Effective governance of aquaculture, one of the fastest growing food-production sectors in the world, is essential for its continued growth and the achievement of its potential. This involves working towards optimal use of scarce inputs, to achieve the greatest production of aquatic products taking into consideration competing uses to which those inputs might be put by society.
Many resources used in aquaculture such as water, land, seed, broodstock and feed ingredients are often in short supply. This is so because these resources - or factors of production - are commonly used also in agriculture, an activity with which aquaculture is often integrated, particularly in Asia. It happens that this competition turns into, or is seen as, a conflict between user groups. In most countries these conflicts are settled in the market place, that is trade in factors of production is free. Buyers and sellers set the price and thereby determine use. Thus resource management is clearly needed.
The sector's use of natural resources must ensure long term sustainability, which generally means avoiding adverse effects on the environment. However, information on expected or potential environmental impacts of aquaculture is often incomplete. Use of selected management approaches and the application of a precautionary approach by both farm management and by regulatory organizations can help avoid making decisions based on incomplete knowledge.
An important aspect in this context is the need for effective fish health management controls, as disease has become a primary constraint to the growth of aquaculture. Intensive culture practices, with poorly controlled use of feed and production of waste, have adversely affected local environments. This has led to recognition of the need for better husbandry practices to protect water quality, which is essential for optimum health and production in aquaculture.
FAO has published technical guidelines on aquaculture development to promote good practice in aquaculture as part of its programme of implementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.