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Articles and ViewsTHE GOOD NEWS: WHY AQUACULTURE? Prof. Thomas T. George Global Aquaculture Consultants (GAC)

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THE GOOD NEWS: WHY AQUACULTURE? Prof. Thomas T. George Global Aquaculture Consultants (GAC)

02-26-2014, 05:52 PM
Thomas T. George

THE GOOD NEWS: WHY AQUACULTURE? Prof. Thomas T. George Global Aquaculture Consultants (GAC)

    Prof. Thomas T. George
    Global Aquaculture Consultants (GAC)
    [email protected]

    Fish are one of the main resources of the seas and oceans and also, they are among the main indicators of the aquatic environment health. Powered by rapid population growth and an increasing demand for fish as food, fish production from the oceans increased in recent years due to the expansion of fishing fleets, development of sophisticated and efficient fishing methods, and improvement in transportation of catches and processing. Consequently, today the international community is facing a bitter reality due to resource depletion of fish stocks through over fishing and mismanagement, pollution and energy crisis. In both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, once-abundant with fish stocks, have declined and some have collapsed. Data by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show serious decline in nine of the seventeen world’s major fisheries: four are commercially depleted while the others are either fully-exploited or over-exploited with some species even approaching biological extinction. The fisheries of Newfoundland’s Great Banks (northern cod stock) became absolutely depleted in 1995. Besides, the world’s oceans are fast becoming a cesspool of hazardous wastes from the industrialized world; that is why more and more of the fish caught are declared unsafe for human consumption. Furthermore, because of the declining fish catches, fishing trawlers have to ply longer distances to gather enough fish to fill their holds, an energy-intensive operation which becomes economically prohibitive to many countries due to the prevailing energy situation. Also, processing industries are affected. For example, many of the processing plants in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada, closed down because of lack of enough fish supply from capture fisheries or mother nature. As a result of the status quo, the global wild fisheries catches is currently fixed at an upper limit of about 98 million tones per year though the world’s annual demand for fish according to FAO is more than 160 million tones annually!

    The Good News is that due to the depletion of the world’s capture fisheries and a growing demand for increased fishery production to satisfy an increasing human population, the application of science and technology to solve these challenges has resulted in the promotion of one of the most promising agri-food industries – AQUACULTURE – the artificial cultivation or farming of aquatic organisms, finfish, shellfish (crustaceans, molluscs) and seaweeds, on a commercial basis under extensive, semi-intensive and intensive systems; a mechanism that contributes to future food security through a unique technology-based, sustainable agri-food industry utilizing aquatic resources. That is why in 1976, the Kyoto Declaration on Aquaculture at the First International FAO Technical Conference on Aquaculture, Kyoto, Japan, urged all governments of the world to give high priority to aquaculture development in national planning and also, urged the international financing agencies to recognize aquaculture as a priority sector for investment and provide adequate financial support for its development in developing countries. As a matter of fact, aquaculture has now produced an exciting contender for a new and sustainable resource-based industry at a time when globalization of markets is posing challenges for most resource-based industries. It became the fastest growing production sector in practically all regions of the world except sub-Saharan Africa, yielding about 60 million tones annually and accounting for 43% of the world’s fish supply for direct human consumption. It is estimated that by the year 2030 over half of the fish consumed by the world’s people will be produced by aquaculture. Subsequently, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), a world-wide body of experts, has concluded that properly managed aquaculture is an environmentally-sound commercial industry using aquatic resources.

    Aquaculture or “The Blue Revolution” or Underwater Agriculture” as termed now, is more than growing fish for the following reasons:
    - it increases the productivity and sustainability of a country’s aquatic resources and contributes toward creation of a more innovative and knowledge-based economy;
    - it leads to the development of new economic and employment opportunities in rural and coastal areas where economic development opportunities are limited, as well as in highly-specialized production, manufacturing, processing and service sectors;
    - it leads to start several other supporting industries like feed and equipments manufacture for local use as well as export;
    - it provides opportunities for waste-recycling and integration with crop and animal farming as well as the use of fish as biological control agents for aquatic weeds, larvae of malaria-transmitting mosquito and Bilharzias snails in irrigation canals of agricultural schemes;
    - it revolutionizes fish production through the development of indoor closed intensive recirculating systems that accommodate a stocking density of more than 100 kg per cubic meter of water under total control of all the chemical and physical parameters;
    - it enhances the competitive position of a country’s seafood industry through increased production of high quality and value-added products that target existing and new market segments;
    - it helps to introduce long-range stability into the country’s seafood industry through product diversity, flexibility and continuity of supply;
    - it permits a country to achieve greater self-reliance in food production and greater balance of international trade.

    Now, increasing emphasis is placed on enhanced enforcement of regulations and better governance of aquaculture practices in order to supplement the shortage of fish supply from capture fisheries, satisfy consumer demand and contribute to the nutritional security of the poor in many developing countries where fish provides more than 50% of their annual protein intake. As Canada has the longest coastline, the largest offshore economic zone, the largest freshwater system, and the world’s greatest tidal range, The Hon. Brian Tobin, Former Minister, Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), released in 1995 on behalf of the Government of Canada, the Federal Aquaculture Strategy in Halifax at Prince George Hotel whereby aquaculture is now a growing, export-oriented industry. Another country which has a tremendous potential for aquaculture development is Sudan which has a coastline of 750 km on the Red Sea, several thousands km of river waters (Blue and White Niles), an appropriate climate and unpolluted waters for raising warm-water aquaculture species year-round. Yet, this potential has still to be promoted through the Government’s National Plan and the private sector, similar to what is now highly implemented in neighboring Egypt. Also, Governments of other countries, especially those in sub-Saharan region with great natural potentials, should recognize and promote aquaculture development so that it can play an effective role in global food security by supplementing the already declining stocks from capture fisheries. This is mainly because according to FAO, there are 88 low-income, food-deficit countries, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa!

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