The first steps or attempts in aquaculture in Venezuela date back to the first decree issued by General José Antonio Páez to stock “marine” fish in Lake Valencia, State of Carabobo, in 1830. Thereafter, exotic commercial species were introduced and culture techniques for native species that could adapt to captivity were implemented. However, the true development of aquaculture in Venezuela dates to approximately twenty years ago. This evolution was generated by the cultivation of shrimp (Penaeus sp) in the 1980s. Towards the end of 2004, the fish farming industry was adversely affected by the Taura syndrome viral disease, which caused a significant drop in the production of shrimp; which constitutes 90.8 percent of the total national aquaculture production (INAPESCA, 2004). In 2005, the introduction of Penaeus vannamei Specific Pathogen Free (SPF), which resists the Taura syndrome virus was approved solely for reproductive purposes (INAPESCA, 2005).
Tilapia (Oreochromis sp) and trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) cultivation follow in importance to shrimp farming in terms of aquaculture production. Their cultivation has been hindered in recent years due to the genetic degradation of broodstock, not allowing the sufficient supply of fingerlings. Neither their quantity nor their quality satisfy demand, thus reducing the profitability of the cultivation of both species.
Therefore, the official institution responsible for fisheries and aquaculture policies, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA), has included amongst its programmes, a project related to the genetic improvement of high biological and commercial value cultured species, supported by the national research sector.
On the other hand, tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) cultivation is being developed in the country’s rural areas (mostly integrated to other agricultural activities). Its contribution to the national aquatic production is of 7.9 percent (INAPESCA, 2004). The perspectives for its growth also present some limitations, such as: the deficient promotion and sources of financing for its development; the lack of low-cost concentrated fish feeds and the yet incipient commercialization of the product.
In view of the above, and in order to provide incentives to the aquaculture sector, especially for warm-water fish farming, the official sector through INAPESCA, has included amongst its programmes, the establishment of a concentrated fish feed manufacturing plant adapted to the sector’s needs. It has also promoted a financing programme with governmental banks to grant credits to the small and medium-sized aquatic producers.
The first steps or attempts in aquaculture in Venezuela date back to the first decree issued by General José Antonio Páez to stock “marine” fish in Lake Valencia, State of Carabobo, in 1830 (INCAPESCA, 2004). In 1937 the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry (MAC) successfully introduced the rainbow trout (Oncorynchus mykiss); in 1940, common carp (Cyprinus carpio) was imported; in 1959, the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) was imported and stocked in natural bodies of water; in 1960, brown mussel (Perna perna) and mangrove oyster (Crassostrea rhizophorae) cultivation begins in Eastern Venezuela; in 1980, the red tilapia (Oreochromis sp) was introduced as a commercial crop; in 1982, large scale commercial fish farms were built for the cultivation of native species (the hybrid between tambaqui Colossoma macropomum and pirapitinga Piaractus brachypomus); from 1974 through 1977, the inland fisheries research and development project was executed (MAC/PNUD/FAO/VEN). Warm-water inland fish culture was promoted, notably through the development of induced reproductive technology (hypophysation) of coporo (Prochilodus mariae), pirapitinga (Piaractus brachypomus), tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) and their hybrids (C. macropomum x P. brachypomus); in 1984, the introduction of Penaeus sp shrimp was approved; in 1985, the cultivation of giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) was approved; in 1992, the cultivation of tilapia species Sarotherodon and Oreochromis sp was initiated; and in 2005, the introduction of Penaeus vannamei Specific Pathogen Free (SPF), which resists the Taura syndrome virus was approved solely for reproductive purposes.
According to the conditions where aquaculture is practiced, the main cultivation systems used are:extensive (re-stocking of reservoirs and lakes); intensive (cultivation under controlled environments and at high densities); superintensive (cultivation in controlled environments, high densities and specialised technologies); cages and pens (installed in reservoirs, marine coastal areas, lagoons and deltas); and others (longline, rafts, platforms, etc.).
According to the cultured species, the production systems are classified in: fish farming: exotic species (trout, tilapia, carp, ornamental fish) and autochthonous species (tambaqui , pirapitinga, hybrids, hassar (Hoplosternum littorale)), ornamental fish, sailfin catfish (Liposarcus multiradiatus), characidae (Mylossoma duriventre), sorubim catfish (Pseudoplatystoma sp), white mullet (Mugil curema), lebranche mullet (Mugil liza), pompano (Trachinotus sp), bocachico prochilodus (Semaprochilodus kneri); shrimp culture: exotic species of marine and freshwater shrimp from the Pacific and Malaysia (Penaeus vannamei, L. stylirostris and Macrobrachium rosembergii); autochthonous species and micro-crustacean species (Artemia sp); bivalve culture: mussel and oyster.
The academic training of professionals and technicians in the field of aquaculture began in 1980. Technical training was focused on the cultivation of molluscs, inland and marine fish farming, the cultivation of crustaceans, and the cultivation of marine algae. Once professionals trained in aquaculture became available, the private sector, through the development of fish and shrimp farming projects promoted the development and growth of the pool of professionals specialised in aquatic production. In turn, research institutions began scientific work related to aquaculture; firstly identifying the native species that would better adapt to cultivation conditions, and later, evaluating and importing exotic species of proven profitability internationally.
On its part, the public sector, in its managerial attributions of aquaculture nation-wide, has trained a significant number of professionals in the area of administration and management of aquatic resources.
Initially, the introduction of rainbow trout in 1937 provided the first stimuli to the development of fishfarming in the Andean regions of the country. Later on, in the 1970s, research work related to the biology and cultivation of native species in captivity, including Colossoma sp., Piaractus sp., Prochilodus sp., and Pseudoplatystoma sp., was carried out. After 1982, aquaculture development was boosted by the introduction and cultivation of crustacean species of commercial interest, such as the marine shrimp, whose cultivation allowed for the development of larvae production systems and large on-growth farming units.
According to data provided by the Venezuelan Aquaculture Society (SVA) and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA), there are approximately 60 professionals of renowned trajectory in the area of research and promotion of aquaculture, at the institutional level, of which 45 percent are women and 55 percent are men (SVA, 2004 and INAPESCA, 2005). In the private sector, it is estimated that an average of 5 000 technicians work directly in shrimp production, while in the field of marine and inland fish farming, an average of 3 000 technicians work directly (INAPESCA, 2005).
Most professionals have graduated from the main universities where courses on aquaculture, fisheries and fishing engineering are taught. Most of them have been hired by the official sector which in turn has developed training and community organisation programmes with the purpose of generating a qualified labour force at the technical level that may contribute to the development of rural aquaculture.
The location of the main aquaculture production areas in the country correspond to those areas which present the best physical, natural, economic, and accessibility conditions for the installation of aquatic production units, either small-scale or rural, and commercial or industrial. These areas are found within the plan of territorial ordering, as a part of the policies envisioned by the national official sector through the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA), for the harmonious development of the aquaculture as related to the other economic activities of the country’s regions. It is important to underline that the main objective of this plan is to stimulate development in the more depressed regions -in social and economic terms-, seeking to stimulate the sources of employment and the supply of aquatic foods. At the same time, this ordering plan also seeks to protect all those natural areas constituted by extremely fragile ecosystems, that may in one way or another, be affected by the development of aquaculture, as is the case of mangrove ecosystems, which in some countries have been seriously affected by the cultivation of shrimp.
Fish farming. The main developments occur in the Eastern, Central and South western states of Venezuela: Bolívar, Anzoátegui, Monagas, Sucre and Delta Amacuro; Cojedes, Guárico and Carabobo; Táchira, Apure, Mérida and Zulia.
Shrimp farming. The activity is carried out in coastal states such as: Zulia (coastline of Lake Maracaibo), Falcón, Anzoátegui, Sucre and Nueva Esparta. At the governmental level, new areas for shrimp cultivation projects are being assigned; this is the case of the central states Miranda and Carabobo, where such activities had not previously been developed.
Mollusc cultivation. Predominates in the states of Falcón (Cuare Wild Animal Refuge - Ramsar Site), Sucre (southern coast of the Gulf of Cariaco) and state of Nueva Esparta (southern coast of the Margarita Island and the Bay of El Saco in the Island of Coche).
According to the statistics of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INCAPESCA) for the year 2004, aquaculture was mostly practiced as extensive and semi-intensive cultivation systems, integrated to agricultural and fisheries activities in the case of fish and shrimp farming. Intensive aquaculture included the cultivation of red tilapia, rainbow trout and marine shrimp, amounting to approximately 5 percent of the total national aquaculture production.
The total surface area under aquaculture production was distributed as follows:
Shrimp farming. Eight thousand hectares; although since late 2004 a 50 percent reduction of the total surface was registered due to the epizootia generated by the Taura Syndrome viral disease:
Use of resources
Amount of fish produced by surface area. In the field of fishfarming, new native species have been added to the range of alternatives for the production of fish for human consumption. It must be mentioned that the amount of fish per square meter (stocking density), has presented variations according to the species, the rate of water exchange, the availability of economic resosurces, among other factors (Cadenas, 1996; Palencia, 1996).
Productivity of some of the most important fish species:
Type of production facilities. The most common production facility for fish or shrimp production is the artificial earthen pond, generally provided with independent water inlet and drain systems. Concrete tanks and geo-membrane or plastic lined reservoirs are also utilised. Small dams or tampons are built in courses and/or creeks or streams to create medium-sized lagoons (irrigation lagoons of 5–50 hectares). At the coastal level, mollusc cultivation is implemented in rafts and fixed parks for the culture of mussels and oysters.
Fish: rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss) and white mullet (Mugil curema).
Moluscs: mangrove oyster (Crassostrea rhizophorae), American cupped oyster (Crassostrea virginica), pearl oyster (Pinctada imbricata) and mussel (Perna perna and P. viridis).
Crustacea: marine shrimp (Penaeus vannamei, L. stylirostris and L. schmitti).
The species that contribute to over 75 percent of the total value of aquaculture production are: marine shrimp (98 percent), followed by fish (13.04 percent of the national production), where tambaqui represents 66.6 percent, trout 30 percent, tilapia 16.6 percent, catfish and bocachico 8.3 percent (INAPESCA, 2003).
Fish Farming. It began with trout cultivation in 1937; later, other exotic species were incorporated, such as common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and tilapia (Orechromis spp.). Other species were also imported for experimental purposes, such as the sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) by the La Salle Foundation for Natural Sciences-Boconó; the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) studied by the Oriental University – Margarita Island; and several ornamental fish for cultivation purposes. In turn, the native plain river fish: tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), pirapatinga (Piaractus brachypomus), streaked prochilod (Prochilodus sp) and some silurid catfish (Pimelodus sp.) have been subjected to experimental cultivation (SARPA, 1995; Cardona, 1996). Based on what has been previously exposed, the main culture species are:
Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.). In 1959, the Venezuelan government imported from Trinidad and Martinique the first specimens of Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) (Ramírez, 1969; Guevara, 1988). The purpose was to take advantage of their high reproductive rate and to use them as forage fish for other species of carnivorous fish (Cadenas, 1996). Although it was already being unofficially produced, the cultivation of tilapia legally began on 1992, with the joint MARN-MAC Resolution, approving the introduction of the species for cultivation purposes (Durán, 1995). The cultivated species is a tetra-hybrid of the cross between Oreochromis mossambicus x O. urolepis hornorum x O. niloticus x O. aureus (SARPA, 1995).
The selected species for cultivation are the red tilapia and the Nile tilapia, both introduced for experimental purposes in 1989. However, the most widely cultured at the national level is the red tilapia, especially in warm waters between 24° and 30°C. SARPA has on record a total of 195 operating farms, which in 1999 attained a production of 2 320 tonnes. The total cultivated area reached its maximum in 1998-1999 when 297 hectares were recorded under production. Tilapia culture is concentrated in the states of Táchira, Barinas, Cojedes, Zulia, Carabobo and some states in the East of the country (SARPA, 1995). The number of active farms has gradually decreased during the past four years (INAPESCA, 2004), due to the mismanagement of the species caused by the poor genetic quality of the strains being cultured.
Therefore, INCAPESCA has focused on the promotion of native species such as tambaqui and its hybrids, coporo, among others. However, in 2005 INCAPESCA received a significant number of applications for the cultivation of tilapia, obliging its Board of Directors to approve a resolution allowing the reactivation of tilapia culture, on condition that it be carried out under the technical criteria of good management practices, control and certification of the genetic strains to be used.
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). It represents the main species in the Andean region of the states of Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo. In 1994, SARPA had records of 18 enterprises cultivating trout, with a total surface area of 21 hectares. The National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) operates three trout culture stations in support of the approximately 55 trout farms of different magnitudes. Stocking densities are extremely high, reaching 20 kg of trout biomass per square metre. In 2004, 678 tonnes of trout were produced in 60 ha within a 10-12-month cycle.
Tambaqui (Colossoma spp.). This is one of Venezuela’s traditional crops of inland aquaculture. Venezuela was one of the countries that initiated its cultivation in Latin America. By 1994, the Autonomous Service for Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources (SARPA) had recorded around 38 production centres dedicated to the cultivation of these characids in farms and experimental centres, occupying an area of 90 hectares (SARPA, 1995). Tambaqui cultivation was characterised at the beginning for consisting of marginal cultivations, geographically dispersed (SARPA, 1995). Today, there are about 140 registered farms with total water surface area of 195 hectares. These are distributed throughout the country in areas with temperatures between 23° and 30°C. The average stocking density are: one fish per square metre for semi-intensive cultivations and 22-30 fish per cubic metre in floating cages, for an 8-10 month cycle (INAPESCA, 2004).
Marine shrimp. The cultivation of marine shrimp in Venezuela began with the culture of native species such as Penaeus schmitti and Penaeus brasiliensis. It was until 1986 when the white shrimp P. vannamei was introduced, having been imported from the Pacific coast of Central America. This species presented favourable attributes for intensive cultivation and has contributed to the expansion of the industry. It should be mentioned that the importation of live shrimp into the country continued from 1986 until early 1995, when in Ecuador, the Taura Syndrome viral disease was causing deleterious effects to the industry and threatened to extend to the Central American countries. In 1996, neighbouring Colombia, Atlantic coast shrimp farms were already suffering the negative impact of this viral disease (Cadenas, 1996; SARPA, 1996). As of 1989, shrimp culture began to develop rapidly and today is in full expansion. According to estimates of the Division of Aquaculture of SARPA, between 1989 and 1990 the cultivation of marine shrimp experienced a 215 percent, which is significant considering that the annual growth rate was 20 percent. Records indicate that by 1995, the following seven shrimp farms were under operation: Aquatec, C.A. (State of Nueva Esparta), Aquacam, C.A. (State of Sucre), Desarrollos Marinos, C.A. (State of Sucre), Aquamarina de la Costa, C.A. (State of Anzoategui), Ricoa Agromarina, C.A. (State of Falcon), Interaqua de Venezuela, C.A. (State of Zulia), and Bioindustrias, C.A. (State of Zulia). Their average production was two harvests of 1 200 kg per hectare per year (SARPA, 1995).
At present, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute records the operation of 34 farms whose size ranges between 10 and 1 000 ha, with a total water surface area of 8 000 ha (INAPESCA, 2005). Cultivation practices are mostly extensive, with densities of 5-10 shrimp per square metre, but also semi-intensive cultivation levels with densities of between 15 and 25 individuals per square metre are common. However, more recently intensive cultivation is being carried out; this method makes use of high aeration rates, frequent exchanges of water and low-protein food supply, in order to diminish the impact on the environment due to high concentrations of organic matter. Harvesting is generally done 2.5 times per year, with an average production of 4 000 kg per hectare per cycle, yielding a total of 8 500-10 000 kg per hectare per year. Production cycles last four months, allowing specimens to reach 20.0 g on average, with a PI (5) survival rate of between 60 percent and 70 percent (INAPESCA, 2005).
Relative importance of endemic species, introduced, transferred and genetically improved:
Native species (endemic). The most important native species are tambaqui and its hybrids, the coporo, the catfish, and the bochachico. They have all been subjected to research and have been adapted to their cultivation under captivity, yielding high productivity rates due also to the ease with which their fingerlings can be produced in laboratories.
Introduced species (exotic). These have undoubtedly contributed to the expansion of aquaculture throughout the country, mainly because of their introduction as a part of a technological package; because of the growing demand in both internal and external markets; their reasonable economic value; and due to their importance in foreign-currency generation. The most important exotic species are: tilapia, marine shrimp, marine algae, and rainbow trout.
Concrete tanks (raceways, lined impoundments, Australians). Mostly used for intensive fish farming (tilapia) and for the production of ornamental fish, as well as its use in hatcheries or laboratories for the production of fish and crustacean larvae. This system is used for intensive culture systems and provides a longer useful life, greater hygiene, making better use of reduced land spaces.
Floating cages. Used mostly in intensive fish farming in reservoirs and/or dams as well as in coastal sea areas. High-density cultivation may be practiced allowing the exploitation of lakes and other bodies of water, taking advantage of the natural exchange of water masses, through simple and cheap constructions.
Pens. These are used for the exploitation of small bodies of water in semi-intensive and extensive fish farming. High-density cultivation may be practiced allowing the exploitation of lakes and other bodies of water, taking advantage of the natural exchange of water masses, through simple and cheap constructions.
Rafts for mollusc cultivation. Used in marine-coastal areas for the suspension of lines and/or baskets containing molluscs under culture.
Longline. Used for the cultivation of molluscs and algae in lines in coastal zones.
Rafts for marine fish culture and longline. These allow the exploitation of marine-coastal waters, taking advantage of naturally occurring high exchanges of masses of water; they are movable, easy to build, utilise cheap construction materials and allow the production of vast amounts of molluscs.
Estimated acquaculture production in 2003 was 15 712 tonnes, corresponding to USD 51 088 000 of value.
Aquatic production estimated for the period 1990-2004. Aquatic production became noticeable with the dissemination of rainbow trout culture, and later on with the cultivation of introduced exotic species, namely carp and tilapia, as well as an important number of ornamental fish; and under experimental conditions the sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) and the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) (SARPA, 1995; Guevara, 1988).
The cultivation of native fish species such as tambaqui, pirapitinga, coporo and some native catfish have gained significant importance in terms of production. It should be mentioned that aquatic production statistics are rather incomplete, particularly regarding inland fish farming, due to the difficulty of gathering information, although in recent years, with the new data-collection plans, this tends to improve.
Table 1 shows data on national aquaculture production expressed by species, from 1990 until 2004. This table includes only production for the most important species and which have prevailed since aquaculture production statistics were recorded. These species are: tambaqui, which includes pirapitinga and its hybrids; red tilapia, basically with the incorporation of hybrid species production (Oreochromis spp); marine shrimp, mainly with the hybrid species P. vannamei; and rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss) (SARPA, 1995; INAPESCA, 2004).
Table 1. Total aquatic production between 1990 and 2004 (INAPESCA, 2004).
Source: INAPESCA, 2004
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Venezuela according to FAO statistics:
Main national markets and centres for the consumption of aquatic products. The main markets and consumption centres for the fish products of native species such as tambaqui, bocachico, and catfish, are located in the country’s interior regions (States of Táchira, Barinas, Apure, Cojedes, Carabobo, Bolívar, Monagas and Anzoátegui), with a marked growth in sales and consumption in the country’s central area (Aragua, Caracas and Miranda) which are constituted by popular markets, self-service stores, fish shops, etc.
Main exported aquatic species. The main export species is the marine shrimp, destined in 80 percent to the North American market, followed by exports of inland fish to the Republic of Colombia, through the border town of Cúcuta, where the most demanded species are tambaqui, coporo and bocachico. Up to date, there are no records of exports of fish or crustacean larvae.
Presentations of exported products (fillet, fresh, live, whole, refrigerated, frozen, etc.). Shrimp is exported to the American market processed and presented in tails, which are packaged in 5-pound cardboard boxes, and kept frozen during transportation in refrigerated containers. Approximately 20 percent of the shrimp production, presented whole and frozen, is exported to the European Union.
Exports of fish products to Colombia are transported in refrigerated trucks; fish is presented iced whole and/or whole and gutted. In some cases it is exported whole and frozen.
Main importing countries. The main importing countries of marine shrimp are: the United States of America, 80 percent, and the European Union, 20 percent. In the case of fish, the single importing country is Colombia.
Marine shrimp supply chain. Most producers of cultivated shrimp sell their product directly to processing enterprises, which take care of the export. In other cases, there are vertically integrated enterprises, which produce larvae, culture the shrimp, transport it to their own processing plants and export the product themselves.
Fish products supply chain. Farmed fish products are generally sold wholesale at the farm gate to middle men, who in turn supply retail markets (fishmongers, restaurants, etc.). In other cases, the farmers themselves take their product directly to wholesale markets and/or sell retail to restaurant chains and/or supermarkets and consumption centres.
Distribution channels and price increases in the commercialisation chain. The most frequent modality in distribution channels is the purchase at the farm gate by wholesale transporters, who buy the product at the producer price. Upon re-sale to whole-sellers, the price is increased between 40 and 50 percent (transportation costs, etc.), and when it reaches the final consumer, through retailers, the prices has increased by 100-130 percent in relation to its original farm-gate price. In the cases in which producers directly transport and sell their production to whole-sellers at consumption centres and/or restaurant chains and/or supermarkets, the price increase ranges between 70 and 85 percent of its initial value.
Tagging and/or product certification systems.
The Venezuelan health authorities are responsible for the certification of fish and aquatic products for exportation to the United States of America or the European Union. The main certifications are: the SSOP (Standard Sanitary Operation Process) system and the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) programme, which comprise health control plans specific for each product processed in the plant. Their application is enforced by both the European Union authorities and by North American authorities to approve the import and internal consumption of fishery products in the United States (INAPESCA, 2005).
In turn, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA) executes the Residue-Control Programme for cultivation operations at the farm, whose certification guarantees the innocuousness of the aquaculture-generated products (shrimp/fish farming).
The impact of aquaculture during the last six years on the country’s economy has been remarkable, especially in the agricultural sector and in geographic areas where the environmental conditions have favoured the establishment of aquatic production units.
For example, in the Southwestern region of the country factors such as river pollution, over fishing, and population increases motivated agricultural producers to switch to practice aquaculture as a productive alternative for socio-economic development. At the same time, the increased consumption of inland fish and the widening of commercial flows have agglomerated a notable number of producers in the states of Táchira, Barinas and Apure (INAPESCA, 2004).
The shrimp farming industry has had a significant impact on those coastal regions where the conditions are favourable, such as lake Maracaibo, the Western coast of the state of Falcón, and Northeastern coasts. The thriving shrimp farms have incorporated socio-economic development factors through the construction of access ways, the absorption of labour force, the implementation of services, besides the significant generation of foreign currency which contributes to the national economy within the extensive international processing and commercialisation chain.
Contribution of the aquatic sector to food security and social and economic development. The most significant contributions may be divided in three categories:
The directing and executive organ for fisheries and aquaculture policies in Venezuela is the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA), which was created through Decree No. 1 524 of 3 November 2001, published in the Official Journal of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela No. 37 391 of 13 November 2001.
The INAPESCA is ascribed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land (MAT) and is an autonomous institute with judicial personality, constituting the institutional executive arm of the Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture, based on the principles of responsible fishing and aquaculture and sustainable development, including social balance.
Mission. Ordaining the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources with the purpose of achieving their responsible and sustainable exploitation, according to the current legal framework, executing the subject matter policies as dictated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Land. It aims to promote, develop and coordinate the sector’s activities, with the purpose of achieving the objectives contained in the nation’s economic and social development plans.
Vision. Be the official promoting and executing entity of the State policies that guarantee the development of the fisheries and aquaculture sector, at the national and international levels, with the aim of rendering high-quality, efficient and qualified services, committed to the achievement of the established objectives and capable of responding in time to the challenges and expectations imposed by the fulfilment of the mission.
Functions of the Aquaculture Development Promotion Manager (GFDA):
Today, the support provided by INAPESCA to the sector is related to the execution of policies for granting credits to small producers organised in cooperatives. INAPESCA is also promoting the cultivation of native species for the establishment and/or consolidation of farms, so that they intended either for self-consumption or commercialisation, allowing for income generation and thus improving living conditions.
On the other hand, INAPESCA, in fulfilling the governmental policies of the national plan for food security, is also supporting “social” aquaculture projects (stocking of reservoirs, coastal lagoons, and plain lagoons; establishing community farms for shrimp, mussel, oyster, and artemia cultivation; etc.), constituting “self-managing” systems that would benefit populations in neighbouring areas to these projects and their areas of influence.
With the advance of aquaculture in Venezuela, a group of norms have been created at the governmental level, which have been translated into Decrees and Resolutions legally orientating the aquatic exploitation and related activities, among which stand out the following:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview – Venezuela
Several national scientific institutions have participated in aquaculture research; having developed reasearch lines in genetics and biotechnology, most notably: the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC), the National Institute of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Research (INIA), the Oceanographic Institute of the Oriental University (UDO). In the area of applied education in the field of aquaculture, there are a significant number of public and private universities (Universidad Central de Venezuela-UCV, Universidad Simón Bolívar-USB, Universidad de Oriente-UDO, Universidad Experimental de los Llanos Ezequiel Zamora-UNELLEZ, Fundación la Salle de Ciencias Naturales-FLASA, Universidad Nacional Experimental Rómulo Gallegos (UNERG), Universidad Experimental Francisco de Miranda (UNEFM). Most of them have trained and developed, through their academic curricula, professionals qualified in aquatic production, genetic improvement, aquatic nutrition, etc.
Within the agriculture and animal husbandry sub-sector, a considerable number of producers have changed their production activities moving to or including aquaculture activities, shrimp farming being one of the preferred undertakings. Fish farming has also shown a growing development within the agricultural sector, as an alternative that allows the integration of fish farming to agricultural and animal husbandry production.
These trends have generated the need for official organisms to implement policies and guidelines according to the pace of the development of the aquaculture sector, which include: territorial ordaining, aquatic animal health, commercialisation and transfer of technology. It is important to mention that this aquaculture sector growth has been accompanied by a parallel juridical framework aimed at the preservation of the environment, within the established policies for the sustainable exploitation of natural resources.
In general terms, aquaculture has experienced a sustained growth in past years, despite the evolving political and economic situations the country has undergone. Aquaculture practices have reacted differently to the changing environment; for some of them, production rates have remained stable, while others have been adversely affected by the country’s economic adversities, causing their decline to the point that they do not generate significant volumes that may contribute to aquaculture production statistics.
Relevant trends, issues and development factors for the various aquaculture practices will be discussed below:
Marine shrimp. In many Latin American countries, shrimp farming has become an important economic activity and a corner stone for the development of different coastal regions. Due to several reasons, in Venezuela this activity began to develop relatively late as compared to other countries of the Region, particularly taking into account the 2 850 km of coastline (the longest in the Caribbean basin) and the 6 736 square km occupied by coastal and estuarine lagoons and by mangrove ecosystems, which provide ideal conditions for shrimp farming (Novoa et al., 2003). Among the factors slowing the growth of shrimp farming outstand the high investment required and inefficacy in paperwork for issuing permits required by a strict environmental legislation (Pérez Nieto and Pauls, 1988).
Since the beginning of shrimp cultivation in the country (in 1984), this activity has shown a sustained growth in terms of annual production volumes (see Table 1), as well as in cultivated surface area and the number of shrimp farming enterprises registered at INAPESCA. As part of the official administration of the shrimp farming sector, a series of legal instruments regulating the activity have been issued, while at the same time provide protection against the threat of internationally occurring viral diseases such as the Taura Syndrome (TSV), yellow head (YHV), and white spot (WSSV) (INAPESCA, 2005). It should be mentioned that for over ten years, since the occurrence of the Taura Syndrome in Colombia in 1995, the Venezuelan shrimp farming community decided, jointly with the Autonomous System of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources (SARPA – today INAPESCA), not to import shrimp specimens in any stage of development, with the purpose of preventing the access of viral agents to the national environment.
However, and despite all the preventive measures adopted, towards the end of 2004, mass mortalities were registered in farms of the southern part of Lake Maracaibo (state of Zulia), which later extended to the farms located in the Eastern coasts, especially on the Island of Coche and the Araya Peninsula, State of Nueva Esparta (INAPESCA, 2005). This alarming situation urgently required the development of an evaluation plan for affected farms, followed by the implementation of a programme for assessing the impacts of TSV, in order to regulate the introduction (after ten years of not importing a live sample) of P. Vannamei shrimp broodstock, called SPF (Specific Pathogen Free), with the objective of reinitiating the controlled production (INAPESCA, 2005). This sanitary problem caused the decline of the surface area under cultivation from 8 000 hectares to 4 000 hectares from years 2005 to 2006, respectively.
Fish farming. This sector includes the following species:
Trout. Trout farms have historically been located in the plains of the states of Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo, where the number of farms has increased consistently but slowly. This very increase of farms has contributed to the increase of the cultivated surface area (60 hectares in 2005). In most cases, these are family owned and operated farms with small ponds whose production, considering the high densities under which trout is cultivated, is intended for own consumption and the sale of the surplus. In this regard, the National Institute for Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Research (INIA) has supported through research, the trout farming sector, especially in the fields of pathology and genetic improvement of the existing lines, as well as through the continuous supply of trout fingerlings for producers in the Andean areas. Due to the influence of tourism in those areas, the trout sector shows an ascending production trend, based on the considerable value of trout in local markets.
Tambaqui and its hybrids. Of the native species, tambaqui has been one of the most studied and disseminated through its breeding and stocking of its off-spring in inland bodies of water. It is a species being cultivated by commercial enterprises supplying the growing market of native species. Even though this species is little known in the country’s central region’s markets, its recognised adaptability to captivity systems has given it the first place in fish production statistics, attaining 5 000 tonnes in 2005. This is a consequence of the wide availability of fingerlings produced at the growing number of state and private hatcheries, as well as of the notable governmental campaign to promote the cultivation and consumption of fish farmed products.
Red tilapia. This subspecies reached its best production indicators between 1995 and 1999, after which a notable decline in production volumes and cultivated surface area occurred, caused by the lack of technical assistance, financing and technological transfer, which led to the near collapse of this activity (despite its wide international commercialisation), characterised by the absence of certified fingerling producers, the lack of a broodstock pool and/or a programme for improving the existing lines, the high costs of food for tilapia, and an unclear perspective for commercialisation channels (Cadenas, 1996; Gómez, 1998).
Freshwater prawn. This culture is based on the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), which is a tropical crustacean species. It was introduced into the country by the Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry (MAC) in 1990, through the La Salle Foundation (FLASA), for research and aquaculture purposes. Afterwards, it was commercially developed by some enterprises in the country, such as Piscicultura Marianela (State of Portuguesa), Aquafin C.A. (State of Falcón), Aguaisla C.A. (State of Barinas), Acuacria C.A. (State of Carabobo), and Acuario C.A. (State of Delta Amacuro). Though companies had some success in their production, due to the lack of knowledge and inappropriate management of the species the activity didn’t turn out to be very profitable. In 1995, a production of 75 tonnes was registered. In 2005, more than ten years later, INAPESCA received several applications for permits for the construction of hatcheries and for the cultivation of the freshwater prawn (Cabrera et al., 1997; Cadenas, 2001).
According to INAPESCA (2005), as of 1998 no more data on commercial Macrobrachium rosenbergii crops were recorded due to the absence of seed supply by hatcheries. However, producers became acquainted with the species and are receptive to any reactivation programme for its cultivation. The recent attempts by private producers to re-activate the cultivation of the prawn, supported by professional personnel, reflect the potential projection for the development of the cultivation of this species. This is also motivated by the need to diversify aquatic production, since over-fishing has notably reduced the supply of fishery products in some regions of the country (INAPESCA, 2005).
Marine algae. Production of the marine algae Eucheuma denticulatum reached a peak between 1998 and 2003, with community cultivation. The species was introduced into the country by the commercial enterprise Biotecmar C.A., and the main cultivation areas were located in the eastern coasts, specifically on the Island of Coche, State of Nueva Esparta, and the northern coasts of the Araya Peninsula, State of Sucre (Barrios, J., 2000; Barrios, J. and Lemus, A., 1992). It must be mentioned that the cultivation works were carried out by coastal communities (Rincones and Rubio, 1998).
However, opposition by environmentalists, the conflict on coastal areas use due to lack of permits, economic difficulties and currency exchange controls for export management, contributed to the hindering of the activity, notably with the disappearance of the pioneering enterprise Biotecmar C.A. In this sense, the reactivation of the cultivation of marine algae is dependent on new efforts and favourable conditions (INAPESCA, 2005).
Mollusc cultivation. Throughout the development of aquaculture in Venezuela, a considerable vacuum of aquatic production in coastal areas has been identified. The supply of bivalve molluscs in Venezuela, particularly oysters and mussels, has come entirely from artisanal exploitation of the natural banks and is far from satisfying the high national demand. Marine resources and cultivation systems along the coastline have represented an alternative to incorporate new sources of economic sustenance and provide an alternative to aquatic production for inhabitants of the local communities. However, both the extraction and the cultivation have been restricted by the sanitary problems caused by pollution and red tides (Cadenas, 1999).
In this sense, and taking into consideration the economic and dietary value of bivalve molluscs, INAPESCA has proposed the development of projects for the cultureof molluscs based on the existing potential of marine-coastal areas, as well as on the resources constituted by natural banks of Crassostrea rhizophorae oyster (Laguna Grande, State of Sucre and La Restinga, State of Nueva Esparta), C. virgínica (Guariquen, State of Sucre) and Perna perna mussel (Guaca, State of Sucre; Manzanilo and Constanza, State of Nueva Esparta). These species are commercially important and have generated a significant economic activity in north-eastern coasts of the country. The sustainable exploitation of those areas and of their natural resources through marine aquaculture will expand the social and economic frontiers of the coastal regions, especially of coastal communities organised in cooperatives. Such scheme aims at developing bivalve mollusc cultivation in community farms (Cadenas, 1999). It is estimated that this programme will be widely accepted by the inhabitants of coastal areas, where the cultivation and commercialisation of molluscs can be inserted in the traditional activities of cooperatives and other fishing associations present in its area of influence.
The Mariculture Programme contemplates the direct participation of four nuclei or family groups (20 people) per production unit. Four pilot projects for mollusc cultivation (oyster/mussel) will directly benefit approximately 80 people, whose activities will be based on the maintenance and surveillance of the cultivation system; estimating a monthly gross profit of 750 000.00 Bs/month (350 US$/month) per family from the sale of these products, after completion of the first year of production. It is important to mention that the commercialisation of the molluscs will be carried out as an activity linked to tourism, sustained by their nutritional value, the region’s high potentialities and varied alternatives. Presentations will include: fresh-in-the-shell as well as processed in conserves and marinated.
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INE - Instituto Nacional de Estadistica
INFOPESCA – Centro para los servicios de información y asesoramiento sobre la comercialización de los productos en América Latina y el Caribe (in Spanish)