Aquaculture in Panama formally started during the first years of the decade of the 1970’s, and was oriented to solving the nutritional requirements of poor areas with community based projects. These actions found a complement with the incursion of private enterprise in marine shrimp culture.
The generation of technology and its dissemination, as a support to private activities, and theinclusion of new species with potential development, as well as the implementation of integrated projects, were actions that permitted the expansion of Panamanian aquaculture, thus contributing to food security and job creation. By 1998, captured and cultured shrimp, represented the seecond exported good.
Viral diseases in cultures, lack of finance and a drop in international prices all over the world, reinforced integration of the public and private sectors through strategic alliances to strengthen research, promotion of new areas for aquaculture and development of new technologies for new aquatic species.
In 2005 aquaculture in Panama included the development of over 9 354.49 ha for marine shrimp cultures, 152.45 ha of ponds and 800 m3 of cages for freshwater fish cultures and 84 663 ha in reservoirs.
Culture systems vary form hyper-intensive to extensive, in earthen ponds or covered by plastic liners, and the use of aerators for shrimp, and systems that vary from extensive to intensive for fish.
The main exported aquatic species are whiteleg shrimp(nauplii and post larvae, whole product or frozen tails), trout and tilapia from aquaculture-based capture fisheries in the larger reservoirs.
The introduction of exotic species into Panama dates back to 1925, when rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was imported for sports fishing. This introduction was followed during the 1940s by the Javan tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) and in the decade of the 1950s by peacock cichlid (Cichla ocellaris), the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and the Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) all with the same purpose.
Aquaculture as such, has its origins in 1972, when the National government started the search for economical and practical sources of animal protein to improve the Panamanian population’s diet, particularly of the rural population. Within this framework, the first ponds were built in different towns of the province or Veraguas; a small fish farm in the National Agricultural Institute, located in the town of Divisa, 213 km away form Panama City was commissioned, and the Fish Farming Project was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), now transformed into thel Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development (MIDA).
In 1974, Agromarina de Panama started the operation of its 34 ha whiteleg shrimp farm in the Aguadulce district in the Province of Coclé, and of a hatchery for the rearing of post larvae in the town of Veracruz, Province of Panama.
In that year, the General Directorate of Marine Resources of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries undertook studies on mussels (Mytella speciosa) and oysters (Ostrea palmula) in the island of Taboga. During 1979 research was conducte on the culture of Crassostrea rhizophorae in the province of Bocas del Toro.
In 1976 the Fish Farming Project was transformed into the National Aquaculture Directorate, whose status was officially conferred by the Executive Decree No. 11 issued on 16 May 1979.
In the mid 1970s the first endeavours on commercial aquaculture by the private sector took place by the enterprise Camarpan S.A. A laboratory in Panama City and ponds in the locality of Bique (Panama Province) were built for breeding and culture of the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii). In a similar way, trout culture projects were started in the highlands of the Chiriquí Province.
During 1981, 21 students graduated as Aquaculture Technicians at the University of Panama. They would later play an important role in aquaculture extension programs and in the introduction of the concept of sustainable farming production through agro-aquaculture; i.e. fish farming associated to other aquatic species in modular ponds integrated to agriculture, farming and forestry activities.
In the year 1986, within the program “Agro-Aquaculture Program for Food Production and Community Development in Marginal Communities” agro-aquaculture was implemented. Fish culture also takes place in inundated rice fields; tilapia being the main species while carps are complementary to the activity.
After the expansion of the Divisa Freshwater Station in the compounds of the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development, the construction of other stations followed. These were dedicated to production and research on brackish water and marine species. This is the case of the Ing Enrique Enseñat Brackish Waters Experimental Station, the Pacific Mariculture Station and the Atlantic Mariculture Station. Freshwater species stations were also built like the Gulaca Freshwater Station, the Lago Gatún Aquatic station and the Old Carrasquilla Larvae Laboratory.
In 1987, a commercial fish farm associated to agricultural and animal husbandry started its operations at the community of Pacora, 39 km from Panama City. Yields of the 4 ha farm averaged1 361 to 1 633 kg/ha/year.
During the 1990s, tilapia commercial cultures were established in cages and in ponds, as well as pilot projects for bivalve molluscs production (clams and oysters) and marine algae.
In the same decade, a Bachelors Degree on Aquaculture is established; 24 students graduated from it. Also, five technicians graduated from a technical high school that created a course with emphasis in aquaculture.
A Bachelors Degree in Aquaculture was created and a Masters Degree is being structured within an agreement between de Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development and the University of Panama.
Marine shrimp production in 2004 reached 6 535 tonnes with a value of US$30 061 .828, while farmed fish production reached 488 tonnes with a commercial value of US$795 587.
According to data of the National Aquaculture Directorate (MIDA-DINAAC, 2005), the country has 9 hatcheries for the production of nauplii and postlarvae, whose total monthly capacity amount to 3 000 million nauplii and 415 million postlarvae. Total production in 2004 reached: 1 566 867 000 000 nauplii for export, 358 291 275 000 postlarvae for internal cultivation, and 20 600 000 000 postlarvae for export.
Its worthwhile noticing that average yields were 814.88 kg/ha/year, value which is higher than that obtained in 1998 (662.24 kg/ha/yer) before the appearance of the White Spot Viral Syndrome. Yields for tilapia production vary between 0.4 to 1.8 kg/m2 and for trout between 14 to 15 kg/m2.
Approximately 1 500 persons are involved in aquaculture; it is estimated that shrimp farming employs 1 000 workers and generates 3 000 indirect jobs.
At the professional level, some 60 technicians, engineers, and other graduates and post-graduates from various disciplines work in private aquaculture enterprises; also, there are 130 administrative and 1 010 field work positions.
It is considered that on average, 20 temporary jobs are created per month, which is equivalent to 300 temporary positions per year
The gender relation of occupation in aquaculture is 93 percent male and 7 percent female workers; while the inverse relation holds for processing plants: 80 percent female and 20 percent male workers.
Panama is located between latitudes 7°12’07” and 9°38’46” North and between longitudes
77°09’24” and 83°03’07” West, limited to the North by the Caribbean Sea, to the East by Colombia, to the South by Pacific Ocean, and to the West by Costa Rica. The country has 9 provinces, 75 districts or municipalities and 3 indigenous counties: Kuna Yala, Embera, and Ngöbe Bugle.
The climate and vegetation are typically tropical. The marine tropical climate with influence of both oceans is characterised by moderately high temperatures, stable around the year; there is small daily and annual oscillation, abundant rains and a high relative air humidity. Two climatic seasons are well defined: the dry season that goes from mid December to April and the rainy season expands from May to December.
The extension of Panama is 75 517 square kilometres, with a coastal line of 2 988.3 kilometres (1 700.6 in the Pacific and 1 287.7 km on the Caribbean. The territorial sea has an extension of 319 823.9 km², and inland bodies of water with at least 1 hectare have an extension of 1 231.23 km2; the country has important hydro biological resources both in marine and continental waters.
Marine shrimp culture occupies 9 354.49 ha, mainly located en the central area of the country: 5 904.06 ha in the provinces of Coclé (districts of Aguadulce, Antón, Natá and Penonomé), 1 393.56 ha in the province of Herrera (district of Parita, Chitré), 508.67 ha in the province of Los Santos (district of Los Santos, Guarare, Las Tablas y Tonosí), 1 003.71 ha in the province of Panama (district of Chame, Capira and Panama), 542.52 ha in the province of Veraguas (district of Montijo and Las Palmas), and 1.98 ha in the province of Chiriquí (district of Barú).
Cultivation systems vary from extensive to hyper-intensive, in earthen ponds or plastic lined tanks and the use of aerators, respectively.
Commercial culture of tilapia is exerted in floating cages (800 m3) in the area of Lagarterita, province of Panama (district of La Chorrera), and in ponds in the province of Chiriqui (district of Gualaca, Dolega).
Freshwater fish production (tilapia, carp, cachama, etc.) can be found all over the country with culture systems ranging from subsistence and extensive to semi-intensive, generally marketed locally. The estimated productive areas are: 151.35 ha of ponds and 84 663 ha in reservoirs.
Trout culture is practiced in the highlands of the province of Chiriquí, in the district of Boquete with semi-intensive culture systems in earthen ponds in an area of 7 200 m2, while in the district of Volcán semi-intensive cultures occupy an area of 826.1 m2 and in concrete tanks with an area of 2 980 m2, in the Volcan district.
Long line pilot-scale mollusc cultures are found in the province of Los Santos (district of Tonosi).
The main cultivated species in Panama is the whiteleg shrimp ( Penaeus vannamei), with a production of 6 339 tonnes in a surface of 9 345.5 ha in 87 farms.
Whiteleg shrimp cultivation was initiated in 1974, and rapidly increased towards the end of that decade. In 1995, when Law 58 was approved, incentives were offered to the shrimp culture industry, which included land concessions and guarantees for bank loans. This Law made an important recognition to technological advances (use of hatchery reared post larvae) and natural resources preservation (marine restocking with young and/or adult organisms, mangrove reforestation, construction of access roads), exoneration of duty obligations on leased lands, among others. Similarly, procedures to apply for land and water concession were regulated and an Office for handling aquaculture concession and permit applications was created.
These actions allowed the annual growth rates of 30 percent in the ensuing years, representing an important foreign currency income of around US$120 million. After its consolidation, the fisheries and aquaculture shrimp industry ranks second in total national exports. However, it was later affected by the White Spot Viral Syndrome.
It is important to underline the joint governmental and industry efforts dedicated to the genetic improvement of shrimp, as well as the research undertaken to improve managerial aquaculture practices, infrastructure, and the control of water, soil and microbial fauna, among others.
Once the problems caused by the White Spot Viral Syndrome have been overcome, the volume (519.3 tonnes) and value of shrimp exports show an increase of 43.7 percent and 16.3 percent for the first quarter of 2005. This is also due to the lifting of restrictions on the exclusion sizes of sea turtles by the United States. Likewise, the volume and value of shrimp larvae exports increased by 1.3 percent volume and 27.3 percent, respectively.
Trout cultivation, which was initiated in 1992, remains oriented towards the exportation of its produce, exports reaching 15 150 kg with a value of US$68 273 in 2004.
Regarding tilapia, whose culture was originally intended to contribute to improve the nutrition of the population of rural areas, marketing of produce was started during the second half of the decade of the 1980s, and by 1994 the first exports to the USA occurred.
In addition to the Oreochromis niloticus , other species such as O. rendalli, O. hornorum, O. mossambica, O aureus, and other red tilapia lines were imported in an attempt to better utilize the environmental conditions of the various bodies of water where their culture is practiced.
For export purposes, farmed tilapia is being gradually substituted by tilapia captured in the larger reservoirs, mainly in Bayano, where over 1 200 fishermen operate. Tilapia exports to the USA during 2004 were 288 737 kg with a value of US$919 055.
Small and medium size producers sell rather easily their limited production in the vicinity of culture areas at local and village markets, supermarkets and restaurants in localities and cities, etc., even though the sale of freshwater species has not consolidated within the national market has not consolidated.
Although the production and value of the cachama has continued to increase, it is mainly consumed in rural areas; a small proportion is commercialised within the Chinese community living in Panama.
The small volumes of freshwater species, such as the common carp, the different varieties of Chinese carps (silver, bighead and grass), the giant river prawn, etc., are marketed either directly by the producers, or through Chinese intermediaries.
Whiteleg shrimp cultures are classified according to yields and to the use and availability of infrastructure facilities, production management, technical support, control of soil, water conditions, microbial flora, etc.
Extensive systems are characterised by limited infrastructure availability, such as low water pumping and filtration capacity and inefficient structures for pond filling and drainage. With regards to production management, stocking densities are low, technical support is sporadic and control of soil, water and microbial flora is absent. Yields attained are below 362.9 kg/ha (800 lb/ha).
The semi intensive systems are classified as High, Medium and Low. The low system has low water pumping and filtration capacities. In production management, the use of artificial feeds and technical assistance become important; soil is ploughed limed and disinfected; pond water is fertilised, limed and exchanged. Yields rage between 362.9 and 453.6 kg/ha (800–1 000 lb/ha).
In the medium semi intensive system, water pumping and filtration capacities are higher while filling and drainage are also improved. Use of shrimp feeds, technical support and parameter monitoring are determining; land handling (ploughing, liming and disinfection) and water handling (fertilisation, liming and exchanges) are also important. Yields vary from 680.4 to 907.2 kg/ha (1 500 to 2 000 lb/ha).
In the high semi intensive system, water pumping and filtration capacities are high; the refilling and drainage infrastructures are good, ponds are medium sized and facilities include sedimentation areas. Monitoring laboratory equipments become necessary. Production management practices such as: stocking densities, selection of quality feeds, monitoring of hydro-biological parameters, use of pro-biotics and immuno-stimulants, etc. and technical assistance become essential. Soil, water and microbial flora are deliberately controlled. Yields range from 1 134 to 1 687.6 kg/ha (2 500 to 3 500 lb/ha).
In intensive systems, infrastructure includes: smaller ponds; high water pumping and filtration capacities; sedimentation, aeration, excellent filling and drainage structures. Management of production, along with technical support, become critical; soil, water and microbial flora are carefully controlled. Expected yields range between 2 721.5 and 4 535.9 kg/ha (6 000–10 000 lb/ha).
In hyper intensive systems, ponds are smaller and generally covered with a liner; water pumping and filtration rates are high; sedimentation areas, aeration, laboratory equipment and technical support are critical and the filling and drainage systems are excellent. Management of production and technical support are essential; soil, water and microbial flora are carefully controlled. Expected yields range between 6 803.8 and 11 339.8 kg/ha (15 000–25 000 lb/ha).
The extensive culture system is mostly practiced in ponds of 100 to 10 000 m2, with stocking densities of 0.5 to 2 fish/m2 of an average weight of 1 to 5 g, and with almost no water exchange. No artificial feeds are supplied, occasionally only agricultural by-products; water is fertilised with chicken manure at rates of 500 to 1 000 kg/ha). Often, tilapia poly-culture includes Chinese carps (silver and/or bighead 1/10m2, grass carp 1/50 -100 m2), common carp (1/10 m2), cachama (1/5-10 m2), and jaguar guapote (1/5-10 m2). Fish are harvested after 180 and 365 days once they reach an average weight of 250-400 g.
In semi intensive tilapia culture, pond’s dimensions vary from 500 to 10 000 m2, with daily water exchanges of 5 to 10 percent of the total volume. Ponds are previously treated with hydrated lime (50kg/ha) and organic fertiliser(chicken manure, 1 000 to 2 000 kg/ha), and/or chemical fertiliser (urea, 50 kg/ha or full fertiliser, 60 kg/ha). Artificial feeds (25–30 percent raw protein) are used, and stocking densities vary between 2 to 7 fingerlings/m2 with an average weight of 2-5 g. Fish are harvested in 160–300 days once they reach an average weight of 280 to 500 g. Polyculture is also practiced, with similar stocking densities as in the case of extensive systems.
Intensive cultures are carried out in either: floating cages (18–40 m3), concrete tanks (214 m2), or ponds (180 to 240 m2); with stocking densities of 10–30 fingerlings/m2 in ponds and 100–150/m3 in cages. Water exchange rates may reach from 20 to 50 percent.
The semi intensive system is practiced in a succession of earthen ponds or raceways with a continuous water flow. Fingerlings spend 3 to 4 months in nursing tanks prior to on-growing them in these raceways until market size (500 to 700 g) is reached. Nursing is carried out in roofed concrete tanks until fish reach a weight of 30 to 40g. Stocking rates in raceways vary from 70 to 90 fish/ m3 until commercial size is reached within 9 or 10 months. Trout culture makes use of imported eggs, generally from the U.S., which are incubated for 30 days in vertical or horizontal incubators.
Cachama is cultivated under polyculture in association with tilapia, stocked at a density of one cachama per 5 m2 when supplementary feeds or agricultural by-products are used, or one cachama per 10m2 when fish are not fed and only organic fertilisers are utilised.
Harvest weight of 500 to 1 000 g may take 8 to 10 months. Fish are marketed amongst Chinese communities. Subsistence farmers allow the Cachama to reach larger sizes.
Mollusc culture has only been practiced at the pilot scale. Research on growth rates, protection against predators, shrimp culture effluent purification, etc. is underway. Other studies include gonad conditioning and induced reproduction, and experimental processing (smoking) tests. The main species of interest are the scallop (Argopecten ventricosus) and oysters (Crassostrea gigas and C. corteziensis). Produced has been commercialized in restaurants and hotels in Panama City.
Throughout its development, aquaculture in Panama has been affected by external conditions, such as political and economic issues, the methodology of statistical recording of production (namely freshwater aquaculture). During the decade of the 1990s production increased significantly, mainly due to the expansion of witeleg shrimp aquaculture which was further boosted in 1995 by the approval of Law 58. Although production peaked in 1998 (7 233 tonnes), a steep decline ensued due to the White Spot Viral Syndrome. As a result, production registered only 1 779tonnes in 2000.
Joint efforts by producer, governmental institutions and the academia allowed a prompt recovery of the industry that implemented better management practices.
The following table shows aquaculture production and value figures for the year 2004, as per records of the National Aquaculture Directorate:
Production and Value of aquaculture-based artisanal fisheries in inland waters within continental water bodies are presented in the following table:
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Panama according to FAO statistics:
Regarding national markets, Panamanian aquaculture has been oriented particularly to popular restaurants and supermarkets, where freshwater species are particularly well accepted. Product is presented either in filets or whole, fresh or frozen. Smaller aquaculture operations are either subsistence oriented or the limited production is marketed in the vicinity of the farms.
Whiteleg shrimp nauplii and post-larvae are exported to Central and South American countries (Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Belize, etc.).
Production of whiteleg shrimp is intended for international markets: frozen tales for the United States, and whole frozen for the European Union (Spain, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands).
The main market for Panamanian trout is the United States, where it is sold either in fresh filets or whole frozen.
Tilapia captured in the larger reservoirs is exported to the United Status, Mexico and the Dominican Republic (complete and in fresh filets), and to the European Union (whole fresh).
The distribution and marketing chain in Panama is poorly articulated, having only one or two links, and there is no clear cut stratification in relation to the market segment that each type of intermediary supplies.
In smaller freshwater aquaculture farms (tilapia, carp, cachama), producers sell directly to consumers, to small shops and to intermediaries who market fish locally. Occasionally they supply markets and supermarkets directly.
Trout, which is primarily sold in the international market, is processed in adjacent plants that belong to the same farm owners. Sometimes, farmers process and sell their trout in their own restaurants.
Farmed whiteleg shrimp is shipped directly to processing plants, prior to exportation to international markets. Presentations include: whole, tails, peeled and deveined, butterfly cut, etc.
For the smaller artisanal fishermen who fish in lakes, primary commercialization is through direct sells. Sometimes, urban supermarkets are reached by means of associations or intermediaries. A similar situation occurs with tilapia captured in Lake Bayano.
Inland aquaculture was initially fostered with the intention that producers would consume their own produce and thus contribute to food security of the poorer rural communities. Social assistance integrated aquaculture projects seek to improve the nutritional level of rural populations as well as to generate sustainable primary activities.
The main contribution of aquaculture to the economy is provided by the shrimp industry, which has experienced an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent during 2004, with a production valued at US$29 998 785. This industry generates an average of 846 jobs/month in its farms and 400 jobs in related industries such as processing plants, food manufacturing plants and nauplii and postlarvae production laboratories.
Trout is another product exported to the United Status which also contributes to the national economy. Exports in 2004 amounted to 15 150 kg of fresh product and frozen filets valued at US$68 273 (US Division of Statistics and Economy).
The Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development, through the National Aquaculture Directorate is responsible for aquaculture development in the Republic of Panama.
The objective of National Aquaculture Directorate (DINAAC) is to optimize the exploitation of aquatic resources, ensuring their biological sustainability for the benefit of the national population in general, and in particular, of the aquaculture sub-sector.
The DINAAC is an entity of the Ministerial Bureau integrated by the Minister, the Under Minister and the General Secretariat.
The National Aquaculture Commission is a consultative body ranked as a Superior Office, constituted by institutions and organizations related to aquaculture. Among its main responsibilities, the most outstanding are: the definition of policies and of juridical and technical regulations; participate in the solution of conflicts; approve the National Plan for the use of coastal land; and prepare the regulations of the Law.
The National Aquaculture Commission is integrated by the Minister of Agriculture and Husbandry Development (President), the Minister of Planning and Economic Policies, the Administrator of the Maritime Authority of Panama, the Administrator of the National Authority for the Environment, the General Manager of the National Bank of Panama, a representative of the Aquatic Producers Association, a representative of the Panamanian Association of Aquaculture Professional Specialists, and the National Director of Aquaculture (Secretary).
The National Aquaculture Directorate is administered by a Director and a Sub-Director who stand at a regulatory level and who are responsible for the supervision of the enforcement of policies, plans, programs, and projects of the aquatic sub-sector within the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development.
The Directorate operates through a Bureau of Aquaculture, an Administrative Office, the Aquaculture Planning Office, the Deparment of Aquaculture Extension Supervision, the Department of Research and Development, and six Aquatic Experimental Stations (the Divisa Freshwater Aquaculture Station, the Ing. Enrique Enseñat Experimental Brackish Water Station, the Pacific Mariculture Station, the Freshwater Experimental Station of Gualaca, the Acuaculture Station of Lake Gatun, and the Atlantic Mariculture Station).
Three producers associations operate actively in the country, two of which are integrated by shrimp producers: Panamanian Association of Aquaculture Producers and the Panamanian Association of Shrimp Proucers. The third association integrates rice/fish producers: Association of Rice/fish Producers.
There are also 12 lake fishermen associations constituted in the main reservoirs (2 in Gatun, 2 in Alajuela, 7 in Bayano and 1 in La Yeguada).
Professionals active in aquaculture are organised either in the Panamanian Association of Aquaculture Professional Specialists or in the Aquaculture Technicians Association.
These associations have representatives at the National Aquaculture Commission which is a consultative body to the Ministry, in relation to the definition of policies, plans, and promotion and management programmes.
Legislation referring to aquaculture in Panama is established by Laws and Decrees, amongst which the most important are the following:
Research is undertaken primarily by the National Aquaculture Directorate, which determines the subject to be studied based on consultations with producers of all species cultured in the country.
The University of Panama, through the School of Biology, the Marine Sciences and Limnology Centre, and the Centre for Biotic Studies have conducted basic research on aquaculture species and their relationship with the environment. Students from the Biology School, the Faculty of Farming Sciences, the School of Public Administration and Economics have chosen aquatic issues for their degree’s thesis.
Research in the field of pathology has been undertaken by he Diagnosis and Veterinary Diseases Research Laboratory “Dr, Gerardino Medina” from the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry Development and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
The private sector, through its own resources, supports applied research with the aim of solving major disease problems affecting production.
Research programs in general, and aquatic research in particular, have been affected by budgetary limitations. By means of Cooperation Agreements with the national government through the National Aquaculture Directorate has tackled the most relevant issues for the productive sector. This has been supported by public and private entities, international organisations and national producers.
Similarly, the Research Promotion Programme of the National Secretariat for Science and Technology (SENACYT) administers financial funds in support of research. Applicants requesting support, must submit their respective research project.
Research results are made public through the publication of reports and by their presentations in seminars and congresses.
The National Aquaculture Development Plan 1995-1999 had as its central objective the enabling of conditions for the optimum exploitation of aquaculture resources so as to attain the biological and economic sustainability for the benefit of the national interest, the population in general, and the aquaculture sector in particular.
Specifically, the Plan stated:
To achieve the above-mentioned objectives, the chosen strategy was to unite efforts by the public and private sector in order to strengthen state regulations as well as to facilitate production by the private sector. The national policy attempted to activate in the short term aquaculture production and the dynamic expansion towards new culture areas. To achieve these goals, the following actions were implemented: research, fisheries and aquaculture extension, training, fisheries regulations and institutional development.
Promulgation of Law 58 of 1995, defined aquaculture as a farming activity, offering aquaculture producers incentives that formerly were exclusively granted to agriculture, in addition to those already conferred to whiteleg shrimp producer. Thereafter, supported by commercial banking aquaculture has experienced a rapid development achieving an annual growth rate of 30 percent.
Five years after the execution of the 1995-1999 Plan, important sector changes can be recognized and which should be considered to understand problems arisen in areas such as: pathology, genetics, nutrition and environment. These are subject areas for further research which may enale the continuous updating of aquaculture technologies for optimum profitability without causing environmental degradation.
There are other subjects who should also be considered in the research agenda, such as water quality, seed quality, infrastructure, feed formulation, and bio-security, understood as the set of practices to be observed to reduce probabilities of disease dissemination.
The presence of the White Spot Viral Syndrome is of great concern for producers. The search for an imminent answer to seize immediate control and handling of this disease has become a priority. Generation and technology transference are essential and permanent issues when contingencies occur, like in the case of the appearance of the above mentioned disease.
Creation of adequate conditions to promote the diversification of species is a major quest to avoid dependency of only a few species. A foreseen alternative is the culture of bivalve molluscs.
Summarizing, in its expectations for expansion throughout the period 2000-2004, aquaculture faced the following challenges:
These measures attempted to determine the neuralgic aspects that ought to be tackled in order to attain the sustainable growth of aquaculture for the economic benefit of the country and for the Panamanian population.
The presence of the White Spot Viral Syndrome and the fall of prices of whiteleg shrimp and tilapia in world markets, caused important losses of capital to enterprises and the consequent loss of trust by the financial sector.
In turn, the surge of tilapia culture in reservoirs, particularly in Bayano, becomes an important source of employment for neighbouring communities as well as for the Kuna people of the Mudungandi County.
Actions of Panamanian aquaculture during recent years have been addressed to solving problems such as those related to diseases of whiteleg shrimp and to establish management practices in agreement with environmental conditions for the sustainable of aquaculture, simultaneously attempting to reduce operative costs in the light of international prices fluctuations.
In the area of freshwater aquaculture, fish prices have been depressed by capture fisheries, varying from US$0.37 to US$0.55/kg (US$0.17 to US$0.25/ lb). Efforts are being focused on lowering production costs.
In this sense, in the forthcoming years aquaculture production ought to be reactivated in the short term, and the expansion towards new culture areas should be stimulated by joint efforts of the public and private sectors. Such areas encompass regulating and integrating fisheries and aquaculture, marine cultures, management of inland waters, rural aquaculture, commercial fish farming, health and innocuousness, added value, institutional strengthening, and training of human resources.
Furthermore, the development of pilot projects on the culture of potentially important species, such as marine fish (e.g. snook) in abandoned shrimp culture facilities, is taking place. The diversification of shrimp farms also includes the introduction of bivalve molluscs in their reservoirs.
Consolidation of aquaculture might be based upon the introduction of new species, thus opening new frontiers through the implementation of finfish, molluscs and macro algae cultures in the sea.
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