Human Resources Development for Sustainable Aquaculture in the New Millennium
Plenary Lecture IV

[1]Sena S. De Silva , [2]Michael J. Phillips,
[2]Sih Yang Sim and [2]Zhou Xiao Wei

[1]School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University,
PO Box 423, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia 3280
[2]Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA),
Suraswadi Building, Department of Fisheries,
Kasetsart University Campus, Ladyao, Jatujak,
Bangkok 10900, Thailand

De Silva, S.S, Phillips, M.J, Sih, Y.S. & Zhou, X.W. 2001. Human resources development for sustainable aquaculture in the new millennium, Plenary Lecture IV. In R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery & J.R. Arthur, eds. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. pp. 43-48. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome.

ABSTRACT: Human resources development (HRD) is pivotal to aquaculture development in the new millennium, particularly so in the changing global pressure for all development to be environmentally and socially acceptable, irrespective of the economic status of nations. In the above context, HRD in the aquaculture sector has to have a more holistic approach, and the type of training provided has to be changed accordingly. Most nations in which aquaculture plays a significant role in poverty alleviation recognise that HRD is a key to sustained development of the sector. The types and levels of training required in the sector in the foreseeable future are discussed. The need to increase specialised training, particularly for researchers, in some of the developing nations likely to play a dominant role in the aquaculture sector in the ensuing years, is also underlined. Examples are presented to indicate that current development programmes do not cater to HRD to the extent that is desirable to have a long-term impact.

KEY WORDS: Aquaculture, Human Resources Development, Extension, Education, Research





The development of human resources, both in quality and quantity, is pivotal to sustaining the aquaculture industry in the new millennium, especially so in the climate of changing paradigms affecting the sector (De Silva, 2001). Some of the key trends and challenges facing the industry reflect an ever-increasing global call for development, irrespective of the economic status of the nation, to be socially and environmentally acceptable. As a follow-up to this, aquaculture is unlikely to sustain itself based on economic viability alone, but will need to ensure social and environmental sustainability as well (Kutty, 1997). The potential milieu of the sector in the new millennium can, therefore, be summarised as follows:

Reduced growth rates in the aquaculture sector: There has been a reduction in the rate of growth of aquaculture production in some parts of the world, e.g. Asia. Only South America has shown an overall increase in the rate of growth over the last 10 years (De Silva, 2001).

Controversies and issues of public concern: There is concern over some aquaculture developments, for example, the increasing use of fishmeal in some aquaculture sectors (Naylor et al., 2000) and shrimp farm development in India (Murthy, 1997). It is crucial that aquaculture takes note of such controversies and any potential repercussions, if it is going to meet its development targets.

Changing aspirations of the industry: Like all primary production industries, aquaculture has to keep pace with the needs of a growing global middle class and economic upswing in most developing countries and/or regions. The sector has to increase the proportion of production of high value aquatic animals, e.g. the increase of the production of Chinese perch, Siniperca chuasti, in China. The bulk of this production is now consumed locally compared with the predominant export market of a decade ago.

Increasing demand for land and water resources: Aquaculture now has to compete for primary resources, such as land and water, on an equal basis with all other stakeholders, whereas it was previously a marginal land/water site user.

Increasing competition among aquaculture products: With increasing living standards, the aspirations of the consumers are destined to change; consumers will become more choosy, and this will inevitably result in increasing competition amongst produce.


Improved hygiene standards: Access to knowledge and information is public domain and increasingly so in all corners of the world, and a very desirable consequence of this has been an increasing awareness on hygienic standards, nutrition-health links and related food quality issues.

Finally, as emphasised in the Bangkok Declaration and Strategy prepared by this Conference, it is increasingly recognised that aquaculture has to contribute more effectively to human development goals in many countries - poverty alleviation, food security and improvement of rural peoples’ livelihoods.

Envisaged development of the sector

Within the above milieu, the sector’s development can only be sustained through the prudent adoption of key measures, which can be categorised as follows:

  • technological development,
  • minimal environmental perturbation,
  • efficient use of primary resources, and
  • greater effort towards meeting human development goals.

These are complementary. The perceived technological developments in the sector in the new millennium are dealt with in detail by Sorgeloos (2001) and are likely to focus on:

  • genetic improvements, selective breeding and application of other genetic technologies;
  • feed technology and feed management;
  • minimisation of waste production;
  • effective completion of life cycles (e.g. shrimp);
  • re-use of water; recirculation technology;
  • health management, disease prevention and control; and
  • new species.

The sector can, therefore, be sustained through technological developments etc., which proceed hand in hand with changes in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of practitioners, extension workers, researchers, developers etc.; in essence, through all key stakeholders. Thus the era of each stakeholder working in isolation is a thing of the past, and will not develop the synergies that are required to sustain the sector in the new millennium.




In this regard, an Expert Consultation on Aquaculture Education (July 2000, Hanoi) considered the target groups, the desired knowledge and skills for each target group, and the type of education that would deliver the desired results. The results of the findings are summarised in Table 1.

Importance of human resource development

In general, the immediate returns for investments in HRD are not always obvious. Accordingly, development institutions, governments and donor agencies tend to give a relatively low priority to HRD, even though most nations consider HRD as a priority area for development of the sector. For example, a recent Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA)/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) survey in Asia revealed that 93% of the countries considered HRD as a major problem facing aquaculture, and 71% of the nations noted that a lack of skilled personnel was a major impediment to further development(NACA/FAO, 1996). A recent review on aquaculture development in Africa identified eight strategies as pivotal to the development of

  the sector, and not surprisingly, five of these involved HRD, particularly in relation to small-scale farmers and extension workers. (Machena and Moehl, 2001). On the issue of HRD, it is also important to recognise the specific needs of nations and regions. Past experience in the aquaculture sector and elsewhere has shown that mere transfer of technologies is not always effective and can even be counter productive. Obviously, training needs vary significantly amongst regions and are related to the degree of development of the sector, thus the gross needs of Africa may be significantly different from those of Asia (Machena and Moehl, 2001).

Requirements for human resource development in the new millennium

In the past, extension workers were expected to have specialised knowledge in technological aspects, such as the artificial propagation of an aquatic species. The training for this, however, tended to be specialised and relatively short term, lacking a holistic approach. Such training was frequently driven more by technology interests than by development needs or the needs of the farmers. A holistic approach to aquaculture training is, and will continue to be, an essential ingredient in HRD of the sector. Only this will ensure sustainable aquaculture development.





One other important factor that needs to be taken into consideration in HRD is the diverse nature of the aquaculture sector. Currently, it is estimated that nearly 150 species are cultured, ranging from invertebrates to reptiles (FAO, 1999), including marine, brackish- and freshwater, temperate and tropical species. Culture practices range from extensive, to semi-intensive to intensive systems, and involve the use of ponds, raceways, pens and cages etc., in open, flow-through or closed systems. Aquaculture is practised in widely diversified ecological and socio-economic condi-tions, and the handling of the postharvest product also varies consi-derably. Not surprisingly, this diversity exacerbates the complexity of providing skill development and know-ledge transfer at all levels of expertise needed. This differs significantly from other food production sectors. In such circum-stances, it is difficult, if not impossible, for one (or even a limited number) of institutions to provide the expertise in all of these aspects. Therefore, a key to HRD in the new millennium will be cooperation amongst institutions.

If aquaculture is to develop in a sustainable manner in the new millennium, there needs to be an increase in research capabilities at the centres of emergent aquaculture, e.g. Vietnam and Ecuador. Continued dependence on training and expertise from temperate and developed regions should be re-evaluated and resources enhanced for within-region training, where expertise is based on local aquaculture systems.

To illustrate the need for enhanced HRD in research Figure 1, indicates the age and qualification distribution of researchers in an emerging aquaculture nation’s government research institutions. In this nation, of the 224 researchers in govern-mental aquaculture institutions, only 20.1 percent had postgraduate training, of which 6.3 percent had a Ph.D. or equivalent qualification.

  This does not imply that to be an effective researcher one needs a Ph.D., but it has to be conceded that a critical mass of people with suitable postgraduate training is needed to maintain and generate the research designs required to meet aquaculture development needs.

Mechanics of human resource development

One common factor operating at all levels of HRD is the sharing and effective dissemination of information. A recent survey of 54 institutions involved in aquaculture education in the member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) showed that institutions providing aquaculture education and training fall into three broad categories:

  • vocational training institutions providing training for farm hands and lower managerial levels,
  • governmental institutions specialising in short-term courses (non-diploma), and
  • some research training at tertiary institutions that provide diplomas (24%), bachelor’s degrees (44.4%) and higher research degree training (22.2%) (De Silva et al., 2000).

There is very limited formalised private-sector training operating at the present time. The survey also showed that the degree of collaboration amongst international institutions and national institutions is: (a) in research (29.6% vs. 53.7%), (b) in development (5.6% vs. 14.8%) and (c) in education (7.4% vs. 33.3%) (De Silva et al., 2000). Furthermore,




the following were evident from the survey:

  • most training is not market driven,
  • part-time study was available only in about 18.5% of the institutions, and
  • long distance or remote study was available only at one institution in the region.

Fresh approaches in human resources development

Inadequate aquaculture extension services have been recognised as a major constraint in many developing countries, and this needs to be rectified if the sector is to develop further in a sustainable manner. Training of extension workers has to be modified to incorporate and reinforce information delivery methods and mechanisms, as well as practical farming techniques. There is also a need for greater interaction between extension trainees and farmers during training (“on-site” training). Furthermore, extension training will certainly have to exceed the traditional “government extension” models of the past. New models and players in extension are needed - media, farmer associations, development nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private sector suppliers and others will all likely come into more prominence, broadening training experience.

The ultimate goal should be to improve extension services and ensure a more effective use of resources. This can be achieved through:

  • strengthening cooperation among extension training providers, including government, NGOs and the private sector;
  • closer involvement of farmers in extension project planning, and development and dissemination of appropriate farming technologies;
  • improved institutional linkages for better transfer of research findings to extension workers; and
  • providing opportunities for extension workers to share their problems and experiences at the national and regional levels, similar to that enjoyed by researchers.

The centres of aquaculture development in the southern hemisphere are concentrated mainly in developing countries. It was stated earlier that there is a need for emerging aquaculture nations to develop their research capabilities and gear the research to meet the ever increasing needs and challenges imposed on the sector and minimise the dependence on research from outside the region.

  Unfortunately however, research funding provided by governments and/or the private sector in developing countries is relatively little. The private sector needs to be encouraged to invest in research, and governments need to consider providing appropriate incentives to the private sector to facilitate such a trend.

Hitherto, developing countries have tended to depend to a significant extent on donor agencies for training and research funding. Tables 2 and 3 provide the breakdown of funds allocated in a regional and international context.

It is evident that only a small amount of donor funds were dedicated to HRD by the above organisation. Admittedly, each of the major areas of expenditure may have included a certain amount of funds for workshops and short-term training, but the question remains whether or not funds spent on capacity building are adequate for sector development in a sustainable manner. Certainly the proportion of funds spent on training within one regional project valued at US$600 000 was only 6.7 percent (Table 3), and the bulk of these funds was spent on consultants.

It is important that donor agencies take note of the above and encourage capacity building in emerging aquaculture nations by channelling a larger amount/proportion of funds into on-site or regionally based training.


It has to be conceded that if aquaculture is to develop sustainably in the context of changing paradigms of development in the new millennium, there has to be more emphasis on HRD to address this need. Equally, there have to be changes in the nature of the training provided, and personnel encouraged to adopt a more holistic approach. There needs to be HRD in the research sectors, particularly in developing nations with aquaculture potential, and the research dependence on countries outside the region should be reduced accordingly. Governments within developing aquaculture countries and international organizations need to place more emphasis on HRD at all levels, and the private sector, particularly in developing nations, should be encouraged to participate more actively in funding research.





De Silva, S.S. 2001. A global perspective of aquaculture in the new millennium. (current volume).

De Silva, S.S., Sim, S.Y. & Phillips, M.J. 2000. Report of the Expert Consultation on Aquaculture Education in the Asia-Pacific. Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 - 15 May 2000. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA and Deakin University. 239 pp.

FAO. 1999. FAO Aquaculture Production Statistics. 1988-1997. FAO Fisheries Circular. No. 815, Rev. 11. FAO, Rome, Italy. 203p.

Kutty, M.N. 1997. What ails aquaculture? Aquacult. Asia, 2: 8-11.

Machena and Moehl. 2001. Sub-Saharan African Aquaculture: Regional Summary. (current volume)
Murthy, S.H. 1997. Impact of supreme court judgement on shrimp culture in India. INFO Fish Int. 3/97: 43-49.

NACA/FAO. 1996. Report of the Survey and Workshop on Aquaculture Development Research Priorities and Capabilities in Asia. Bangkok.

Naylor, R.L., Goldburg, R.J., Mooney, H., Beveridge, M., Clay, J., Folke, C., Kautsky, N., Lubchenco, J., Primavera, J. & Williams, M.2000. Nature’s subsidies to shrimp and salmon farming. Science, 282: 883-884.

Sorgeloos, P. 2001. Technologies for Sustainable Aquaculture Development. (current volume).




1[email protected]

funding research.