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Background and rationale

1. Aquaculture production is growing at more than 10% per year, compared with 3% for terrestrial livestock and 1.5 % for capture fisheries. This growth is expected to continue. Asian aquaculture farmers continue to contribute about 90% of the world’s aquaculture production, and more than 80% of total aquaculture yield is being produced in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs).

2. Coastal aquaculture is dominated by the production of aquatic plants (seaweeds) and molluscs. However, a wide range of diverse coastal aquaculture systems has been developed in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, operating at different intensities and scales of production.

3. Aquaculture has great potential for the production of food, alleviation of poverty and generation of wealth for people living in coastal areas, many of whom are among the poorest in the world. The rapid growth of aquaculture in recent years has been consistent across sub-sectors, from low-input systems generating low value products of importance for subsistence and direct food security, to medium and high value products for national and international markets, which are important for improved living standards and foreign currency earning. The great diversity of the sector encompasses very small scale to very large-scale enterprise, implying that aquaculture can contribute significantly to a wide range of development needs.

4. However, significant problems can be associated with coastal aquaculture development. These include unsuccessful development, where the potential for development is not realised, especially among the poorer sectors of society; the vulnerability of aquaculture to poor water quality and aquatic pollution, caused by industrial, domestic, agricultural and aquacultural (i.e. its own) wastes; and over-rapid development, where the undoubted successes of the sector have been tarnished by environmental and resource use issues, social problems, disease, and in some cases, marketing problems.

5. Although some of the social and environmental problems may be addressed at the individual farm level, most are cumulative - insignificant when an individual farm is considered, but potentially highly significant in relation to the whole sector. They are also additive - in the sense that they may add to the many other development pressures in the coastal zone.

6. These cumulative and additive problems can only be addressed through better planning and management of the sector - by government, in collaboration with producer associations or industry organisations. A precondition for better and more effective planning is also better organisation and representation of the sector.

7. Crucial elements in a more planned approach include:

8. In practice many of these are unlikely to be achieved without effective integration with planning and management of other sectors. The framework normally proposed to achieve this is integrated coastal management (ICM).

Review of experience

9. Some investors have responded to the problems associated with coastal aquaculture through more rigorous project appraisal. Governments have responded mainly with specific regulations relating to farm operation (such as effluent limits, design standards, best management practices, and codes of conduct). In some cases they have responded with more rigorous requirements for social and environmental impact assessment.

10. These farm level measures have often been ineffective. Promotion of environmental assessment in particular has failed to address the problem of over-rapid and unplanned development of aquaculture in some countries. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as noted above, the impacts associated with aquaculture are often insignificant when a farm is considered in isolation. Secondly, in the absence of any broadly agreed environmental quality standards, assessments of the significance of impacts have been highly subjective and inconsistent.

11. A range of more comprehensive approaches to coastal resources management have been proposed as frameworks for addressing the wider issues of sustainable coastal resource use, the minimisation of conflict, and the optimal allocation of resources including in particular land and water. These range from sector related environmental planning and management initiatives (enhanced sector planning) to more ambitious integrated coastal management (ICM) programmes.

12. There have been two main types of enhanced sectoral initiative for coastal aquaculture. The first has used geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing as the basis for defining suitable locations or zones for aquaculture. The second has focused on estimates of environmental capacity in order to define appropriate scale and location for sustainable aquaculture development. Both offer a useful practical focus for more integrated planning initiatives. Unfortunately, these initiatives have often failed to translate the findings into practical incentives and constraints to promote more sustainable development. This failure points to the need for broader and more integrated planning frameworks.

13. There are many examples of more integrated coastal zone management (CZM) or integrated coastal management (ICM) initiatives, some of which have encompassed aquaculture. The objectives of such initiatives typically include: the optimal allocation of resources to competing activities or functions; the resolution or minimisation of conflict; the minimisation of environmental impact; and the conservation of natural resources. Given the problems listed above, it is clear that they have great relevance to aquaculture.

14. Unfortunately the performance of regional or national level ICM initiatives has been disappointing in practice, particularly in relation to aquaculture. This is related to the complexity of the process, the difficulties associated with significant institutional and legal changes, and the time and cost involved. For example, the problems associated with shrimp farm development have arisen mainly when it has developed rapidly and uncontrollably in developing countries. Some major ICM initiatives have failed to respond with the rapidity required.

15. In these circumstances, more locally focused initiatives (e.g. relating to an estuary or lagoon system) may offer the most practical starting point, and are likely to lead to the identification of specific needs in terms of greater vertical integration (i.e. with higher level policy or legislation).

16. In other situations, where the nature of the resources or existing resource management systems precludes more locally based initiatives, enhanced sectoral approaches may be the most appropriate. However, the lack of effective mechanisms for implementation has often been a weakness of such approaches, and requires particular attention.

17. More comprehensive ICM may be effective as a starting point where coastal aquaculture is in the early stages of development, where institutions for resource management are flexible or un-developed, where appropriate legal and institutional frameworks are in place or can be developed rapidly, and where scientific and technical capacity is substantial.

Guiding principles

18. Despite this lack of a universal model, it is possible to present a set of widely agreed guiding principles which may be applied whatever the administrative level or scope of the planning initiative.

19. The first is the requirement for a clear planning objective. In broad terms, this would normally be to promote or facilitate sustainable development. Although there are many definitions and more interpretations, the most widely quoted and agreed, is: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland Report; WCED, 1987). Ensuring that activities do not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment is one practical interpretation of this objective. Ensuring that the sum total of natural and economic capital is maintained or increased through time is another. Agreeing (at national or local level) on a practical interpretation of this in relation to aquaculture must be one of the first steps in any planning and management initiative.

20. Two principles were given emphasis at the Rio Summit and should be observed. The precautionary approach means that we should more carefully plan and rigorously evaluate developments that have uncertain and potentially damaging implications for the environment. The polluter pays principle is subject to a range of interpretation, from a requirement upon polluters to pay the costs of monitoring and management, through the requirement to pay the costs of clean-up, to the responsibility to pay for the cost of environmental damage as well as that of clean-up.

21. Integration or co-ordination with other sector activities or plans, with national sector plans, and with integrated coastal management plans (where these exist) is essential.

22. Wide ranging public involvement is important, meaning not only consultation and information exchange, but also direct involvement or participation of stakeholders in the decision making process, especially in relation to defining overall objectives and associated targets and standards. Related to this, particular attention should be paid to the promotion of effective representative organisations.

23. Thorough assessment of costs and benefits (financial, economic, social, environmental) of aquaculture in a specific area (e.g. estuarine or lagoon system) should be undertaken; as should comparative assessment of costs and benefits of aquaculture relative to other resource uses.

24. Some assessment of environmental capacity is desirable. The scope and accuracy of this assessment will depend critically on resources and time available.

25. Regulation is difficult, especially with respect to large numbers of small-scale developments, and offers limited incentive for improved environmental performance. It may be made more effective if responsibility for design, implementation and enforcement is located at the proper administrative level, and full use is made of self-management and self-enforcement capacity by industry and farmers’ associations.

26. Incentives (financial, market, infrastructure) can be designed to stimulate innovation and improvements in environmental management, and should be used wherever possible. However, incentives may need to be underpinned or reinforced through complimentary regulation.

27. Emphasis should be on the control of effects, rather than the scale of activity. This allows for economic growth at the same time as providing an incentive for improved environmental performance.

28. More integrated planning and management is extremely complex, and the outcomes from each stage of the process are likely to be flawed or inadequate in some way. If the planning process is not to fail, it must learn and adapt. This requires an iterative approach of action-monitor-evaluate-adapt-action-monitor-... and so on. This applies to all forms of action associated with the planning process: research, setting objectives and targets, specific planning interventions, and designing new institutional structures and procedures.

29. Many integrated planning initiatives have foundered through lack of appropriate institutional structures or capacity for developing or implementing the plan. Institutions and capacity must be considered at all stages, but especially in relation to implementation.

Legal and institutional frameworks

30. The importance of legal, procedural and institutional frameworks designed to facilitate sustainable aquaculture development is emphasised in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Again, there are no universally applicable models. The nature of any improvements will depend on existing laws, traditions, and institutional structures. The key point is to develop or adapt a system that allows for the comprehensive application of the principles set out above.

31. Where the introduction of new legislation is difficult, or will cause excessive delay, guidelines for developing new initiatives may be introduced prior to specific legislation, as a means of testing out different approaches.

32. The ideal framework would allow for vertically (national to local) and horizontally (across sectors) integrated policy-making and planning with a significant role for strategic, sector or regional (integrated) environmental assessment as an input to the planning process. Such a framework should allow for adaptation in both directions, i.e. national policy should inform local planning; local planning and public involvement should inform the development or adaptation of policy at higher levels.

The planning process

33. The planning process is broadly similar, irrespective of the degree to which it is integrated (enhanced sectoral planning or ICM), and whether it takes place at local, district, regional or national level:

I. Stage setting and planning involves the identification and analysis of issues; the definition of provisional (working) goals and objectives; the selection of strategies and specific instruments to meet the objectives; and the selection or design of implementing structures.

II. Formalisation involves the agreement and formal adoption of the plan or program, and securing of implementation funding.

III. Implementation involves deployment of specific planning instruments and development actions, the promotion, facilitation, and if necessary enforcement of policies and regulations, and monitoring of the effects of the plan.

IV. Evaluation involves analysis of progress against targets and objectives, and problems encountered

34. In practice stage I. can be further broken down into a set of operational components:

A variety of tools and methods are available to help inform and facilitate each of these components.

35. Initiation must be done with great care. The "who and how" of planning is likely to have a significant impact on support for the plan and compliance with its provisions. A variety of tools may be used in this first exploratory phase, including stakeholder and institutional analysis. Public involvement and participation from the outset is crucial.

36. Understanding the development context can be extremely complex and great care should be taken to avoid data collection for its own sake. There are several examples of very detailed resource assessment for aquaculture development planning, which have fallen into this trap. The collection of information and research about human and natural resources should be undertaken in parallel with broad public involvement and issues identification, so that the research and information collection can be focussed and steadily refined. Logically, this should be done within a broader ICM, or locally integrated initiative, rather than within a sectoral planning framework.

37. The estimation of environmental capacity is of particular relevance to aquaculture, to the problem of cumulative impact, and to promoting sustainable development in general. It is therefore discussed in detail in part 2 of this report. An assessment of environmental capacity should be undertaken, even if only at the most elementary level, if promoting sustainable development is to have any practical meaning. Given its complexity however, and its relevance to other activities in the coastal zone, it is better done within a broader ICM rather than sectoral planning framework.

38. Again it is important not to be too ambitious. A very rough estimation of environmental capacity, followed by monitoring of key indicators so that the estimate can be steadily refined, may be much more rapid and cost effective than a major research initiative.

39. Describing development options is rarely done thoroughly or objectively, despite the fact that this is relatively straightforward. Financial analysis is essential, and if quantities as well as value of inputs and outputs are included in financial models or projections, important indicators of resource use efficiency and socio-economic benefit can be generated. This information, along with more qualitative descriptions of site/location requirements, markets, risk, access and equity issues, can be used to generate an analysis of comparative economic advantage and an overall "sustainability profile". This can be done at the sector level, but the information generated will also be invaluable for broader ICM initiatives.

40. Defining goals and objectives again requires stakeholder participation. Agreement on goals and objectives (before specific development cases are addressed) can be a significant factor in conflict avoidance and resolution. It is also important to agree on specific targets and standards relating to these objectives. These may then serve as the basis for more consistent social and environmental assessment, as the rationale for specific planning interventions, and as a baseline against which progress (in terms of improved performance of the sector) can be measured. Once again, this is costly and difficult to do at the sector level.

41. Identifying development priorities and acceptable practices can be done using a range of formal and informal tools including social and environmental assessment; cost benefit analysis; and participatory/multi-criteria decision making. The success of these approaches, especially for comparing economic and environmental costs and benefits, will depend critically on the thoroughness of the issues identification; the quality of the technical-economic assessment; and the existence of agreed objectives and targets/standards. It will also depend on effective communication and exchange of information so that all those involved in the decision making process are well informed.

42. The foregoing should provide the basis for a planning and management strategy, which might include, for example:

43. A set of planning interventions in the form of incentives and constraints (planning instruments) will be required to implement the strategy and ensure that objectives are met, standards are not breached, and environmental capacity is not exceeded. Incentives and constraints might apply to:

44. The incentives and constraints may take the form of:

45. It is important that these are agreed with all stakeholders if compliance is to be maximised. Particular attention is paid to economic and market instruments in the report, since these are more likely to take the form of incentives rather than constraints (which are often difficult to enforce).

46. Monitoring and evaluation are of paramount importance with such a complex process. This should be straightforward if clear planning objectives have been set, and associated performance criteria (e.g. standards) agreed. However it is also important to monitor and evaluate these criteria, especially environmental standards, since the link between them and people’s perception of the quality of the environment may be weak. For example, water quality standards in receiving waters are often based on national guidelines or international precedent, and rarely relate directly to local environmental quality values and objectives. It may be useful to develop "state of the environment" reporting in order to examine overall effects of development activities on the wider environment, the relevance of particular standards, and the utility of indicators.

47. Monitoring should also apply at a more immediate level to the planning and implementation process. There will be many indicators relating to the success of specific procedures or interventions, and these should be set out in the monitoring programme. In addition, it is vital to agree on the nature of the response if standards are breached, procedures fail, or targets are not met.

48. The plan must be flexible. Procedures must be established for communicating the results of monitoring and evaluation to stakeholders, and adapting and modifying the plan in the light of experience. At minimum this may involve slight adjustments to planning interventions. In the extreme it may involve developing completely new policy, laws and institutions.

49. The report presents policy guidelines for all the stages described above, describes and discusses specific tools which can be used in support of the planning process, with emphasis on those of particular relevance to coastal aquaculture development, and provides examples and case studies relating to both the planning approaches and the application of specific tools. It has not been possible to cover all areas in detail, and in this case the reader is referred to other guidelines or reviews for further information.

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