans, though mainly the means of executing laws and regulations, have generally also created a climate for the development of responsible aquaculture. However, since the aquaculture plan of Cyprus is not yet implemented, it is difficult to forecast how far it will positively promote responsible aquaculture. The precautionary approach was the basis of its plan, in accordance with an FAO consultancy on the environmental impact of proposed aquaculture developments. In Egypt, the existence of the plan is reported to have resulted in a sharp increase in aquaculture production; the use of improved techniques, especially in traditional farms; the involvement of a wider spectrum of the populace in aquaculture; the extension of aquaculture from the Northern Delta to Upper Egypt; and the application of the precautionary approach is preventing the negative impacts on water and land resources which were being created by unplanned aquaculture expansion. The existence of an aquaculture plan in Israel is promoting responsible aquaculture because it minimises effluents through recycling; controls introductions more efficiently; enables the future licensing of aquaculture farms; and thus enhances the enforcement of regulations. In Malta, the aquaculture plan is reported to have substantially promoted the concept of responsible aquaculture by establishing the use of the precautionary approach; limiting sites for development; and insisting on environmental impact studies. Some countries (Greece, Israel, Malta) promote the concept of the precautionary approach and responsible aquaculture through the terms of their aquaculture licenses.

Major beneficiaries of the plans are reported to include the commercial sector (Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta), artisanal fishermen (Egypt), high priority remote rural areas (Israel), and public administration (Cyprus, Malta) and research (Cyprus, Greece, Italy). The reports from Cyprus and Greece also remarked that it was the public which ultimately benefited.

The national aquaculture plans have carefully considered the availability of resources in all cases. The necessity to diversify income and diet was recognised in the plans for Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel, but not in Malta. Specifically, the dependency on tourism in Cyprus and the fact that 60% of fish and fish products are imported was considered, while in Egypt it is hoped that the plan will increase the availability of foodfish from 5 kg/caput/yr to 13 kg/caput/yr, as well as increasing job opportunities, which is a priority need. In Greece, a specific reference to the high nutritional value of fisheries products is included in the primary plan.

3.1.2 Aquaculture development strategy in the absence of specific aquaculture plans

This section of the synthesis refers only to Bulgaria, Croatia, Morocco, Romania, Spain, and Turkey. France does not appear in sections 3.1.1 or 3.1.2 because the relevant parts of their report were missing at the time that this synthesis was prepared.

Various strategies were described in the national reports of countries which do not yet have a specific aquaculture plan but the absence of a plan was thought to reflect the minimal level of importance attached to aquaculture development by government authorities in Croatia (probably), Morocco (compared to the fisheries sector), and Turkey (except within the relevant ministries and department specifically concerned with aquaculture). In Bulgaria and Romania, the absence of an aquaculture plan may only reflect the time necessary to establish reform programmes during the transitional period, rather than any lack of enthusiasm for the aquaculture sector per se. The reports from Croatia and Turkey did not indicate that there was any immediate intention to issue a specific national aquaculture plan. This also seems to apply to Morocco and Romania but the fisheries authorities in those countries are incorporating, or intend to incorporate aquaculture within other plans. In Morocco, the Ministry of Marine Fisheries is, for the first time, including aquaculture within its 5-year (1999-2003) fishery strategic plan. The Marine Fisheries Department is therefore integrating aquaculture into the general development process, paying special attention to the availability of on-land or offshore sites for exploitation; the rearing of economically interesting species; deficiency of good quality farmed fish for the national and international markets; encouraging culture-based littoral fisheries, in conjunction with fishing communities; establishing of artificial reefs; diversifying fishing community income; and controlling aquaculture's use of the coastal environment, thus creating some potential for the eco-labelling of aquaculture products. In Romania, the government fisheries authorities have requested that the planning of a reform programme for aquaculture should be incorporated within the "Know-how Fishery Project", funded by the UK government. Aquaculture development planning in Spain is included in the fisheries sector and is implemented autonomously on a regional basis; at the national level, Spain intends to integrate aquaculture into the EU funding programmes.

Aquaculture is referred to in other plans, where there is no national aquaculture plan. Freshwater aquaculture was mentioned within a strategy document drafted by the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry two years ago but, due to the passage of time, about 50% of the objectives have already been achieved. Certain coastal areas also have documents which discuss the feasibility of and justification for marine aquaculture in their districts but these do not constitute true development plans. There are also strategies for the development of agriculture and tourism in Croatia, which mention aquaculture but accord it no priority. All recent five-year plans in Turkey mention the fact that aquaculture should be supported. In some other countries, aquaculture is being given a rather higher profile. In Morocco, aquaculture is included in the plans of the Ministry of Agriculture (sanitary control and land use), the Ministry of Infrastructure (environmental protection and EIA), and within the an interministerial commission for the development of tourism (which is concerned with the administration of projects within 5 km of the coastline. In addition, as mentioned above, aquaculture has been included for the first time in the new 5-year Moroccan marine fisheries strategic plan which includes, inter alia, site evaluation for aquaculture potential; development of the institutional framework; the promotion of culture-based fisheries; the management and expansion of mollusc stocks; and the promotion of seaweed cultivation. In Romania, aquaculture is included in several other regional and national plans, including the regional Strategic Plan of Action for the Black Sea (1996), which was also mentioned in the report from Bulgaria, includes common strategies for sustainable aquaculture development, and the establishment of common norms for ecologically compatible aquaculture; the national plan for the protection and rehabilitation of the Black Sea (this plan was established by the Ministry of Water, Forestry, and Environmental Protection, but without the advice of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food) promotes sustainable aquaculture; another plan of the Ministry of Water, Forestry, and Environmental Protection, "which coordinates the development of trout farming; a reform programme for the agricultural and food production sector, including farmed fish, which is included in the government development plan for 1998-2000; and interministerial programmes for disadvantaged rural areas and for conservation areas.

Aquaculture development has a mixed future in the countries which do not have specific aquaculture plans. Its future in Turkey is reported to be dismal; producers expect the industry to collapse. In Romania, the privatisation of inland fish farms is expected to continue, which should be followed by increased production. If plans to develop the integrated management of aquatic resources occur in Bulgaria, it is hoped that diet will be diversified and income increased. Like other countries which do not have a specific plan for aquaculture development, it is difficult to say what the future of aquaculture development in Croatia will be. It is possible that there may be an increase in carp and trout production; in addition, a slight increase in the production from marine aquaculture and a greater increase in its value is forecast. There may seem little scope for a great expansion of aquaculture in Morocco. However, strategic choices - marine aquaculture, the rational use of coastal lagoons and bays, good species selection - could provide an opportunity for an autonomous and spontaneous expansion in the sector, even in the absence of an aquaculture plan.

Aquaculture provides an opportunity to diversify income and diet. It is hoped that the per capita consumption of fish in Bulgaria (currently, at 4 kg/caput/yr, lower than the European average) can be increased through the expansion of aquaculture. There are no particular strategies to achieve diversification of income and/or diet through aquaculture in Croatia, Turkey, or Romania, but the potential is at least recognised. The situation is more positive in Morocco, where the strategy for marine fishery development up to 2000 foresees aquaculture as a means of increasing the income of fishermen. However, while inland aquaculture is seen by the Ministry of Agriculture as a means of increasing employment, income, and food security, this is not reflected in any relevant development plan.

3.2 Benefits and consequences

A number of criteria which are utilised to evaluate the suitability (responsibility) of specific aquaculture ventures for approval were described in the various national reports (Table 2). Common criteria in evaluating new ventures include compliance with the relevant legislation and the objectives of national aquaculture plans, a favourable EIA, and an assessment of the economic feasibility.

Even in those countries where there is an aquaculture plan, the sector has a comparatively low profile in the competition for resources. In a drought-ridden country like Cyprus, the priority for freshwater must be for domestic and agricultural use. Fisheries (both capture and aquaculture) contributes only 0.23% to the GDP of Cyprus, compared to 8% from tourism. Fisheries employ 0.4% of the population there, whereas tourism employs 10.5%. Though comparisons with alternative resource use were not quantified in the report from Egypt, it was stated that its aquaculture plan was successful in achieving targeted production levels and that there was an increased availability offish in local markets. In order to conserve particularly limited supplies of freshwater, inland aquaculture in Israel is closely linked to irrigation, so the future expansion of aquaculture is symbiotic with the production of green crops. In Malta there is a high level of competition with other common resource users. Potential marine aquaculture developments are assessed on the basis of their potential interference with tourism and shipping. Land-based aquaculture comes under considerable scrutiny because a large proportion of the coastline consists of cliffs and competition for the remainder, particularly from the tourism industry, is intense. In Tunisia, a special committee holds annual meetings to evaluate the implementation of its aquaculture plan, and to discuss the successes achieved and the difficulties encountered.

Amongst those countries without an aquaculture plan, similar constraints generally appear to face aquaculture, in the sense that it is a rather small player in a highly competitive world of resource users. However, the report from Greece notes that despite the restrictive measures which have been taken for the protection of capture fisheries, total fish production has increased dramatically due to aquaculture development, thus conforming with the Greek National Plan. A significant increase in employment through aquaculture has also occurred. In Croatia some resources (e.g. existing fish ponds, shellfish rearing areas) cannot be used for anything else except for aquaculture. Aquaculture is expected to bring future benefits, including increased employment and higher farm gross revenues and profits. In Morocco, although statistical information is collated on aquaculture production and employment, there is no formal evaluation of the relative benefits of aquaculture compared with other common resource users. Defending aquaculture against other industries, notably tourism and agriculture, is therefore difficult. Similarly, in Turkey the presence of tourism, cultural and historical relics, and also capture fisheries, have priority over aquaculture. In the absence of an aquaculture plan, as in other countries, the comparative economic and social benefits of aquaculture cannot be assessed.

Two common factors constrain aquaculture development in the region. One primarily affects marine aquaculture, namely the requirements of the vitally important coastal tourism industry throughout the Mediterranean. The other is a shortage of freshwater, which constrains its use for inland aquaculture. The exact nature and severity of these problems vary from country to country but these common issues need special attention, possibly on a regional basis.

3.3 Awareness, cooperation, coordination and participation in responsible aquaculture

Few identifiable strategies are being employed specifically to promote awareness about the importance of responsible aquaculture, or to encourage cooperation between individual fish farmers, between the aquaculture production sector and public institutions, with non-governmental organisations, and with the general public, to improve responsibility. However, some actions are reported to be consonant with the general concept. These include the harmonisation of legislation with the EU, an increase in the standard of living, and the activities of international organisations (Bulgaria); and the role of the fisheries department in helping to form the producers association, as well as the distribution of relevant information, media publicity and the organisation of visits to farms (Cyprus). In Greece, environmental responsibility is ensured through the obligation to file an EIA report when applying for an aquaculture licence and through the application of the law (Resolutions Approving Environmental Conditions) concerning the identification of aquaculture areas. However, it is accepted that legal penalties are not sufficient to ensure the adoption of responsible practices. For this reason, Greece constantly promotes the concept of responsible aquaculture to producers during aquaculture conferences and trade fairs; it also uses the conclusions from such events in the formulation of future policies and legislation. Awareness of responsible aquaculture practices in Israel is enhanced by the existence of various committees which consist of administration, research, and producer personnel in equal proportion. These committees control and provide support for aquaculture, including the provision of governmental funding. These committees include one for steering research and development in aquaculture; another (run by the fish breeders association) which advises the three research stations; and an advisory committee for introductions. In addition, where Israel participates in a regional research project which concurs with national projects, a coordination committee is set up. As in Cyprus and Malta, the role of the governmental authorities in Israel in assisting the formation of a producers association has encouraged cooperation between farmers, and thus awareness of mutual responsibility. The advice of this association is now sought in reviewing government policy. Morocco has also found that the establishment of a national aquaculture advisory committee, involving the public, academic, and private sectors, and the Morocco Aquaculture Society and fisheries chambers of commerce all assist the promotion of responsible aquaculture practices. A similar picture is presented from Turkey but it is noticeable that this report also indicates that, besides, government and academic personnel and producers, consultations take place with NGOs. Close links with international organisations were also noted as important.

Generally all strategies and plans are coordinated and funded by the national government, but some funding from other sources in Turkey (Turkish Fisheries Foundation) and Israel (Fish Breeders Association; international sources) was also noted. A plea for coordination and funding from international sources was made in the report from Bulgaria, and would probably be supported by the other countries. The way in which the effectiveness of strategies and plans in achieving responsible aquaculture were actually evaluated was not reported. However, a number of views were expressed by the national teams in preparing their reports. These included statements that they should be assessed by all relevant parties, including the producers, traders and NGOs, as well as the government sector; that it was the (continuing) implementation of the strategies themselves which proved their effectiveness; and that the evaluation of farm performance, farm visits, personal contacts with government officials, and the frequency and severity of conflicts (and the ease with which they are resolved) were all measures of success.

3.4 Plans for further incentives and deterrents

In this section of the national reports, no specific current incentives to persuade existing aquaculture units to operate in a more responsible manner were identified (but c/f section 2.3.8). However, in the report from Romania, it was noted that requests may be made to the government for a reduction in fees for those who practice effective measures for ecological protection, conservation, and rehabilitation; this incentive applies to aquaculture in the same way as to other activities. Unspecified aid is granted to Greek aquaculture ventures which respect the current legislation (which embodies the principles of responsible aquaculture). A deterrent was described in the report from Egypt, where those farms that do not achieve the targets set for increasing efficiency and maximising within 7 years lose their licenses. The report from Israel regarded government support for research and development as an incentive. Everywhere, reliance appears to be being placed on the "stick" of legislation (which, as observed in other parts of the respective reports, is often inadequate or badly coordinated), rather than any positive "carrots" in the form of incentives.

A similar picture emerges from the responses to the question about potential future incentives to encourage future aquaculture ventures to adopt responsible attitudes and to follow the Code. The incentives and deterrents which are built into the legislation which affects aquaculture are generally thought to suffice.

In many ways they are more easy to apply to new ventures than to existing aquaculture producers. However, some incentives were mentioned in the reports from a number of countries. In Romania, some measures are being taken to stimulate investment in freshwater crustacean and frog culture. In Morocco, the government will bear some enterprise costs, which will depend not only on the level of employment generated, the area where the enterprise is to be situated, and the total amount invested, but also on the eco-friendliness of the technology to be employed. Under some circumstances, new ventures can benefit from free land, and re-imbursement of the cost of facilities and personnel training.

Almost no examples of specific deterrents and disincentives to discourage non-responsible construction and operational procedures being applied in existing or future aquaculture developments were cited. The exception was the report that some recently illegally constructed cages had been removed in Turkey. In other countries it may be that the application of the existing legislation and the rules of permits, etc., is believed to be sufficient.

3.5 Conclusions drawn from the synthesis

A number of observations can be drawn from the material submitted by the national teams concerning aquaculture strategies and plans. Broader participation in the preparation of new aquaculture plans, and the review of existing ones, would be beneficial. Linkages between aquaculture plans and other national plans which concern common resources would be advantageous. Improvements need to be made in the indicators by which the efficiency of aquaculture is assessed and clear review processes need to be established. Greater emphasis on incentives, rather than total reliance on punitive measures should be encouraged. Since many resources are shared, sub-regional or regional aquaculture plans are be worth considering. In particular, regional approaches towards solving the common problems of inland aquaculture in competing with other users for freshwater, and of coastal aquaculture in competing with tourism could be considered. Regional promotion of aquaculture as a responsible activity should be considered. Assistance is required in the national promotion of me concept of responsible aquaculture. There would be a value, in those countries which do not already have them, in the establishment of national aquaculture advisory committees. Regional committees of this type may also be useful. Linkages with international organisations concerned with responsible aquaculture need to be strengthened.

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