Aquaculture does not play an important role in the economy of Bolivia, despite several efforts to develop trout cultivation on a commercial level in the Plateau basin. Neither is there institutional continuity; this is the reason for the slow development of the sector. However, aquatic production is considered to have a growing importance if we take into consideration the permanent decrease of landings of continental fisheries.
In 1992, the enterprise PROTISA carried out small exports of rainbow trout (20 tonnes/year) to the Brazilian market. In 1994, these exports were affected by the plunge of the Bolivian currency. This caused an increase in costs for PROTISA and since prices became too high, exports were stopped.
According to the last census of 2001, Bolivia has 8 274 325 inhabitants. Average fish consumption per capita is 1 kg/year. The GNP for the hunting-fishing-forestry sector (INE 2003) is US$26 677 599, where the fisheries and aquaculture GNP is estimated to be 17 percent. This represents US$4 535 192. In turn, the aquaculture GNP is 7.1 percent of the fisheries GNP, representing US$323 812.7.
There are three fish feed manufacturing plants, located along the industrial backbone of the country (La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz). In La Paz, fish feed production is estimated at around 50 tonnes, which represents 10 percent of the total fish-feed consumed in the country. The other 90 percent comes from forage-fish and fodder coming from Peru and Brazil.
Fish farming began with the introduction of several freshwater salmon species in the 1930s. In the Plateau basin, the rainbow trout (Oncorhychus mykiss) was the best adapted to extensive fish faming where the objective was to develop fisheries based on its cultivation. The cultivation of trout has followed three paths: intensive cultivation in cages, small-scale cultivation in running water ponds, and fisheries based aquaculture through re-stocking Andean lakes. Today, both the private and public sectors can supply eyed-eggs and fingerlings to the small and medium size fish farms and to communities involved in re-stocking the lakes.
In 1955, also with the objective of developing fisheries based aquaculture, the silverside Odonthestes bonariensis was introduced from Argentina. This species was introduced in the valley region, though it accidentally reached the Plateau basin, where it competes with native fish species.
Re-stocking fish farming with sub-tropical and tropical species began with the introduction of carps in 1962 by the Greater University of San Simón (UMSS) in the Department of Cochabamba. Around 1964, evangelic missions were responsible for the introduction of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and the Mozambique tilapia in the Yungas region.
In 1990, the University of San Simón (UMSS), in Cochabamba, with USAID support, started the semi-intensive cultivation of Nile tilapia. The goal was the substitution of the coca surplus cultivation. Despite the general interest shown by farmers who did not grow coca, USAID suspended its support. In 1996, the ADEPESCA project, supported by the European Union, offered technical and financial support for new efforts intended towards the development of extension packages.
Due to the interest in the cultivation of sub-tropical autochthonous species, the Pirahiba Station of the UMSS and the El Prado Station of the Gabriel René Moreno University (UGRM) began efforts for the production of pacu and tambaquí fingerlings, while the HOYAM non-governmental organization (NGO), validated in 2002 techniques for the artificial reproduction of cachama (Colossoma macropomun ), tambaqui (Piaractus brachypomus ), Amazonian prochilods (Prochilodus nigricans ), boga (Schizodon fasciatum ) and tucunare (Cichla monoculus ).
Universities play a key role in the training of human resources, including related subject matters to the sector and carrying out aquatic research. Some of them have established field stations to facilitate their courses. The Pirahiba Station, which belongs to the UMSS, has the best designed curricula and is the best equipped in the Amazonian Basin; it has 50 ponds with a water mirror of 7.5 ha, a hatchery and a well-equipped laboratory, as well as a small food-producing plant.
The El Prado Station, established in 1983, belongs to the UGRM and operates under the control of the Veterinary and Zootechnical Faculty. The station has 2.4 ha of ponds for the production of carp and tambaqui fingerlings. Its production capacity is 200 000 fingerlings per year. In the Department of Tarija, located in the Plata Basin, is found the Fishing Station of San Jacinto. This station was built on 1989 as part of the Multi-purpose Project of San Jacinto. The goal of the station was to re-stock the dam of San Jacinto, as well as the production and distribution of common carp fingerlings.
The CICA NGO promotes carp fish farming in the dams of the irrigation systems in the Departments of Tarija and Chuquisaca. There is no information on its activities, nor on its personnel. The Technical University of Beni (UTB), in the Department of Beni, has the Aquatic Resource Research Centre, CIRA, which has a small facility of 300 m2 for students’ thesis projects and is currently promoting the cultivation of cachama (Colossoma macropomun ) utilizing imported fingerlings from Brazil (State of Rondonia).
During the last few years, the Hoyam NGO has promoted the development of rural fisheries in the Bolivian Amazon as a viable alternative to improve the quality of life for the region’s farming population. The Mausa Experimental Centre and the indigenous communities of Monte Grande Km. 5, Bermeo, Fátima, Argentina and Bellabrisa are located in San Ignacio de Moxos. Semi-intensive fish farming of local species is carried out in those locations. In the Mausa Station, the project has achieved tambaqui productions of 6 tonnes/ha; the region has 40 ha of earthen ponds.
Table 1. Human resources
The main species in Bolivian aquaculture is rainbow trout (Oncorhychus mykiss). In the 1930s, it was first introduced in Lake Titicaca and other Andean lakes in the country’s Western plateau. Information on the production of this species by the ADEPESCA project (1998) considers that it amounts to around 1 000 tonnes. However, it must be considered that this information includes production coming from the Peruvian sector of Lake Titicaca, since fishing statistics come from the marketing of the products in the main markets of the country’s three most important cities.
Several efforts towards the establishment of the breeding of the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) have been carried out in the country’s tropical region. However, because of the specie’s reproductive requirements, its cultivation has not reached the expected success, and today the interest in the development of prawn culture has decreased.
The endemic species of the Plateau basin are important because they are only found in this area, shared with Southern Peru and Northern Chile. They are threatened by over fishing and by the newly introduced Argentinean silverside. Captures of two species of the Orestias genus and one of Trichomycterus have not been reported. CIDAB has validated artificial reproduction techniques for Orestias: O. agassi. O. luteus, O. ispi and for Trichomycterus dispar, with the objective of carrying out and promoting fisheries based aquaculture of these species for restocking purposes.
Table 2. Cultivated Species
The adaptation of intensive trout cultivation in the Plateau basin has been successful. It is carried out through the use of floating Cambodian craft cages measuring 4 X 4 m. Two private companies dedicated to this activity and which in the past exported small volumes of trout to Brazil have introduced more modern technology for the industrial cultivation of trout, which involves metallic cages measuring 10 X 10 m, feeders and automatic graders. However, the results were not as expected, and today one of them is being re-engineered.
Fish farming in the Amazonian basin is carried out in earthen ponds of over 100 m2 . There are also the so-called “atajados” (dam reservoirs) where cattle-ranchers dam run-off water after the floods and are used for fish crops. The most appreciated species is the cachama which is generally fed local agricultural residues. In turn, fish farmers located closer to markets, raise fish under intensive systems utilizing chicken pelleted feeds. The Hyman NGO produces its own food and its extension programme recommends the elaboration of fodder based on locally produced feedstuffs.
In the city of Santa Cruz recreational fish faming is starting to develop in specially-conditioned lands to serve customers with the “fish-and-pay” system. A fish feed manufacturing enterprise for tropical species has recently been established. There is also the El Prado Aquaculture Station, that belongs to the UGRM, in the Yapacani province, where Japanese colonies have settled, and where fingerlings of local species such as cachama and surubi, as well as small amounts of giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosembergii), are being produced.
Table 3. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) trout production
Table 4.Tropical species production
The statistical information for the aquaculture sector in the Amazonian basin was obtained by the CDP (Centro de Desarrollo Pesquero) until 1994. In the last few years aquaculture output has increased with the production of native species such as cachama and tambaqui, and to a lesser extent, Amazonian prochilods, boga and tucunare.
Fish feeds used by family-owned floating cages fish farms in Lake Titicaca, for the initial and grow-out stages, consist of forage native species such as ispi (Orestias ispi), or carache (O. agassii, O. olivaceus). Tomasino balanced pelleted feeds (imported from Peru) are used for the finishing stages and only where the final product is of a lower quality. This situation becomes a risk for stocks of autochthonous species.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Bolivia according to FAO statistics:
Meat consumption by category in Bolivia’s three cities (La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz) showed an unquestionable preference for beef and chicken as the two most consumed meats.
Fish occupies a distant third place in Bolivia’s meat consumption preference. Lamb and pork count with a preference lower than 3 percent in all three cities. Fish consumption in La Paz showed that 92.6 percent of those polled consumed fish within the last six months. The remainder 7.4 percent that did not consume fish declared as main reasons: the lack of hygiene at selling points, the low supply, and the high prices.
During the 1980s, Bolivia imported up to 8 335 tonnes of fish each year, of which 6 949 tonnes were canned. Later, total fish imports decreased due to an increase in national production. After 1993, imports augmented again, due to a national supply shortage in Tarija and Lake Poopo, up to the level observed in 1999 of 4 878 tonnes, which includes 3 889 tonnes of fresh, refrigerated or frozen fish; 19 tonnes of dried, salted or smoked fish; 58 tonnes of shellfish and molluscs; 807 tonnes of conserves; 43 tonnes of crustaceans; 17 tonnes of oils and 45 tonnes of flours.
Few Bolivian fishery products are exported. Only Amazonian fish (from fisheries in the Northern part of the Department of Beni), is exported to Brazil. Though amounts cannot be accurately established, they are nonetheless small, probably below 200 tonnes per year. During the 1994-1995 period, experimental trout exports to Brazil (Sao Paulo) were carried out by the firm Productos PROTISA, until these reached in 1999 a level of 18 tonnes, which included 1 tonnes of fresh, refrigerated or frozen fish, and 17 tonnes of fish conserves, with a value of US$4 000.
In La Paz, each household spends 1.5 times more in fish than in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. Only 25 percent of the households buy fish, indicating that the market is relatively segmented. Data suggest that households that buy fish prepare it once a week, with an average purchase of around 1kg. Silverside is the most popular fish (bought by 18 percent of the households), followed by canned fish (5.4 percent) and carache (3.1 percent).
The supply of trout in Cochabamba comes mainly from fish farms located in the humid mountain area of the province of Chapare and from extensive fishpond breeding in the Tunari mountain range, while silverside comes mainly from the High Plateau. The supply of tilapia, cachama andtambaqui from fish farms is very small in both cities and is directed mainly to residential groups, of high and medium-high income.
Prices and trends
During the period between 1992 and 1996, prices of fish increased up to 200 percent; much more than those of meat, poultry, eggs and cheese (which increased approximately 50 percent). The increase can be attributed to a decrease in the national supply, although recently it has started to be replaced by prochilods imports from Argentina (at a high cost). Without lowering the prices and with an important increase in the national supply of fish, there is no potential to strengthen demand. Obviously, high prices will have a greater impact on the consumption rate in lower income segments of the population; this effect could be reflected in the next family budget poll (1998).
Effect of price on fish demand
A study carried out by the British Mission on 1989 suggested that price is the most important factor in determining what protein food consumers buy. It also indicated that consumers have no strong preferences for any particular species of fish, and that quality is not a strong factor to take into account while buying.
Consumption of fish and other foods
Annual gross per capita fish consumption in 1999 was estimated at about 1.12 kg per person throughout the country. Therefore fish consumption campaigns ought to be carried out, taking into consideration the fact that post-capture (unconsumed) losses represent 20 percent of the national gross production.
However, expenditure on fish is very low, approximately 0.8 percent of total expenditures in food. It seems that there has been a decrease in expenditures on fishery products, from 2.5 percent in 1965 down to 0.8 percent.
Forestry, hunting and fishing in 1990–2000 have considerably decreased, as shown by their average participation in the global GNP; in 2000 it represented 0.88 percent as compared to 1.02 percent recorded in 1990. Their participation in the agricultural and animal husbandrysector decreased too from 6.67 percent in 1990 to 6.20 percent in 2000.
There are no studies pertaining to this subject. However, it can be observed that the supporting role to food security has been fulfilled by subsistence fishing, which is practiced in the wet areas close to the populations located near fishery resources. Cold-water aquaculture in the Western region is intended mainly for the market. Although the development of this activity points towards an improvement in income generation, does not mean that this income is necessarily used for the producers’ food security. Programmes carried out in valleys and tropical areas with carp and tilapia are oriented mainly towards food security. However, there are no evaluation analyses on their contribution to the economy.
In 1998, volunteers from the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) organization, which supports the development of trout cultivation, compared extensive trout farming in high Andean lakes (oriented towards both commercialisation and food security) vs intensive cage and pond culture of trout. Results showed that due to lower production costs, extensive farming was more efficient in supporting the farming communities’ food security than intensive breeding in cages and ponds.
According to the current Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the CDP was in charge of issuing licenses and concessions. However, as a consequence of the Law for Administrative Decentralisation No. 1654 of 1995, the concession of permits for the establishment of fish farms is now under the authority of departmental prefectures. Today, concessions have been paralyzed because the Law on Water has not yet been approved and because of conflicting problems originated by the access to water and land resources.
Under the current administration, the Law of Organization of the Executive Power (Law No. 1788, of 16 September 1997), has abrogated the previous ministerial structure (Art. 26), creating, among others, the Ministry for Farming and Agriculture and Husbandry Issues, and ratifying the validity of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Planning with specific attributes on biodiversity resources such as ecosystems, species and genes. Thus, the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Planning has competence over access to hydro-biological resources, and the Ministry of Farming and Agriculture and Husbandry Issues has competence over the regulation of fisheries and aquaculture-related activities.
The Rules and Regulations of the Law of Organization of the Executive Power (Supreme Decree No. 24855, of 22 September 1997), assigns the Bolivian Aquatic Research and Development Centre (CIDAB) to the “tuition or dependence” of the Ministry of Farming and Agriculture and Husbandry Issues, as its operative arm; however, its real scope appears to be only regional.
The main tool of the current fisheries legislation is the Rules and Regulations for Fisheries and Aquaculture, annexed to the Supreme Decree No. 22 581 of 14 August 1990, which has been developed through a series of Administrative Resolutions of the Fisheries Development Centre. According to the provisions of chapters IV and VII of the Rules and Regulations for Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Fisheries Development Centre was organized through a series of Regional Councils for Fisheries and Aquaculture, established according to the country’s hydrographic characteristics, which were given their own Internal Rules and adopted specific regulations in the framework of their respective jurisdiction.
Although the Rules and Regulations for Fishing and Aquaculture are still formally in force, their effective implementation has been limited in many ways. The main reason for the operative paralysis of the Rules and Regulations for Fisheries and Aquaculture of 1990 lies in the dissolution of the Fisheries Development Centre, which constituted its operative and executive arm, according to the Law of Administrative Decentralization of 1995. In practice, the assumption of fisheries responsibilities by the Prefectures has not yielded the expected results, and has not even kept the efficiency level that the Fisheries Development Centre had previously attained through its Councils.
The greatest loophole of the above-mentioned Rules and Regulations is the lack of an operative apparatus that can effectively carry out its dispositions. However, the Rules and Regulations for Fishing and Aquaculture is still the main regulatory law on the matter, but nowadays its real efficacy is scarce due to the lack of the necessary implementing organ, as well as the disappearance of the tutelage organs both in the Ministry for Farming and Agriculture and Husbandry Issues and the Under-ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Other relevant sectorial laws
First of all, there is the Environmental Law (Law No. 1 333 of 27 April 1992), complemented by a series of rules and regulations adopted through the Supreme Decree No. 24 176, of 8 December 1995. The Environmental Law, because of its very own nature, is central to the other sectorial laws dealing on issues related to the environment, such as forestry, waters, biodiversity and exploitation of hydro-biological resources.
It is also important to remember that the Environmental Law has autonomously penalized certain crimes clearly related to fishing and aquatic activities. This is the case for the crime of poisoning, polluting or adulterating waters reserved for fish farming use (Art. 105, paragraph a) and the crime of fishing with illegal means (Art. 110).
As for current legislative proceedings relevant to the exploitation of hydro-biological resources, the Initiative for the Water Resource Law must be cited, whose last draft dates of 13 April 1998, and which has a clear connection with fishing and aquatic activities, as well as with agriculture, industry and mining. The Project for a Law on Preservation of Biological Diversity should also be cited, whose last working draft is of 26 March 1998, which pertains to issues close to the exploitation of biological resources for fishing or aquaculture.
The lack of sustained institutional support towards aquaculture has been adverse for the development of an aquatic industry. There is no long-term development policy for planning development in the public and private sectors. With the exception of CIDAB, there are no extension services for aquaculture. Projects’ dependence on foreign donors has resulted in a sporadic and un-coordinated development. Research on appropriate technologies for artisanal producers has not been carried out. Few appropriate extension packages have been prepared for rural fish farming.
The Government has given low priority to the development of aquaculture. The financing of programmes and projects is uncertain, especially after the administrative decentralization.
There are few well-trained fish farmers in the country. Almost all technicians working in the aquatic sector have assimilated aquaculture technologies throughout their employment. Most specialized managers and technicians work in trout farms. There are few scientists and technicians trained in tropical aquaculture.
Besides the occasional short courses, there are almost no opportunities for training in the field of aquaculture at the university level. This discipline is completely absent from university curricula (Thomson, 1998). Research stations such as El Prado, Pirahiba or San Jacinto could serve as training centres, but they lack the funding and personnel to develop practical training programmes.
The lack of specialised personnel and trained fish farmers is a serious limitation that the Bolivian aquaculture industry faces. Fish farming research is carried out in Universities, and in the case of the Plateau basin, CIDAB carries out research on trout reproduction, feeding and other issues; they also conduct research on the Plateau’s endemic species, oriented towards re-stocking fish farming.
The Limnology and Aquatic Resources Unit, ULRA, of the University of San Simon, carries out research on the limnology of water bodies, while the Pirahiba station, also part of the University, carries out research on artificial breeding and on the production of fingerlings of native species, such as cachama, tambaqui and surubi.
The Research Institute for Development (IDR), with French cooperation, works with state universities in La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Beni. Its research is focused mainly in the study of the interaction between features of life and structural history of the populations, on reproduction strategies, biology and ecology of the fist stages of life, growth and the dynamics of parasite infection.
The analysis of population structures and of the features of their life history covers a restricted number of species, distributed in the main Bolivian drainage basins, differentiated by their filo-genetic origin and the great features of their life history (carnivore, herbivore, migratory, sedentary, territorial, presence or absence of caring behaviour from adults to the young). Species have been chosen among three fish families that represent an important economical interest (for fisheries and aquaculture) in the Amazonian: Serrasalminae (red piranha, cachama,tambaqui), catfishes of the Pimelodidae family (surubi) and Cichlidae (tucunare).
The mandate given to the Prefectures in 1995 of assuming the functions of the previous Regional and Sub-regional Fisheries Development Centres, has only been partially implemented, or not at all. Today, fisheries and aquaculture management, integrated into the departmental context, is either weak or not carried out at all. This has negatively affected coordination –in fisheries and aquaculture- between the Prefectures and municipalities, which should be carried out through Under-prefects and Provincial Councils. Municipal governments learn slowly the implementation of their competences in the rural area. Thus, since 1995, the sub-sector activities have been developed with a very low intervention of public institutionalism, or lack thereof. This has resulted in negative consequences on the fishery resources, as well as a decrease in income levels and in the deterioration of the quality of life of fishermen and fish farmers.
Today, and according to the institutionality established by the law, the Ministry of Farming, Indigenous and Agriculture and Husbandry Affairs (MACA) is the central institution in charge of promoting the integrated and sustainable development for fisheries and aquaculture. This ministry is currently being made fit to provide a better orientation and achieve a greater social and economic impact.
Due to the incipient development attained by aquaculture in all aspects, the semi- and extensive aquaculture systems are the ones undergoing a greater expansion, particularly in the Amazonian region, where cachama and tambaqui fingerlings in particular, may be obtained more easily from Brazilian border cities.
Massive production of fingerlings of native Amazonian species has not reached a commercial level as it is yet at an experimental stage. However, the Mausa Fisheries Station, belonging to the Hoyam NGO, is already supplying cachama, tambaquí, Amazonian prochilods and boga fingerlings, and projects to expand its laboratories located in San Ignacio de Moxos, Department of Beni, in order to be able to continue producingfingerlings.
Bolivia is trying to follow the experiences developed in other neighbouring countries, which have demonstrated the fish farming perspectives of local fish species with low production costs, because of their frugal eating habits, as is the case for the species of the following families: Characidae , Colossoma andPiaractus (cachama and tambaqui) genres; Prochilodontidae, Prochilodus (Amazonianprochilods) genre; and Anostomidae, Schizodon genre. These are species that integrate easily into the agricultural practices of farmers of the Amazonian region.
As a result of the experimental work that has been carried out, there are today, in the Moxos province of the department of Beni, seven indigenous communities dedicated to fish farming in communal ponds. Production varies between two and six tonnes of fish per hectare per year, according to whether intensive, semi-intensive or extensive systems are used, generating incomes ranging from US$600 to US$2 500 per hectare per year.
The current trend is to duplicate the number of indigenous communities that raise fish in communal ponds, and to initiate the diffusion of rearing fish in family fish farms. Without doubt, the limiting factor for the development of fish farming in the region, is the supply of fingerlings since the most apt species for rearing do not reproduce in captivity in stagnant waters.
Proyecto BOL/B7-3010/94/053. Apoyo a las actividades de la pesca y acuicultura en Bolivia ADEPESCA.
Charles Angell. 1998. Estudio en acuicultura en Bolivia.
José Juste Ruiz. 1998. Ordenación y Legislación del Sector Pesquero en Bolivia.
Carlos Palin. 1998. Organización Institucional y Recursos Humanos del Sector Pesquero en Bolivia.
David Thomson. 1997. Formación y Capacitación del Sector Pesquero en Bolivia.
Unidad Piscícola y Pesca. 2001. Diagnostico Nacional Pesquero.
Lina Araya. 2003. Lineamiento de políticas de pesca y acuicultura. Informe
CIDAB. 2000. Estudio de mercadeo de trucha.
PELT. 1998. Evaluación de los recursos pesqueros del lago Titicaca Crucero. BIC-PELT 9805-06
Centro Pesquero. 2005. Informe sobre la producción regional de pescado por especies y procedencia en departamento de Cochabamba.