Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Importance of aquaculture in developing countries

Aquaculture -- also known as fish or shellfish farming -- refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.  Researchers and aquaculture producers "farm" a variety of freshwater and marine species of fish, shellfish, and plants.  Aquaculture produces food fish, sport fish, bait fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs.[1]

Aquaculture’s importance in the sustainability and its role in employment and food security are not to be understated in developing countries. Despite its significant growth rate (8.8 %) per annum, according to the “National Policy on Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture (October 2012)” there exists a huge potential for the exploitation of Guyana’s fresh water resources. “Aquaculture has proved itself to be an economically successful industry ever since it was first introduced and there are no signs that is will be weakening any time soon.  Meanwhile as the world population continues to grow, thedemand for fish increases annually, but at the same time capture fisheries have been unable to boost their total harvests since the late 1980's.”[2]

On the other hand, currently there exists a decline in the capture fisheries production globally. While capture fisheries in Guyana has experienced growth the focus needs to shift away from capture fisheries production to one of growth and sustainability most notably aquaculture. The high costs associated with the regulation, enforcement and overexploitation of a natural resource is a sub optimal use of our resources. It is of paramount importance for a solution which can achieve a pareto improvement for society to be pursued. The solution posited is aquaculture due to its high growth potential, sustainability and minimal environmental effects.

The importance of aquaculture in developing countries has mainly three dimensions; employment, nutrition and trade. Aquaculture provides employment for a growing number of persons and is not only restricted to the impoverished segments of society . It should be noted that the role of women has evolved from their traditional role in the household to being a part of the production and packaging processes of the industry. This ties into the millennium development goals (MDGs) more specifically the aspect of empowering women. The role of aquaculture is important in boosting the production of fish for domestic consumption as demand globally has risen resulting in higher prices. Addressing food security aspects such as availability and access to food across the population are important in reducing poverty and hunger. Finally, the last dimension trade is of utmost importance to developing economies. The transformation of a primary sector to a manufacturing sector, i.e. the fostering of value added production is crucial to economic development if developing countries are serious of becoming a developed country one day.

In conclusion, the lack of awareness and focus on aquaculture in comparison to the capture industries of the world can lead to devastating environmental and food security issues in the near future. With a growing demand for sea food products there can only be two scenarios: aquaculture becomes a major industry or overfishing prevails and the world is left worse off.