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'Aquaculture is the answer'

BANGKOK - A coastline stretching more than 3,000 kilometres with an abundance of marine life has made Thailand one of the largest seafood producers and exporters in the world. Yet with demand continually increasing but supply diminishing, the country is being urged to manage its marine resources by promoting more aquaculture.

"Thailand has a significant advantage in aquaculture and should capitalise on this growing sector. It has a long coastline, which offers tremendous potential for aquaculture. Centralised planning and excellent resource management are required for this potential to be realised," suggested Goh Chong Theng, general manager of the Singapore branch of privately-owned Dutch banking conglomerate Rabobank International.

According to a study by the bank, Thailand's total seafood production is nearly four million tonnes a year, mainly shrimp and canned tuna. However, with the huge demand for its seafood products worldwide, the country faces the challenge of maintaining its marine resources to keep the sector profitable in the long run.

This is a challenge also faced by other major seafood exporters in East Asia, including Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. The growth in seafood production in the region has been in decline, from almost 7 per cent between 1990 and 1995 to almost 5 per cent from 1995 to 2000, and a little over one per cent during 2000-2005.

The huge demand has forced many fishermen and fishing companies to adopt harmful practices. These include overfishing by high-seas fleets in coastal areas, large numbers of vessels, fishing down the food chain, blast-fishing and poison-fishing, which degrade the marine environment, and trawling. Shrinking mangrove areas, discharge of untreated sewage and dredging are also affecting marine life.

"Aquaculture would alleviate pressure for increased seafood production and at the same time help control food safety, since more consumers worldwide are showing greater concern," said Patrick Vizzone, Rabobank's regional head for Asian food and agribusiness.

Aquaculture has actually been promoted in many countries for a long time. Freshwater aquaculture accounts for as much as 43 per cent of total worldwide production. Moreover, freshwater production is growing by 5.2 per cent, compared with just 2.1 per cent for seawater production.

Source: The Nation