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‘Poor planning’ jeopardises aquaculture businesses

Chile's aquaculture sector harvested more than half a million tonnes up to May.
Chile's aquaculture sector harvested more than half a million tonnes up to May.

The UN Food And Agriculture Organisation warns that poor spatial planning is undermining the viability of businesses and the social and economic benefits derived from aquaculture.  

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In a new handbook titled Aquaculture Zoning, Site Selection And Area Management Under The Ecosystem Approach To Aquaculture, produced with the support of the World Bank, the FAO says that the outbreak and spread of disease, vulnerability to external shocks, environmental impacts and social conflicts with other resource users are all symptomatic of bad planning.

Malcolm Beveridge, from the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, and Valerie Hickey, of the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Management, say in a foreword: “With increasing wealth, health consciousness and global population, coupled with continued reliance of poor coastal communities on fish for protein, demand for seafood is increasing. Current levels of wild capture fisheries are unsustainable and declining. Aquaculture is a key component of closing the distance between demand and supply.

The UN says new investment in the order of US$100 billion is needed to grow aquaculture.
The UN says new investment in the order of US$100 billion is needed to grow aquaculture.

“New investment in the order of US$100 billion is needed to grow aquaculture, but the generally small scale and organic growth of the aquaculture industry has made it difficult to plan and regulate, contributing importantly to the high levels of risk perceived by potential new investors.

Essential elements

“In particular, poor spatial planning can undermine the viability of businesses and the social and economic benefits derived from aquaculture development. Vulnerability to external shocks, the outbreak and spread of disease, environmental impacts, and social conflicts with other resource users are all symptomatic of bad planning.

“And, of course, the flip side is true: good spatial planning can attract investment while ensuring equitable access to ecosystem services by communities, helping countries achieve the desired social and economic outcomes resulting from aquaculture development and at the same time protecting the environment, all essential elements of the ‘Blue Economy’. It is also a key element in building resilience to climate change and resolving transboundary issues around trade and biosecurity.

Ecosystem approach

“The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Fisheries and Aquaculture Proceedings No 21 on Site selection and carrying capacities for inland and coastal aquaculture, published in 2013, lays out the theoretical underpinnings of an ecosystem approach to aquaculture.

“This handbook seeks to describe its implementation and ensure that countries and communities can integrate their investments in aquaculture within the wider ecosystem, such that it promotes sustainable development, equity, and resilience of interlinked socio-economic systems. Good spatial planning and management are absolutely essential if aquaculture is to maximize its potential to reduce poverty and hunger and meet the demand from the growing middle class.”

The handboook, which can be read in full here, is written by José Aguilar-Manjarrez, aquaculture officer the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome; Doris Soto, senior scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center for Aquaculture Research Puerto Montt, Chile; and Randall Brummett, senior aquaculture & inland fisheries specialist at the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Department in Washington DC.

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