Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Understanding Aquaculture - Introduction


The search for alternative crops and sustainable food production methods to augment or substitute for traditional resources can a challenging undertaking. Many factors are involved in the decision making process including research, feasibility study and review of the social and economic considerations.

One alternative food production industry that has developed rapidly over the last couple of decades is Aquaculture, recognized as the world's fastest growing food production industry. Aquaculture development has not been without challenges, nor is fish farming a stranger to contraversy.

To understand the plus and minus factors of aquaculture, we need to first closely review the industry, its history, its adaptaion and its track record. Lets start with finding out what it is.

What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture is an industry that encompasses the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals in controlled systems for commercial, recreation or for resource management purposes. The most widely accepted short definition of Aquaculture is as " the cultivation of any aquatic (fresh and marine) species (plant or animal)". Often it is just called "Fish Farming". Whatever the definition used, it is clear that Aquaculture is the Agriculture of the oceans and inland water resources.
Aquaculture shares many similarities in concept to many land based agriculture industries such as cattle farming and many of the same management techniques are used in aquaculture. Like more traditional forms of agriculture the goal of commercial aquaculture is to maximize production at a minimal cost to maintain a profit margin.

The earliest records of fish farming are from Asia (China) where the practice has been known of for at least 3500 years, in particular with carp. Even today, some 80% of fish farming takes place in Asia.

Forty years ago, in the west (North America), the only salmonid type fish that was farmed commercially was rainbow trout in fresh water. Salmon farming, which is now the main commercial fish farming activity in the west, developed in Norway in the late 1960s to the early ‘70s, and also began in Canada in the 1970’s.

The Need for Aquaculture

Aquaculture is poised to become an important source of protein for the world's growing population. Because the capture fishing industry has peaked and is likely to decline as wild stocks are diminished. Fish farming offers one of the only remaining opportunities to bridge the gap between the wild catch and the demand for fish. As a result of the growing world population and a shift in western societies towards healthier eating patterns, there is likely to be a continuing increase in demand for seafood, while wild supplies will continue to dwindle, guaranteeing an even greater future need for Aquaculture production.

Various estimates of the future increase in aquaculture production have been made: By 2010, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that production will be up to 27 million metric tons, perhaps even as much as 45 million metric tons. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated in an interim report, entitled: "Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030", published in July 2000, that global fish consumption will rise by 25% by 2030. Average world consumption of fish per person could grow from 16 kg a year, in 1997, to 19 or 20 kg by 2030, raising the total food use of fish to 150 - 160 million metric tons. The annual sustainable yield of marine capture fisheries is estimated at no more than 100 million metric tons. The bulk of the increase in supply therefore will have to come from aquaculture," says the report. Aquaculture is well suited to meeting this increasing demand for seafood.

The inherent efficiencies of farming versus fishing for the wild catch (hunting) will see a progressive switch from fishing to fish farming. The FAO estimates that the cost of catching fish in the wild, on a global basis, is about 25% higher than the value of the catch. The difference is made up by government subsidies. Were these to be removed from the landed values of wild fisheries, the economic realities would undoubtedly further stimulate the aquaculture industry.
The growth in the Aquaculture industry is not only related to increasing demand and diminishing wild stocks, but also to factors such as consistency in supply and quality, traceability and good documentation.

Across Canada and World wide the Aquaculture industry has grown tremendously over the last decade. With an ever-expanding world population, and ever-increasing food deficit, world food supply stability demands attention and solutions. Aquatic Farming like agriculture in general is a logical and necessary means to meet these demands.
In developing regions, emphasis is being placed on aquaculture industry development, for food security, employment, income generation as well as to relieve the ever increasing pressures on the wild resources.

Aquaculture covers three areas of aquatic farming, freshwater culture (100% fresh water), brackish water culture (50%FW/50% Saltwater) and mariculture (100% saltwater). This is determined by species adapted to live in these environments, some are totally freshwater based, some are totally salt water and some are in between. Aquaculture therefore depends on the existence of these environments and they are what determine what aquaculture practice a region develops.

Diversification of the rural and farm economies has been a subject of considerable attention in recent years, due in part to setbacks experienced in the production of other livestock, crops and farm products. Aquaculture has been shown to be a suitable practice providing economic diversification, employment and other social and economic benefits in many regions. It is estimated that the commercial aquaculture sector provides over 14,000 jobs nationally, of which more than 8,000 are in the production sector with the remainder being in the supply and services sectors (OCAD, 2002). With respect to these direct jobs, close to 50% of those employed are less than 30 years old and the majority (over 90%) of workers live in rural and coastal communities (DFO, 2002).

Status of Aquaculture in Manitoba

The scale of Aquaculture development in Manitoba is not yet significant on the national level. Commercial development has not yet occurred at the degree encountered in many other parts of the country, however based upon knowledge of industry happenings, it would appear that there is considerable potential to develop a modern, robust and viable industry of significant scale.
Manitoba has the natural resources, economy and geographical position that are advantageous to the innovative fish farms. Those being primarily land based operations utilizing tanks and/or raceway systems.

Some of the provincial strong points are:

• Good sources of clean water in sufficient quantities and quality.

• A strong agricultural base and social environment

• Low cost utility rates particularly for electricity

• An excellent geographical position for servicing markets

• A freshwater fisheries industry with the knowledge of processing and transportation of seafood products

• The province has existing sources for research and development expertise in Aquaculture and food products. (University, Ag and food research Centers etc.) Leading edge research exists or has existed within the province relating to culture of fish species such as Arctic Char, Yellow Perch, and Lake Sturgeon.

• There is recognition in Government of the benefits and need for economic diversification and that Aquaculture development has been shown to provide excellent opportunity for diversification in other regions.

• Existing fish farmers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in addition to fish stocks, facilities and equipment from which further developments can be undertaken.

Although the core physical resources and conditions exist, that favour development of an Aquaculture industry, there remain several constraints that have and will adversely affect the pace, viability and level of development in the province.

In the past this industry has experienced numerous ups and downs. Overall the Industry has not developed at a pace matching that of other regions. Generally the industry has evolved with limited support from government agencies and has entered a phase where growth will transpire, however it is worthy to review key factors that have had an effect upon its scale and its nature to date, in order to determine activities that could further stimulate the industry within a more rapid timeframe.

There are three key points that stand out when reviewing the history of Aqua Farm development within Manitoba.

1. Efforts aimed at development have met with limited success to date. Existing producers have struggled to further their businesses while encountering numerous economic and technical constraints that by their nature are extremely difficult and costly to address on an individual basis.

2. Would be fish farmers wishing to investigate the potential for diversification offered by Aquaculture have encountered difficulties in accessing the information, the knowledge and the advice required to properly evaluate and review the opportunity for intergrading aquaculture with existing their agriculture farms.

3. The financial sector has viewed Aquaculture in Manitoba as being risky due to lack of the same support programs and extension services that are today an entrenched part of other forms of agriculture.

To more fully understand this history, we must look at some of the constraints that still face Aquaculture developments in the province.

-An understanding of the industry and the business potential offered is not widespread. Individuals, corporations etc. involved with other successful agriculture ventures have not had an effective or informative opportunity to investigate the diversification and economic potential of the aqua farming industry.

- No facilities exist within the provinces that have the means to accept and conduct technology demonstration or practical accredited training to prospective fish farmers.

- Present operators wishing to explore new or emerging technologies aimed at reducing operating costs, diversifying products, increasing production or capturing new market opportunities have to do so themselves. Doing so is virtually impossible and risky when operating a day to day business and particularly in the smaller scale operations that exist. Financing, testing and implementing such items while operating a marginal level farm would amount to business suicide.

- Agriculture business operational support services such as stock vet services, problem trouble shooting / solving, farm planning, agri-business development scenarios etc. are not tailored to meet the to or include Aquaculture.

- Agriculture financial support services such as a crop insurance program, guarantee programs for capital financing, bridge financing, livestock development etc. are not tailored to or applicable for aquaculture activities. Present aqua farmers have had difficulties in obtaining financing from traditional agri-business lenders as a result. Very few safety nets exists that will increase the confidence level of traditional lenders. Without such support programs the risk element is usually considered to be beyond that of other agriculture activities and as a result greatly reduces the potential Aqua FarmerÂ’s access to traditional financing.

- Government sector support persons dedicated to the aquaculture sector are extremely limited at the moment. As a result would be operators have trouble identifying the true potential of the industry, or how and where to begin exploring itÂ’s potential.

- No comprehensive study exists that identifies and rates areas of the province that are suited to development of Aquaculture enterprises. Nor is there a review study (plan) that identifies other agriculture support infrastructure, businesses or activities that could be jointly utilized in support of aquaculture.

- The exchange of knowledge and cooperation between industry stakeholders has been haphazard and nearly non existent in an organized forum of discussion or association. Efforts are required to fully establish and maintain a support association of all stakeholders.

To address the above constraints will require cooperation and action at varied levels of government, academic institutes and industry alike. It is likely that the overall process will be a lengthy one involving numerous initiatives within government, the financial sector, the research sector and include several different research, demonstration and development undertakings conducted jointly with industry.

Provincial Aqua Farming development does face challenges, yet there is significant potential for development and ample opportunity to create economic growth, farm diversity and a world class eco-friendly industry.

Land based fish farming technologies are the most promising for future industry development in many regions of the country. This is due to their ability to reduce water requirements and provide greater management control of diseases while reducing the potential for adverse environmental impacts.

As stated earlier Manitoba has considerable resource benefits (water, electricity, distance to markets, agriculture social climate etc.) that favor development of contained land based systems and the province could play a significant role in development of eco-friendly aqua farms.

For further information visit this link: Various Articles and resources relating to aquaculture

1 comment:

davemartin3681 said...

i thought your blog was cool and i think you may like this cool Website. now just Click Here