01 / 1998
Aquaculture production has grown at an average annual rate of almost 10 per cent between 1984 and 1995, compared with the 3 per cent for capture fisheries production.
There has been much talk of the negative impact of export-oriented mono-shrimp culture on local food security. It has been pointed out that shrimp culture, practised in brackish-water environments, diverts land from agriculture and other alternative productive uses, diminishing local supplies of food, fodder, fuel, etc, and affecting income and employment opportunities.
Since almost all the shrimp produced is exported, the spread in shrimp culture often works to weaken local food security. The focus has also been on the negative environmental consequences of intensive and semi-intensive forms of shrimp farming.
It is important, however, to differentiate between shrimp culture and other forms of aquaculture. Over 250 species are farmed globally, and, brackish-water shrimp species, although highest in value, contribute less than 5 per cent to total production. In 1995, almost 96 per cent of global aquaculture production came from non-brackish-water species.
Most of the increase in aquaculture production has been due to growth in aquaculture practised in freshwater and marine environments. Freshwater bodies are used predominantly to produce low-value freshwater species, such as carps and tilapias. Freshwater production contributes significantly to local food security. It makes available affordable sources of protein. Aquaculture production from marine waters is mostly of aquatic plants and shellfish, like mussels and clams. The predominant use of aquatic plants in mariculture (marine water
aquaculture)may also be beneficial-by helping minimise the levels of nutrient enrichment of coastal waters resulting from agriculture and other human activities.
While a little over half the production from brackish-water environments is of predominantly shrimp species, the rest is attributable to finfish, such as redfish, tilapias, and molluscs.
Also of significance is the fact that much of the reported increase in aquaculture production is from Low-Income-Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), in particular China. The global production of aquaculture of 28 million tonnes continues to be dominated by Asia. In 1995 Asia accounted for over 90 per cent of world output, with China alone accounting for more than half of world production. In China, aquaculture production accounts for more than 60 per cent of total national fishery production.
Aquaculture is often equated with shrimp aquaculture and seen as detrimental, environmentally and socially. This view, however, ignores the fact that the bulk of total aquaculture production comes from non-shrimp species. These latter species contribute in no small way to local food security. Moreover, the environmental impact of these species, rather than being detrimental, may even be beneficial. Production of certain species in mariculture operations, mentioned above, contribute to cleansing of coastal waters. There is certainly a case for increasing the culture of species which contribute to local food security, and which, at the same time, do not degrade the environment.
Articles and files
RANA, Krishen, Recent Trends in Global Aquaculture Production: 1984-95 in. The FAO Aquaculture Newsletter, 1997/08, 16