“In a growing world, fisheries and aquaculture offer a sustainable food source,” – Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
By Fabian Dawson
Aquaculture should play an important role in the dietary shift to mitigate emissions states the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as it initiates a global campaign aimed at bolstering food security and eliminating all forms of malnutrition.
“In a growing world, fisheries and aquaculture offer a sustainable food source,” the FAO said in a statement after unveiling the Global Roadmap for Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) without Breaching the 1.5°C Threshold at the recent United Nations Climate Conference COP28.
The roadmap identifies 120 actions and key milestones within ten domains, supported by evidence gathered by FAO over several years. These domains include clean energy, crops, fisheries and aquaculture, food loss and waste, forests and wetlands, healthy diets, livestock, soil and water, and data and inclusive policies.
“Aquatic food is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins (like D), and vital minerals. Due to low GHG footprint, aquatic food should play an important role in the dietary shift to mitigate emissions. These industries support millions, providing income and jobs, particularly in coastal regions, bolstering local economies and communities,” said the FAO.
Among other things, it is calling on nations to improve productivity of aquaculture and foster guidance on good aquaculture practices (GAPs), improve technology adoption in aquaculture and improve policies for small-scale aquaculture.
Several countries have already begun expanding their aquaculture footprints to bolster food security and improve the economies of coastal communities, while others, including Canada are looking to transition the industry. Here are some of the key developments expected in 2024;
- In Canada, while the opportunity to sustainably produce more salmon in Canada is unparalleled in the world the Liberal government has been unduly influenced by aquaculture detractors and activists rather than relying on science and traditional indigenous knowledge to grow the industry. About 40 per cent of the British Columbia’s in-ocean salmon farming sector has already been closed, despite DFO scientists and court rulings stating that the salmon farms pose less than a minimal risk to wild stocks. There are now several legal challenges mounted by First Nations, aquaculture service and supply companies, and salmon farmers, over the decisions to shut down fish farms in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. The Federal Government is currently working on an aquaculture Transition Plan for BC, expected in 2024. It will impact 79 open-net farms in BC which have been licensed to operate till next June and about 5,000 jobs. The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship is calling for immediate renewal of long-term salmon farm licensing for nine years in BC as part of the transition process.
- Coastal communities in Norway which host fish farming sites are set to receive an increased payout of NOK 1.4bn (about CAD$175 million) from the Norwegian Aquaculture Fund. The money will be used to develop various welfare and social projects in areas which are often isolated from the main urban centres. It will go to some 142 municipalities and seven county municipalities, all in areas where fish farming operations are located, according to Fish Farmer Magazine. Fisheries and Oceans Minister Cecilie Myrseth said: “With the government’s action, a significant part of the value creation that takes place in the aquaculture industry will remain in the local communities.”
- Scotland has an ambition to grow aquaculture production to 350,000 tonnes for marine finfish and 21,000 tonnes for shellfish by 2030. A new government report said the direct economic contribution of Scotland’s aquaculture sector had increased by 154 per cent to £472 million over a decade. There are around 2,500 direct jobs in Scottish salmon and around 10,000 indirect jobs. Scotland’s Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture describes the Government’s long-term aspirations to 2045 for the finfish, shellfish and seaweed farming sectors, and the wider aquaculture supply chain.
- Vietnam has instituted a national programme to develop effective and sustainable aquaculture while proactively adapting to climate change. By 2030, aquaculture production in Vietnam is expected to reach seven million tonnes with export revenue of US$12 billion per year, while the growth rate of aquaculture value is expected to reach an average of 4.5 per cent a year. To achieve these goals, the government is encouraging domestic firms to mobilize funds from foreign donors and international organizations. Vietnamese aquacultural products are present in over 170 countries and territories all over the world.
- Australia’s aquaculture industry produces more than $2 billion worth of seafood each year, with farms around the nation growing a variety of fish species, prawns, oysters and abalone. According to a recent report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (Abares), Aquaculture has become Australia’s most valuable seafood industry, overtaking wild caught fish for the first time in 2021-2022 in terms of gross value of production (GVP) and hitting a peak value of over $2bn. The report found that the sector’s GVP increased 9% in 2021 and now accounts for 56% of the total value of the seafood industry. Tasmania had the highest aquaculture value production of any Australian state, accounting for 38 percent of the entire country’s production by value, followed by Western Australia at 14 percent and South Australia at 13 percent.
- China is developing various forms of offshore aquaculture. According to data released in June by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, coastal provinces have already brought into use more than 20,000 “gravity cages” – each formed of a net and a floating collar – 40 steel-framed sea cages, like Deep Blue 1, and four aquaculture vessels. China’s offshore aquaculture currently spans nearly 44 million cubic metres of water, yielding almost 400,000 tonnes of seafood – more than 20% of national mariculture, or marine farming, output. It’s Deep Blue 1, China’s first offshore aquaculture base for farming salmon has room for 300,000 salmon.
- The Chilean government plans to update its existing national law that currently lumps its highly productive fishing and aquaculture activities together. The country’s salmon-farming sector brought in USD 6.6 billion (EUR 6.1 billion) in 2022 but has struggled to balance operational growth with environmental demands. Chilean President Gabriel Boric has made reform of the country’s fisheries law a priority since he took office in March 2022, and over the past year, his government has ramped up its regulation of the aquaculture sector. In response to the discovery of numerous regulatory violations, Chile’s regulatory authorities have limited the industry’s operational expansion. Over the past decade, aquaculture production has grown about 3 percent annually in Chile, but with the new restrictions, the sector is reaching production limits.
- India, the world’s third-largest fish producer, second-largest aquaculture producer, and fourth-largest seafood exporter, has plans to become an even bigger seafood player, according to several reports from South Asia. In terms of employment, the sector supports the livelihood of over 28 million people in India especially the marginalized and vulnerable communities. Export earnings from the fisheries sector was $6 bn during 2020-21. India’s Parliament has amended legislation to allow for the expansion of coastal aquaculture and to reduce red tape to help small-scale farmers in the country. As a result of the change, hundreds of thousands of small aquaculture farmers will no longer have to obtain Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearances from multiple agencies. India’s Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has also identified 146 sites for sea cage farming along the coast of India with a projected production potential of 2.13 million tonnes a year. The project is aimed at empowering the coastal population through additional livelihood options.
- Indonesia is among the top global producers in the aquaculture sector, with shrimp accounting for USD 2.2 billion in exports in 2021, making it the country’s most valuable seafood export. It recently decided to promote tuna farming in several bays, to alleviate the problem of overfishing and strengthen the country’s aquaculture industry. Indonesia plans to achieve its export target of $7.6 billion in 2024 through investment in tuna farming. The Indonesian government also plans to have a network of dozens of villages with aquaculture farms, in a bid to spur the post-pandemic economic recovery by catering to global demand for farmed seafood. – with agencies
Image courtesy of the FAO