According to the estimates made on the basis of data collected in 1971-72 the total aqua-culture production in Asia and the Far East region is about 4.0 million tons. But the bulk of this production comes from three or four countries and in others it still remains relatively low. Much of the aquaculture at present is practised on a small scale, often at a subsistence level, and it may continue to be so for some time to come. However, in a number of countries larger commercial-scale culture operations are being promoted.
Increase in aquaculture production is being attempted through both the expansion of areas under culture and the intensification of existing practices. Extensive areas of wastelands appear to be available for aquaculture in most countries of the region, except in Singapore and Hong Kong. According to rough estimates the area under culture has increased about 25 percent in the last three years. The available area for future expansion is estimated to be around 20 million hectares. Detailed site surveys, including studies of alternate uses of such areas, are required to determine whether all these can be used and are available for aquaculture purposes.
Significant advances have been made in some of the countries in developing more intensive and high density culture systems. For example, techniques have been developed to increase production in pond culture of milkfish from an average of 600 kg/ha to 2 000 kg/ha. Similarly, polyculture methods have been devised to increase production of carp ponds from an average 900 kg/ha to 8 000 kg/ha. But the application of these techniques in the field has not kept pace or contributed substantially to increased production. Well organized extension services and provision of inputs and credit were considered the major constraints. The availability of trained technicians varies considerably between countries, but in almost all there is an urgent need for field personnel with adequate practical experience and ability to establish and manage aquaculture enterprises. Fish farmers in some of the countries of the region have shown their receptiveness to new technologies and have even brought about innovations of their own to suit local conditions. On the other hand, in some countries the farmers have been reluctant and slow to change the traditional methods and adopt improved techniques, particularly when additional inputs are required. This attitude is not always because the economic viability of the operations has not been demonstrated. In countries like Thailand it has been shown that the average income of a fish farmer is about six times more than that of an agricultural farmer and substantially higher than that of a coastal small-scale fisherman. This fact has to be given better publicity, particularly because most countries of the region wish to develop aqua-culture as a means of generating employment for the unemployed and underemployed people in the rural sector or as a means of employment for people who have to be relocated or rehabilitated, e.g., coastal fishermen losing employment due to changes in the fishing industry or people displaced due to river basin or industrial development projects.
The most significant constraint to expansion or intensification of aquaculture in the region is the production and distribution of seed. Most countries experience difficulties in even maintaining the present level of seed production, and still depend to a large extent on collection of wild seed even where methods of artificial propagation have been developed. Suitable organization of fish breeding, larval rearing, transport and distribution need high-priority attention in most countries of the region. Technical assistance and cooperation between countries in the exchange of expertise, pituitary material for breeding fish, brood fish and even fry, were measures considered by the Workshop to be -important in solving this problem.
Many government stations are engaged in seed production and distribution and this has come to be accepted as a major activity of most aquaculture units. The question whether government stations can, and should, undertake large-scale production and distribution of seed to meet the future needs of the industry was discussed by the Workshop in some detail. The existence of successful seed trade in the private sector in some of the countries was cited, and the fact that many private hatcheries employing relatively complex techniques have recently been established successfully in some countries was noted. The general consensus was that government agencies should initiate seed production and distribution, and where feasible, attract private producers to establish seed production and distribution industries. It will be the responsibility of research institutions to develop technologies that can be adopted by private producers.