Replaced by: Spanish version (2013)
Fishing and aquaculture are issues of national security and an essential sectors for the economic and social well being of the country. Studies made by the National Fishing Institute show that from all evaluated fisheries, 27 percent show signs of deterioration, 53 percent are under maximum sustained yield, and only 20 percent are amenable to an increase in production. Considering this situation, aquaculture is a valuable alternative to strengthen the food supply within the country, and through contributing to food security, foreign currency income and the creation of permanent jobs, to stimulating regional development. Aquaculture contributes with more than 12 percent to total fisheries production. According to international perspectives, aquaculture could represent more than 40 percent of total fisheries production within a period of ten to fifteen years. To strengthen and consolidate this activity, the promotion of its diversification and technological updating is required, orientating it towards increased productive efficiency, the reduction of possible negative impacts, the diversification of production lines, and the increase of economic and social profitability. To achieve this goal, the participation of the productive sector in research and technological development projects is needed; particularly on subjects such as health, nutrition, genetics and management. Problems of fisheries and aquaculture production in Mexico are associated to structural deficiencies: social lags, organizational deficiencies, technological, training, and assistance barriers as well as limitations to sector growth and development possibilities within a framework of sustainable development in the short and mid terms. Aquaculture has developed primarily in interior waters, mainly with fish species, and particularly as stock enhancement. Even when fishing development programs have stated clear objectives in promoting aquaculture, lack of support to achieve goals is a major issue.
In 2001, aquaculture accounted for approximately 12.93 percent of the total fisheries production (1 521 957 tonnes). The National Fisheries Chart states that a total of 61 species are cultured in Mexico, 40 are native and 21 introduced or of exotic origin. Total aquaculture infrastructure adds up to a total of 1 963 units and these are usually divided across five categories: channels, pens, artisanal or concrete ponds, floating devices and bottom trays. Average production rates in inland waters related to stock enhancement are in the range of 120–150 kg/ha/year in monoculture systems rising to 400–1 500 kg/ha/year when using polyculture systems.
Furthermore, the diversity of the altitudinal profile in Mexico contributes to a variety of climate conditions and ecosystems which aids in the development of a more diversified aquaculture sector. The further development of aquaculture in Mexico will depend upon the successful application of efficient technologies, innovation, modernisation and conversion processes.
At the end of the twentieth century, aquaculture has become a world wide alternative mechanism for food production in continental waters as much as in brackish and marine waters. In Mexico, fish farming started to develop towards the end of the nineteenth century; in 1883 the State instituted aquaculture when the Ministry of Promotion instructed Alfredo B. Lamotte to build a fish-breeding station. The hatchery was built in Ocoyoacan Lerma, State of Mexico and was named Vivero Nacional Chimalapan (Chimalapan National Fish-breeding Station). It started operating when a lot of 500 000 rainbow trout eggs was imported from the USA (Arredondo and Lozano, 1996).
In Mexico, aquaculture was born as a complementary activity of social support to rural communities, as a means to increase consumption of animal protein and thus improve nutritional levels of local populations (Juárez-Palacios, 1987). Although this activity has experienced diversification towards the culture of fresh water fish species, it is also practiced with marine species. Marine fish culture in Mexico –as in other countries- is an alternative with good technological possibilities to face the increasing demand of high protein foods for the consumption of the population in general (Avilés, 2000). In Mexico, the practice of marine fish culture started towards the end of the decade of the 1980s, when experiments were carried out on the on-growing stages of the pompano (Trachinotus paitiensis) in floating cages off Southern Baja California. Since 1989 marine fish culture started to develop experimentally through research with studies on the biological reproductive process of high commercial valued species such as spotted grouper, red snapper, snook, yellow snapper, weakfish, pompano, totoaba, and flounder (Avilés, 2000).
From the beginning, Mexican aquaculture has undergone through three main development stages: a) promotional (subsistence) aquaculture practiced in small water bodies and small-scale production unities (mainly for self consumption) with species such as tilapia and carp; b) inland fisheries is based on systematic stock enhancement aquaculture practices. Restocking is undertaken in medium to large sized reservoirs with species such as carp, tilapia, catfish and bass; or the management of wild stock fisheries of fish, prawn or crayfish postlarvae, frogs and other similar species; and c) controlled production systems intended whose products are commercially marketed and which generally demand large investment; species thus cultured include trout, catfish, shrimp and oyster (Ramírez and Sánchez, 1998).
At present the only available aquaculture production statistical information in Mexico, correspond to the year 2003 (2003 Fisheries Statistics Yearbook). Aquatic production value for the year 2003 was of US$419 265.877 for a production volume of 204 012 tonnes; which include: shrimp with 61 704 tonnes and a value or US$245 591 754, tilapia with 58 660 tonnes and a value of US$57 638 915, and oyster with 48 291 tonnes reaching and a value of US$13 063 412 (the exchange rate was US$10.55 pesos/dollar). Production generated by stock enhancement aquaculture-based fisheries in the year 2003 reached a volume of 133 737 tonnes (live weight), where tilapia contributed with 60 551 tonnes and oyster with 46 529 tonnes as the species with the highest production volumes . Regarding controlled systems, the total ourput was 74 039 tonnes (live weight), with shrimp attaining the largest volume 62 361 tonnes (SAGARPA, 2003).
Aquaculture has increased job creation, either directly or indirectly. According to the 2003 Fisheries Statisticas Yearbook, the registered population working for the sector in capture and aquaculture was of 273 187 people, of which 250 159 were involved in capture and aquaculture-based fisheries and 23 028 people were involved in controlled aquaculture systems (estimated figures using the medium average method).
The Pacific Coast (which include the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas) has the highest amount of workers are employed in fisheries (152 362), of which 134 940 are involved in capture and aquaculture-based fisheries, and 17 422 in controlled systems. A smaller proportion of workers are computed within inland States (without coastline) (Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Distrito Federal, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, México, Morelos, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas) with 15 627 out of which 11 319 people work in capture and aquaculture-based fisheries and 4 308 work in controlled systems (SAGARPA, 2003). The states with a coast line on the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Coast report 105 197 workers, of which 103 899 work in capture and aquaculture-based fisheries and only 1 298 people work in controlled systems.
At present the Republic of Mexico is divided into six aquatic regions as follows: Pacific Basin, Northern Highlands, Gulf Basin, Caribbean Region, Mountain Region and Central Highlands (2001-1006 National Development Plan).
The species cultured in Mexico are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Cultured species in Mexico
Source: National Fisheries Chart, 2004.
Semi-intensive culture. Fingerlings are acquired and stocked at low density (1/m2). Yields in this culture system may reach 500 kg/ha. When culture is practiced in ponds, yieds usually do not exceed 10 kg/m3. In enclosures under optimum conditions, production might reach 20 kg/m3 (Sosa et al., 2000).
Intensive culture. It is practiced with the use of floating cages, raceways, and water re-cycling closed systems and reconditioning as well as with ponds.
Extensive culture. The use of external nutrients is very limited or non at all. Water levels are maintained through tidal exchanges. Yields are generally under 500 kg/ha/year (Álvarez et al., 2000).
Semi-intensive culture. A combination of fish feeds and fertilizers is used, with intermediate stocking densities; nevertheless, in the last year recommendations have been made to lower as much as possible stocking rates as a preventive measure to the presence of disease; in this system pond filling is done by pumping. Average production reached varies from 1–2 tonnes/ha/year (Álvarez et al.,2000).
Intensive culture. This system involves more technological resources, higher stocking densities. Yields exceed 2 tonnes/ha/year (Álvarez et al., 2000).
Extensive culture. It is practiced in reservoirs and lagoons, in some regions it is practiced in small artificial impoundments taking advantage of the tilapia’s ecological plasticity, omnivorous habits and rapid growth. (Hernández and Peña, 1992).
Semi-intensive culture. This type of culture system is practiced in small water bodies and ponds. The most commonly used modalities are monoculture, two-species culture and poly-culture. In monocultures, densities range from 4 to 6 organisms per square meter. Yields range from 1 to 4 tonnes/ha per production cycle, which last from 8 to 10 months. Fertilisation and supplementary feed are a constant in this type of culture.
Intensive culture. It is practiced in cages, raceways, ponds, secondary and tertiary irrigation channels. Stocking densities vary form 80 to 100 organisms/m3 (FAO, 1995 cited by Camacho et al., 2000).
Within the national territory a variety of species are used for aquaculture, among which outstand: the channel catfish, the Chinese carps, various species of tilapia, rainbow trout, abalone, mussel, oyster, calypso scallop, crayfish (Procambarus sp.), Artemia, several marine shrimp speces of the Litopenaeus and Farfantepenaeus, prawns, red claw lobster, bull frog and two species of algae, (Spirulina and Gracilaria) (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003).
All species cultured in Mexico, including fish, molluscs and crustaceans, are described in the National Fisheries Chart. The total number of species is 64, which includes 26 species of fresh water fish (9 native, 14 introduced and 3 hybrids), 5 species of marine fish (native), 14 marine and brackish water molluscs (12 native and 2 introduced), 6 freshwater crustaceans (4 native and 2 introduced), 7 marine crustaceans (all native) and 6 amphibious (5 native and 1 introduced) (National Fisheries Chart, 2004). According to the National Fisheries Statistics Yearbook (2003), the main cultured species are: catfish, carp, shrimp, silverside, prawn, black bass, tilapia, oyster, and trout. The largest volumes produced correspond to shrimp, tilapia, and oyster (SAGARPA, 2003).
The need to develop specific culture technologies for native species is motivated by the expectation of diversifying aquaculture options in Mexico, with the hope to create an aquaculture industry able to satisfy prevailing regional market preferences and oriented towards the sustainability of culture systems and of natural resources in the face of the risk of the loss of diversity decrease caused by the introduction of exotic species and as a means of preventing their harmful effects as well as from residues produced by the activity (Rojas and Mendoza, 2000).
Although introduction of aquatic organisms into Mexico has been undertaken throughout decades, only in certain cases, results have been positive. Loss of native species has happened in the river Tunal en Durango, caused by introduction of exotic species such as Cyprinus carpio, Carassius auratus, Lepomis macrochirus and Micropterus salmoides; 7 native species have been lost in only 15 years. Another issue to be considered due to introduction of exotic species is transmission of imported parasites, becoming a sanitary risk to endemic species, as in the case of the Bothriocephalus acheilognathi, a parasitic cestod introduced with the grass carp, imported from the People’s Republic of China, which has already been detected in several native species (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003).
Amongst others, due to several advantages, genetic improvement has been implemented with the purpose of improving the quality of cultured species. With genetically improved species, higher yields may be achieved, since these organisms acquire ideal characteristics that ensure viability of cultures. The main traits selected include: rapid growth, low reproductive rate, resistance to diseases and optimal food conversion efficiency.
Restocking aquaculture implies stocking actions of fingerlings, and their subsequent harvest, in different types of water bodies such as lakes, coastal lagoons, reservoirs and rivers. Yields vary depending mainly on the natural productivity of the water body. In general, it ranges from 100 to 800 kg/ha per year (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003). Tilapia and carp are mainly produced in larger reservoirs. The importance of aquaculture in reservoirs lies in the fact that it is a low cost option to provide large production volumes for internal markets. (FAO, 1993).
Subsistence (rural) aquaculture
Producers utilise small sized water bodies such as impoundments and small dams, being either temporary or permanent, which are called “conditioned” ponds (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003). Aquatic yield varies and usually ranges from 100 to > 400 kg/ha per year; although with the use of policultures it is possible to obtain yields greater than 2 tonnes per hectare per year. Rural aquaculture, defined as a subsistence or semi-commercial practice, started to expand in Mexico over 20 years ago (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003). The main species cultured are tilapia and carp which are mostly intended for self-consumption (FAO, 1993).
Commercial or industrial aquaculture
This aquaculture practice aims at attaining the highest possible yields through the use of external inputs such as fertilisers; fish feeds either separately or combined. At present, yields in Mexico vary from 1.5 tonnes per hectare per year in rustic earthen ponds, to 25 tonnes per hectare per year in raceways. In some cases poly-culture is practiced as a strategy to increase production; the most commonly practiced poly-culture is the combination of Chinese and European carps, tilapia and giant freshwater prawn (Arredondo and Lozano, 2003).
Fish fry, fingerlings and seed stock production totalled 140 million fish in 2001 as a result of aquaculture (SAGARPA, 2002).
In 1996, 58 percent of registered enterprises were dedicated to aquaculture production, 30 percent provided services to the sector and 12 percent supplied equipment, instruments and feeds etc. (SEMARNAP, 1996).
Aquaculture production increased steadily during the 1980s, before stagnating and slightly declining during the 1990s. Since 1990 government run hatcheries have lacked the operating funds and infrastructure to support an expanding sector. Between 1989–1993 the harvesting of oysters declined 55 percent, reflecting the reduced demand for oysters in light of the cholera epidemic which occurred during 1991–1992 on the Gulf coast (the main production area for oysters with 91 percent of the total production).
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Mexico according to FAO statistics:
The main national markets for aquatic products are: La Viga, La Nueva Viga located in the Federal District, and the market of Zapopan located in the town of Zapopan, Guadalajara. Aquaculture products may also be found in commercial centres and supermarkets such as: Wal Mart, Sam’s Club, Superama and Aurrera.
The prices of aquatic products vary throughout the commercial chain due to the intervention of intermediaries; producers happen to be conditioned by intermediaries; it is clear that producers sell at very low prices, while intermediaries raise prices to the point that prices end up becoming expensive to consumers .
The only legal instrument in Mexico with regards to labelling is the Official Mexican Regulation NOM-051-SCFI-1994 which is applicable to all types of food. This regulation is useful to ensure adequate labelling of foods and non-alcoholic beverages (national and foreign) which are commercialized in the country in closed packages or bottles, including all required commercial information allowing consumers to make adequate purchase decisions. Supervision of this regulation is a main responsibility of the Ministry of Economy (SE), Ministry of Health (SSA), Federal Consumer Attorney (PROFECO), and the Ministry of Treasure (SHCP).
The following are the main fishery products imported into Mexico: tuna fish, shrimp, salmon, algae, etc. The main imported products for aquaculture production in Mexico are: live aquatic plants, including their bulbs and parts, fertilized eggs, seed, larvae, and embryos, Artemia cysts, polichaetae, and krill; brood stock and larvae of penaeid shrimp and freshwater giant prawns. The main exporting countries are the United States of America, Colombia and Thailand (SAGARPA; 2003).
At present, Mexico exports products to the United States, South Korea, Japan, Spain, and Taiwan, among other countries. Precise data for aquaculture are not available since data provided by SAGARPA make no distinction between fisheries and aquaculture. Species exported include: shrimp, lobster, tuna, crustaceans, molluscs, algae, etc. These products are exported in a variety of presentations: fresh, refrigerated, live, frozen, dried, smoked, and in preserves.
The Mexican government operates several programs to provide aid to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Bancomext also provides financial aid to all stages of the exportation processes by providing loans of up to US$250 000. A total of 184 679 tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products with a value of US$659 million were imported during 2000 and 153 371 tonnes of fisheries product worth US$184 million was exported.
Shrimp account for the largest single exported product with a value of nearly US$410 million.
The fisheries sector constitutes about 0.4 percent of the overall Mexican GDP. Just three states (out of 31), Sinaloa, Sonora and Veracruz, provided 51 percent of the fisheries GDP in 1996. The aquaculture sector in Mexico contributes less than 15 percent of total fisheries production and less than 1 percent of agricultural GDP and exports (Bancomext, 2003). Employment, either direct or indirect in fisheries and aquaculture is estimated at 260 000.
Due to the population increase (with more than 97million inhabitants, as of year 2000) and to the extreme poverty levels that prevail in Mexico, nutrition in general has been deficient and unbalanced. Since the overall malnutrition rate is high, food security has become a priority. For this reason, aquaculture seems an obligated alternative to increase the supply of animal proteins and thus reduce the malnutrition levels of the poorer segments of the Mexican population.
Official figures reveal an insufficient supply of food produced through aquaculture to meet the needs (204 012 tonnes in the year 2003). The average per capita consumption of fish between 1992 and 2002 has been of 12.72 kg/person (SAGARPA, 2002). Nevertheless, these figures are below minimum requirements, which are of 20 kg per capita per year (Edwards, 1997).
Rural aquaculture is practiced in less economically developed areas where extreme poverty is high. However, a limiting factor for its development is the lack of tradition in the consumption of aquatic organisms with high nutritional values.
As a means of supporting the poor population, the production obtained in the 39 Aquaculture Centres operated and supervised by CONAPESCA, has been channelled to 608 municipalities, of which 51 percent present extreme poverty; 126 000 families from the social and private sectors were benefited by improving the quality of their nutrition and by earning additional income through product sales (SAGARPA, 2004).
The National Programme for the Support of Rural Aquaculture promotes the development of aquaculture in marginal areas through the supply of fingerlings, technical support provided by national institutions, economic resources intended for the rehabilitation or construction of facilities, equipment acquisition or hiring of specialized technical assistance. During 2001, this program benefited 11 541 families in the poorest areas of the country, with the stocking of 13 million organisms for production of catfish, carp and tilapia in ponds. During 2003, this program benefited a total of 4 129 rural producers through the rehabilitation of rural production units, the acquisition of equipment and the provision of technical assistance. These producers belong to 239 communities located in 110 municipalities of the country (SAGARPA, 2004).
Since 2001, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadaría, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación, SAGARPA) has been in charge of administering fisheries and aquaculture legislation. According to the Law, the tasks and responsibilities of SAGARPA include - inter alia - the designation of areas suitable for aquaculture, regulation of the introduction of species and the promotion of aquaculture development (see also Reglamento, Título tercero, Capítulo I). SAGARPA consists of numerous offices and administrative entities, an overview of its structure can be found in its by-laws (Reglamento Interior de la Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación).
The National Commission on Aquaculture and Fisheries (Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca, CONAPESCA), being an administrative entity of SAGARPA, was created in 2001 and is responsible for management, coordination and policy development regarding the sustainable use and exploitation of fisheries and aquatic resources. The Commission has the support of the National Fisheries Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesca, INP), also being an administrative entity of SAGARPA, which conducts scientific and technological investigations and gives advice on the preservation, restocking, promotion, cultivation and developing of aquatic species. Through the INP, a new instrument for fisheries management has been developed, the National Fisheries Chart (Carta Nacional Pesquera), which is an annually updated inventory and summary of all fisheries resources in federal water bodies.
SAGARPA is responsible for managing, with quality and transparency, the sustainable exploitation of fisheries and aquaculture resources; as well as to promote the development of the production chain, distribution and consumption as a means of supporting the integral development of the productive agents of the sector and thus to contribute to improve the nutritional level of the population.
The National Fishing Institute is responsible for generating the technical and scientific information needed for decision making in the management of fisheries and aquaculture resources. Through its Regional Centres for Fisheries Research (CRIP), the INP also identifies and establishes the lines of research on aquaculture and fisheries.
SAGARPA has developed the Sectoral Program for Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food 2001–2006 (Programa Sectorial de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural Pesca y Alimentación), which addresses - inter alia - the sustainable exploitation of fishery and aquaculture resources and the promotion of profitability, both in economic and social terms, of the fishery and aquaculture sector. The program also seeks to update and promote the legal measures applicable to fish and aquaculture activities.
Legal framework for Aquaculture.
The Fisheries Law (Ley de Pesca) (1992, as amended in 2001) and the Regulation to the Fisheries Law (Reglamento de la Ley de Pesca) (1999, as amended in 2004) are the main legislative documents governing the conservation, preservation, exploitation and management of all aquatic flora and fauna. The Fisheries Law has been amended in 2001 and the Regulation has been amended in 2004. In addition, various Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas, NOMs) facilitate the implementation of the Fisheries Law by detailing requirements as to the conduct of activities within and development of fisheries and aquaculture. Generally, NOMs are specific measures and standards required by law, which are proposed by the various administrative Secretariats in their corresponding area of jurisdiction and issued by the Federal Executive.
Regulations of the Fisheries Law. Within the Regulations to the Fisheries Law, the third Title refers to aquaculture; Chapter I (Articles 101 to 105), states general dispositions for aquaculture. Chapter II refers to commercial aquaculture, Articles 107 and 108 specify the requirements of the concessions for this type of aquaculture in waters of federal jurisdiction and the requirements to obtain concessions. In Chapter III, reference is made to the so called Promotional Aquaculture (Articles 114–119), where requirements for the granting of permits for this type of aquaculture are specified. Didactical Aquaculture is described in Chapter IV (Articles 120–124), as are the respective authorizations to develop this type of activity. With regard to live species introduced into water bodies of federal jurisdiction, Chapter V (Articles 125–127) details all the information to be specified in the applications for such permits. Chapter VI (Articles 128–136) refers to Aquatic Health. This chapter specifies that Health Certificates are required for the introduction of live aquatic plant and animal species, and should be issued by the competent authority in the country of origin. It refers also to the quarantine regulations applicable to introduced species, and the required Aquaculture Health Certificate needed at the end of the quarantine for its final disposition, issued by the Ministry (Fisheries Law and its Regulation, 2001).
Instruments for environmental policy in aquaculture. In contrast with commercial aquaculture, small-scale aquaculture has not shown important environmental impacts. Nevertheless, the generalities of environmental policy related to ecological ordaining related to any activity, including aquaculture, follow. With the aim to provide benefits to rural producers for the sustainable use of natural resources, it is necessary to emphasize that prevailing regulations for the issuance of permits and aquatic concessions, do not constitute an obstacle to the installation of production units, or to the launching of an aquaculture venture; on the contrary, the legal framework facilitates the following objectives:
Ecological Ordaining. According to the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA), ecological ordaining is “the planning process oriented towards the evaluation and programming of the use of land and the management of natural resources within the national territory and the zones where the Nation exerts sovereignty and jurisdiction, to preserve and restore the ecological equilibrium and protect the environment”. This process comprehends the following stages: environmental evaluation or diagnostic evaluation, environmental planning, and environmental management or administration (Ramírez and Sánchez, 1998b). Policies for ecological ordaining are: protection, preservation, use or exploitation, and restoration. Ecological ordainment studies are carried out in areas whose attention require priority; as defined by their characteristics of broad diversity, extreme poverty, high degree of deterioration or high potential of natural and socioeconomic resources. These constitute the framework to promote public actions oriented towards the preservation of natural resources and to the achievement of sustainable development; that is, they facilitate the identification of areas where aquaculture may be developed in harmony with other activities. It also promotes the legal status of productive units allowing their precise identification and their distribution, and thus avoiding agglomeration, which would cause negative effects on the ecosystems, or even amongst themselves (Álvarez, 2000).
Environmental Impact Evaluation. According to the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA), the evaluation of environmental impact is defined as a technical-administrative mechanism which allows the identification and prevention of adverse environmental effects associated to the implementation of a project, either public or private; capable of producing ecological unbalance, instability or which could even exceed the limits and conditions stated in regulations and technical ecological norms (Ramírez and Sánchez, 1998b).
Official Mexican Norms. Within the framework established by the Federal Law of Metrology and Normalization, and the Fisheries Law and its Regulation, since 1993, through the establishment of the National Consulting Committee on the Normalisation of Responsible Fisheries, the following judicial dispositions have been issued, which rule the harmonic development of aquaculture. Generally, Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas, NOMs), are specific measures and standards required by law, which are proposed by the various administrative Secretariats in their corresponding area of jurisdiction and issued by the Federal Executive. Those NOMS that facilitate the implementation of the Fisheries Law by detailing requirements as to the conduct of activities within and development of fisheries and aquaculture are:
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Mexico please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview – Mexico
At the governmental level, the priorities for research are established according to diverse strategies such as: announcements to fora; support and proposals from National Aquaculture Research Networks (shrimp, tilapia, trout, marine fish etc.); national meetings of various natures such as congresses; interviews with producers and researchers; information provided by financial agencies (FIRA); etc. All information collected is analysed in order to define the guidelines for aquaculture research. The corresponding institution is responsible of following-up the execution of such guidelines. In the case of aquaculture, the institution responsible for monitoring advances in research is the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA) through the General Directorate of Aquaculture Research (DGIA) of the National Fishing Institute (INP).
Public institutions play an important role in teaching, research and culture. In the case of aquaculture research, their main role is the development of technology that may contribute to increase production. To achieve a satisfactory level of development in aquaculture, the active participation of producers becomes necessary; however, this has not been fully realised since only a small proportion of producer groups are committed to working in coordination with institutions and researchers.
Progress achieved in aquaculture research is divulgated through handbooks or manuals, publications, conferences, workshops and training courses.
Table 2 shows the most relevant institutions that undertake research on aquaculture. Among the institutions that offer postgraduate programmes (Masters and PhD degrees) outstand: Instituto Tecnológico del Mar No. 1 in Veracruz, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR), Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD) and Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada (CICESE). In the case of the Instituto Tecnológico del Mar de Nayarit, it offers a degree on Biology with specialisation in Aquaculture.
Table 2. Main Institutions with Research Programmes in Aquaculture
Until recently, aquaculture development in Mexico had mostly been focused on freshwater species. However, there are a few marine and brackish water species whose cultivation has surpassed the importance of freshwater aquaculture in terms of total production value. In turn, the culture of exotic species has been more relevant than that of native species. The cultivation of crustaceans has taken a preponderant place in aquaculture, due to their importance in terms of the economic value that this resource plays in the North-western Pacific Region of Mexico. Unlike the case with most other species, the cultivation of shrimp has undergone significant technological development and has become a major export product of high quality (Álvarez and Avilés, 1995).
The cultivation of molluscs has also made some progress, particularly for oysters, mussels and abalone. Recently, research on improved technological practices has focused on other species such as clams, native scallops (pen shell and lion’s paw), pearl oyster and wing oyster. (SEMARNAP, 1995). The most widely cultured fish are the tilapias which have been widely disseminated in reservoirs and water bodies in different regions of the country; important fisheries have been established based on aquaculture production of fingerling. Tilapia culture constitutes over 60 percent of total fish culture output.
Aquaculture represents an additional source of protein, contributes to food security, the generation of foreign income, the stimulation of regional development and the creation of new jobs and a reduction of pressure on natural resources particularly in coastal areas.
It represents a little more than 12 percent of the total fisheries production although it is estimated that aquaculture could have the potential to represent up to 40 percent of the total fisheries production within 10 to 15 years. Nevertheless, its development has so far been slow as a result of a variety of factors, including:
Despite positive contributions to society and the economy, aquaculture development in Mexico is still far below its actual potential to increase production in a more sustainable way. Mexico has great potential to contribute to food security and rural development throughout the country at both the local and regional level, by providing food directly to aquaculture producers and nearby communities by taking advantage of the vast available hydrological zones around the country.
Its future growth should be carefully promoted considering the impact it could have on the environment. Particular attention should be paid to certain global strategies and guidelines such as FAO's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which in its Article 9 cites the growing need to find new alternative production mechanisms to preserve indigenous natural resources (FAO, 1995).
Furthermore, the diversity of Mexico’s altitudinal profile contributes to a variety of climatic conditions and ecosystems which aid in the development of a diversified aquaculture sector. The current aquaculture development plan foresees different levels of actions in order to achieve better performance for small scale subsistence aquaculture, stock enhancement activities and commercial or industrial aquaculture, all of which are consistently linked with the socio economic and environmental aspects as well.
Farm produced aquaculture products must meet specific international standards, not only in relation to the environmental protection of natural resources, but also for the post-harvest processing and handling of aquaculture product. Such standards bring an increase in production costs and, in some cases, inhibit the commercial market potential of the products.
The contribution of aquaculture to economic and social development depends on an adequate planning of the activity within the context of environmental management. Particular concern is caused by the uncontrolled use of continental hydric resources and the fast degradation of the coast. (Álvarez, 1996).
Support to rural aquaculture in Mexico is given through the National Program for Rural Aquaculture Support, whose objective is the promotion of small-scale investment projects through the allocation of economic support to rural producers for the creation of efficient units capable of integrating and competing within aquaculture and fisheries chains. The Program is coordinated with State Government’s actions, for the creation of economic funds to fulfill the requirements of poor producers, in issues such as: technical assistance, training, studies, infrastructure (new buildings and rehabilitation), equipment, input acquisitions, establishment of demonstration units and the development of productive projects as an alternative to riverine fisheries. Until present 343 rural production units have received support of various sorts: the rehabilitation of impoundments and ponds; the construction of rustic earthen ponds and floating cages for tilapia culture; construction of four demonstration units for the cultivation of marine fish and molluscs; acquisition for the monitoring of physical and chemical parameters, scales, water pumps, freezers, etc.; provision of technical assistance and training; etc. The former actions have benefited a total of 4 129 rural producers located in 239 communities belonging to 110 municipalities of the country (SAGARPA, 2004).
With regard to aquatic health, the System of Information on Diagnosis Results of the Laboratory Network (SIRED) has been established with the objective of providing information to CONAPESCA and SENASICA on the confirmation of high-risk diseases in aquaculture. Also, the Aquaculture Health Committees have been founded, as auxiliary entities for the prevention, diagnosis and control of aquaculture diseases; the Committees also promote sanitation campaigns (SAGARPA, 2004). At present, there are 17 Aquaculture Health Committees belonging to the states of Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Mexico, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Veracruz.
Aquaculture and Fishing Program (Alianza Contigo)
CONAPESCA, through the program “Alianza Contigo”, has provided subsidies to benefit the fishing and aquaculture sector in the country with the purpose of promoting competition in production units and to ensure the sustainable and rational use of resources. In 2003, a total of 243 projects were approved, with a total investment value of 122 million pesos, having benefited 25 thousand people. In 2004, a total of 63 projects were approved, with a total investment value of 85 million pesos distributed in 12 States of the country. With this program, the fishing and aquaculture production chains are being consolidated, thus prompting the productive re-conversion of the sector towards the cultivation of species showing a greater development potential and helping low income social groups in search for access to profitable productive activities.
Fishing and aquaculture productive chains
In Mexico, these chains were initiated with the Programme for the Establishment and Strengthening of Value Networks with the main objective of consolidating the fishing and aquacultural productive units articulated in value networks and coordinated through Productive Systems Committees. These aim at improving organizational and productive levels of the producers, creating high aggregated value products and entering national and international markets (SAGARPA, 2004).
The National Committee for the Promotion of Consumption of Fisheries and Aquaculture Products is the entity in charge of executing the Lent National Program, where institutions and federal entities participate, as well as public and private organizations such as the Ministries of Economy and Health, PROFECO (Federal Consumer Attorney), CANAINPESCA National Chamber of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry), CONACOOP (National Cooperative Council), ANTAD (National Stores and Supermarkets Retailers Association of Mexico) and the fish market Nueva Viga, among others. This program was oriented to ensure the supply of Mexican fisheries and aquaculture product in sufficient amounts, to increase the variety of available species at accessible prices for the population, and to promote the consumption of fish and shellfish, informing consumers of better purchase options and reinforcing actions for consumer protection (SAGARPA, 2004).
Technical and training assistance
In response to deficiencies shown in the application formats submitted during 2003 for support by Alianza Contigo, technical assistance and training was provided to fisheries and aquaculture producers for the adequate presentation of feasibility productive projects. Emphasis has also been made on subjects such as managerial and administrative abilities and to the quality, health and innocuousness of products.
Applied research for aquaculture development
Aquaculture Research by the National Fishing Institute (First Activities Report; SAGARPA, 2001) has increased interaction among productive and academic sectors through the National Network for Research in Aquaculture. This Network is constituted by a total of 760 members belonging to 120 institutions from all over the country. Topics of research include: sanitary aspects on the handling of the White Spot Syndrome viral disease in shrimp, and on prevention and sanitary control in oysters and clams. Regarding nutrition, research projects have focused on the digestibility of commercial feeds, with the aim of diminishing their impact over the environment (SAGARPA, 2001b).
The further development of aquaculture in Mexico will depend on the successful application of efficient technologies, innovation, modernisation and conversion processes. Although there have been several recent research projects conducted by academic institutions aimed at developing techniques for the farming of native species there is a clear need for the creation of a national coordination mechanism to take advantage of the current national research capacity and available infrastructure in order to obtain beneficial results for the culture of native species.
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