Three farming systems are mainly used to grow tilapias. The most common one is the farming in earthen ponds with a stocking density of 4-8 fingerlings/m2 and artificial food of 25-32 percent protein. The yields of this farming system are from 5 000–8 000 kg/ha. Extensive farming is practised in reservoirs and in small production units with stocking densities of 1 to 2 fish per square meters; yields do not exceed 700 kg/ha. Tilapia is also cultivated under intensive systems, either in raceways or in aerated ponds. The average yiled is 25 kg/m3. The farming of tilapia in cages is another production practice with an average stocking density of 75 fingerlings per cubic meter.
Three systems are practised in the production of whiteleg shrimp: the most frequent one is the extensive farming with uncontrolled population densities and yields below 430 kg/ha. In the semi-intensive farming, stocking densities vary from 10 to 18 postlarvae per square meter; artificial food is used in this system and yields reach 3 000 to 4 000 kg/ha. One farm utilise the intensive system with a stocking density of 100 postlarvae/m2.
Approximately 500 people are employed in aquaculture, of which 16.5 percent are women. Only the larger businesses employ aquaculture professionals and administrative staff. Overall, tilapia aquaculture generates 234 jobs and shrimp farming generates 228.
The Centre of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, through the Aquaculture Division, has at its disposal human resources and infrastructure in four stations which support producers. Major services provided are training, production assistance, seed supply and assistance for external cooperation and financing for projects.
The total population of the country is 6 874 926 individuals. The consumption of fishery products is estimated at 5.0 kg per inhabitant. The GDP was 15 823.9 million dollars for the year 2004.
During 2004, 229.8 tonnes of tilapia were exported, mainly to the United Status and 177.6 tonnes of white shrimp were exported to China, The Virgin Islands, Japan and Taiwan. The total value of exports was US$ 2 252 800. Aquaculture contributed with 11 percent or total exports registered in 2003.
During 2004, 2 415.83 tonnes of concentrated feeds were imported for aquaculture. Pellet was the most frequent presentation, with levels of 25-32 percent protein. Fresh feeds are not currently used for aquaculture.
The most important problems faced by aquaculture producers are: water quality, the cost of the land, the quality of the seeds, production capacity, diseases associated to the whiteleg shrimp, and the effect of the reduction of prices caused by the uncontrolled importation of shrimp. Aquaculture faces economic threats due to the effect of price distortions in the market and the rise of production costs; sanitary threats caused by new diseases; and environmental threats due to pollution.
Strengths arise from public policies that support aquaculture, the accumulated experience in culture, favourable climate conditions, high commercial value and fast growth of the cultured species. There are great opportunities in the association of producers along the chain of value, the opening of new conditions for external trade, the development of new production technologies.
The native cultured species include the marine shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) and the black mojarra (Amphilophus macracanthus). Marine aquaculture consists mainly of the farming of marine shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) which started around 1982-1984 with a program sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and executed by the El Salvador Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES).
Relevant facts related to aquaculture are: the international cooperation started by the FAO in 1967, and later with the cooperation of the USAID in a programme for training of specialised technicians, the establishment of a research programme on freshwater fish farming and extension. In 1976 the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supported a project on the evaluation of social aspects of fisheries and aquaculture, and the reintroduction of diverse tilapia species.
In 1980 the General Directorate of Fisheries Resources was created, assuming the laws of fisheries and aquaculture through the General Law of Fisheries Activities. Taiwan starts its cooperation introducing Chinese carps and the freshwater prawn. In 1995, with the help of the European Union, the Regional Programme for the Support of Fisheries Development in the Centro American Isthmus (PRADEPESCA Agreement ALA/90/09) was executed. It promoted the formation of staff, refitted aquaculture facilities and infrastructure and strengthened research activities. In 2001, the legal framework was updated with the promulgation of the General Law on the Management and Promotion of Fisheries and Aquaculture. In 2004 the El Salvador Code of Conduct for Fisheries and Aquaculture was approved.
Aquaculture yields vary according to the technology used. Thus, intensive tilapia farming attain yields that exceed 10 tonnes/ha; semi-intensive 2.5-5.0 tonnes/ha; and extensive farming in reservoirs produce less than 1.5 tonnes/ha. Yields for marine shrimp farming per hectare are: artisanal, 142kg/ha; extensive, 230kg/ha; semi-intensive, 2 900kg/ha; and intensive, over 6 tonnes/ha (production statistics of the Aquaculture Stations, CENDEPESCA, 2004). The national aquaculture production has increased, from 395 tonnes in 2001 to 1.130 tonnes in 2003 which is equivalent to a 286 percent increment, while total fisheries production has varied from 7.818 tonnes to 13 711tonnes, only a 175.37 percent increment (Annual Fisheries Statistics, CENDEPESCA, 2001, 2002 and 2003). The significant increment in production is due to the farming of tilapia and marine shrimp.
The availability of professionals in aquaculture is limited to approximately 15 professionals distributed amongst the public sector, universities and the private sector. The incorporation of the of aquaculture as a subject matter within the syllabus of biology and agronomic engineering careers offered by the University of El Salvador and the National School of Agriculture, as well as the training through Diploma courses offered by the University Matias Delgado, have contributed to the formation of 40 professionals in the field of aquaculture.
The units of production are based on community associations, generally linked to external cooperation. Only industrial level companies count with professionals as part of their staff.
Tilapia culture, in its various production methods, generates employment for 234 people, freshwater prawn culture generates 34 employments, ornamental fish production generates 13, and marine shrimp culture generates 228 employments. The opportunities for women to participate in aquaculture are greater in the culture of tilapias in cages in which 29 women currently work, and in marine shrimp farming with 55 women currently employed.
It is estimated that the complete process chain of aquaculture production, including marketing, generates employment benefits for 1 200 people.
Table 1. Distribution of the main aquaculture production units. June 2005.
Aquatic Sanitary Unit, DGSVA. Data for Usulután are expressed in decimals.
The distribution of the area by farming type is the following: tilapia in ponds: 48.78 ha (139 ponds); freshwater prawn: 4.75 ha (30 ponds), tilapia in reservoirs: 10.39 ha (27 reservoirs); ornamental fish: 2.09 ha (165 tanks and ponds); marine shrimp: 691 ha; and tilapia in cages 9 056 m3 (122 cages).
According to the aquaculture method and the scale of production, aquaculture production units are distributed as follows: 15 production units of tilapia cages, 26 reservoirs for household consumption, 50 small and medium scale units, 1 industrial scale unit; 2 ornamental fish production units, 23 units of fresh water prawns, and 39 marine shrimp farms.
Currently there are two national companies that manufacture feeds for aquaculture. Total manufactured animal feeds in 2004 was as follows: poultry, 333 581 tonnes; cattle, 29 621 tonnes; swine, 11 862 tonnes. The production of feeds for aquaculture is not registered at the General Directorate of Plant and Animal Health (DGSVA, 2005.).
The database of the Registry and Statistics Office of the DGSVA reports that in 2004, 2 415.83 tonnes of feeds for aquaculture were imported: 287.88 tonnes of shrimp feeds from Guatemala and 2 127.95 tonnes of tilapia feeds from Honduras (DGSVA, 2004).
Tilapias are cultivated in all freshwater environments; in cages, in small reservoirs and at an industrial scale. At present, varieties of this species include the grey tilapia, red tilapia and improved varieties for higher meat yields. The production of tilapia has increased since 2001 when 28.86 tonnes were obtained, to 654.1 tonnes at present as a result of the increment in the number of farming units, particularly cages, and the establishment of an industrial scale farm.
The farming of marine shrimp has increased from 363 tonnes to 472.9 tonnes in that same time period as a result of the implementation of external cooperation projects.
At a smaller scale, the production of giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) follows in third place, with a volume of 3.5 tonnes (CENDEPESCA, 2003).
It’s main traits are the low stocking densities and the limited management or control of water quality. This system is practiced in the 26 reservoirs used for tilapia farming and in 25 production units of marine shrimp. The stocking densities of tilapia do not exceed 1 to 2 fish per square meter and the yields reach 700kg/ha. In the case of marine shrimp, there are two modalities: in the first one post-larvae are trapped in a tidal pond which has a water intake and walls. Water exchanges are subject to tide levels; fertilizer is used to improve natural food productivity. The stocking density is not predetermined, and yields are of the order of 430 kg/ha. The second modality consists in trapping shrimp brought in by the tides and then keeping it in minimal water exchange conditions until harvest. This is only done during the rainy season because this same ponds are used for salt production during the dry season. Yields may reach 142 kg/ha (CENDEPESCA, 2003).
This system is practised both for tilapia and the two types of shrimp (marine and freshwater). The stocking densities of tilapia vary from 4 to 8 per square meter; the main source of food is formulated feeds with 25-32 percent protein. The yields of this farming system are of the order of 5 000 to 8 000 kg/ha. Ponds are not aerated and water quality is control exerted by periodic exchanges of water. For freshwater prawns, stocking densities vary from 5 to 8 per square meter and formulated feeds with 28-35 percent are used. The production cycle lasts 6 months, with yields of 2 000 to 3 500 kg/ha. The stocking densities of marine shrimp are 10 to 18 per square meter; hatchery produced post larvae are used and disease prevention measures are put to practice. Production cycles last 3 to 4 months, with yields in the order of 3 000 to 4 000 kg/ha.
There are two farms, one for the farming of tilapia and another of marine shrimp, which apply this technology in which the system depends on aerators to maintain high levels of biomass with stocking densities in the order of 75 fingerlings per square meter to obtain yields that exceed 12 tonnes/ha; and in the case of shrimp, 100 post larvae per square meter to obtain yields above 6.4 tonnes/ha. These two farms operate at an industrial scale, vertically integrated adding value by processing their products to gain access to specialised markets. Cage culture is also practised under this system as stocking densities are of the order of 75 fish per square meter.
Table 2. Composition of the aquaculture production 2001-2003.
As shown in the previous table, one of the factors that have contributed to the increment of aquaculture production is investments in tilapia and marine shrimp farming. In 2003 tilapia production represented 57.6 percent of the total fisheries production, while marine shrimp production represented 41.6 percent.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in El Salvador according to FAO statistics:
The other marketing modality is the sale of live fish. A group of producers is invited to participate and concur to a single marketplace which has been previously promoted in different localities. It is estimated that during 2004 approximately 45-50 tonnes of tilapia were sold under this modality.
The third practice is the sale of processed fish and shrimp which is distributed to consumers through supermarket chains.
The major part of aquaculture produce is sold through public markets.
The Export Centre of the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador reports that the exports of aquaculture products in 2004 consisted primarily of tilapia and shrimp.
The final destination of fresh tilapia exports was Guatemala; while that of tilapia fillets was the United States of America. Aquaculture produced shrimp is exported to Taiwan and The Virgin Islands.
The certification of the products corresponds to the Inoquity Division of the General Directorate of Plant and Animal Health (Ministry of Agricultura and Husbandry). Certification regulations are approved by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT).
A noticeable fact is that small ponds (under 0.05 ha) and reservoirs for multiple water usage are being constructed in the central and oriental zones of the country with the support of NOGs and private initiatives. 1 368 families derive direct benefits from these production units: 765 from the culture of marine shrimp, and 603 from tilapia culture (of which 197 correspond to cage culture units owned by community organizations.
The General Directorate of Statistics and Surveys indicates that in 2004, 603 305 (19.3 percent) households are in a state of extreme poverty. Most of them are located in zones where the afore mentioned reservoirs and small ponds are being built.
The contribution of industrial scale aquaculture is reflected in exports, which in 2004 reached 407.4 tonnes with a declared value of US$2’252.800. This production requires resources such as food, energy, and direct and indirect manpower. The contribution of aquaculture to the Gross Domestic Product is of the order of 0.4 percent, which is not considered to be significant to the national economy (CENDEPESCA. 2005).
The Aquaculture Division has two Areas: Generation and Transfer of Technology and Promotion and Extension. The four aquaculture stations of CENDEPESCA: Santa Cruz Porrillo, Atiocoyo, Izalco and Los Cóbanos belong to this Division.
Several private sector aquaculture producer associations have been constituted. The Chamber of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMPAC) has a national coverage and groups industrial fishing and aquaculture companies. This Chamber maintains a close liaison with CENDEPESCA because its delegates are members of the National Commission of Fisheries and Aquaculture. This Commission was established by the Law and acts as consultative body. There is also the Aquaculture Association of Atiocoyo formed by tilapia producers and which has promoted the construction of earthen ponds in the Atiocoyo region. Results have been very encouraging since tilapia production has increased three-fold. In the case of marine shrimp aquaculture, the organization SOCOPOMAR groups twenty producers and is currently promoting an external cooperation project for the strengthening the production technology of its members.
The institutions involved in education and training in aquaculture are the following:
Institutional planning is oriented to the cornerstones of zone management, production and coverage. In relation to management, proposals have been put forward for the updating of the Aquaculture Registry which at present records only 40 producers and which should also contain a databank on the characterization of their aquaculture practices. Regarding coverage, several strategies have been considered, including the participation of Producer’s Associations, NGOs, education and training institutions and external cooperation to assist the largest possible number of producers by means of training and extension on specific themes. To promote the increase in production, actions are oriented to upgrade culture practices, in particular those in which infrastructure is being under-utilized due to the application of extensive and artisanal technology.
Factors that have driven the development of aquaculture in the country
Except for the actions impelled by the government with the participation of cooperation organizations, there is no governmental plan encompassing a specific allocation for aquaculture development within the ordinary budget. This can be observed in the yearly assignment to CENDEPESCA, which on average does not exceed one million US dollars per year and which is designated namely to salaries and basic services (Ministry of Finance, 2005). In summary, there is no financing for investment allotted by the ordinary institutional budget; neither have external cooperation projects financed investment in aquaculture. However, it should be pointed out that with external assistance, some NGOs do provide support to communities dedicated to small-scale aquaculture, particularly in cages, reservoirs and sea shrimp.
The Office of Policies and Strategies blames the anti-agricultural and anti-rural bias of the macroeconomic policies as part of the internal environment elements which have affected the performance of the agricultural sector, and in consequence fisheries and aquaculture.
Even though FAO and EU-sponsored technical documents have been prepared for the development of aquaculture (Salgado, R. 1997; FAO, 1995), the institutional planning does not include strategic actions to prompt aquaculture development, being rather dependant on the financing capability of the State. However there is potential for synergy by channelling the various available sources of resources for the execution of rural development project, support to marketing, small-scale cottage industries, etc.
The increase of cultured tilapia production was affected by low prices and the commercialization structure of the internal market. The introduction of tilapia fisheries in inland waters drove prices down, due mainly to their mud off-flavor, and thus diminished the value and acceptance of cultured tilapia. Prices in the beginning of the 90’s did not exceed US$ 0.50/pound for whole fish.
The post-war effect
In the decade of the 80’s during which war took place in the country, there was no investment in economic activities. This had negative effects, particularly in marine shrimp farming. The peace agreements established the commitment of reinserting ex-fighters in productive activities. Part of this process consisted in their relocation in the salt pans and marshes areas at Jiquilisco Bay. The process of converting salt pans into shrimp ponds and the developing of human skills, -initially supported by the EU-, has taken several years to begin showing positive results. Also, the upgrading of infrastructure for shrimp farming suffered design failures which still affect production yields and the capability to operate facilities effectively.
The natural environment
The location of the country in natural disaster occurrence areas and the high levels of vulnerability constitute high risk scenarios that have adversely affected the development of aquaculture.
Interaction with the environment
In 1995 PRADEPESCA undertook a study for the territorial management and development of marine shrimp. (Currie, J. 1995); the document recognizes the potential for the development of between 3 000 to 4 000 hectares for shrimp farming. Of these, 2 000 hectares would be located in Jiquilisco Bay as long as the monitoring assessment programme does not show negative effects on the environment. Since saltworks have not been yet converted into shrimp ponds, and extensive areas are still utilized for artisanal farming of shrimp, environmental restraints have not been imposed that could constitute a limiting factor for the development of shrimp culture.
Even though lines of credit for aquaculture have been in place, producers are restrained in their capability to comply with the requirements to gain access to such funds since they normally lack the guarantees or collateral required by the financial system. This deeply affects the growth of production units located in leased national lands and waters which cannot be pledged as collateral.
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