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Global Aquaculture Outlook in the Next Decades

By Ccile BrugreFishery Planning Analyst, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Fisheries Department, Rome, Italy and Neil Ridler, Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick - New Brunswick, Canada - Aquaculture production is expected to play a crucial role in forthcoming decades incompensating for stagnant capture fisheries and in meeting increased demand for aquaticproducts.

FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries: Aquaculture Development - By Ccile Brugre Fishery Planning Analyst, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Fisheries Department, Rome, Italy and Neil Ridler, Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick - New Brunswick, Canada - Aquaculture production is expected to play a crucial role in forthcoming decades in compensating for stagnant capture fisheries and in meeting increased demand for aquatic products. FAO

Abstract

Designed to ascertain the compatibility of national aquaculture production forecasts with the global prevision of the sector's growth to 2020 and beyond, the report attempts to answer three questions:

  1. Do individual countries have the ambition to expand their aquaculture sector to meet global demand forecasts, and are their projections realistic?

  2. Is the sum of national production forecasts compatible with global projections of anticipated requirements from the aquaculture sector?

  3. What planning lessons can be learnt from examining individual country plans, and how could the process of aquaculture planning be improved?

Three global forecasts (Delgado et al., 2003; Wijkstrm, 2003; Ye, 1999) were used as a benchmark against which countries ambitions were assessed through an analysis of the contents of their national aquaculture development plans.

Results showed that the countries studied do wish to expand their aquaculture output and, with some exceptions, their assumptions were realistic as most governments appeared to endorse the sectors growth. Aggregation quantitative production targets from the national plans indicated that global forecasts may have underestimated the future supply of fish food coming from aquaculture. The future expansion of Chinese aquaculture remains critical but using a modest 2 percent annual growth rate and without increases in food fish output from capture fisheries, results suggested that most of the demand projections for fish would be met in three forthcoming decades.

Thus, aggregated country productions from aquaculture are expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 4.5 percent over the period 20102030. In terms of planning, appraisal of plans and strategies revealed a generally weak planning process as methodologies and procedures tended to be sketchily reported. A planning framework with issues to address is suggested with the back-up of a consensus-building technique such as the Delphi method to improve the quality of future plans and enable an evaluation of their likelihood of success, as transparency, legitimacy and agreement are key to the success of a plan.

Contents

INTRODUCTION

  1. METHODOLOGY: APPROACH AND CONSTRAINTS
    1. Selection of countries, collection and analysis of national information
    2. Framework for analysis of the contents of national aquaculture development strategies and plans
    3. Evaluation of existing global forecasts (supply and demand) and realism of assumption for national aquaculture production forecasts
    4. Comparison of the "sum" of national forecasts with global projections
    5. Planning lessons
    6. Limitations of the study

  2. RESULTS: GLOBAL FORECASTS AND NATIONAL PLANS
    1. Global forecasts
      1. Future global aquaculture production
      2. Regional perspectives
    2. National projections
      1. The "sum" of national production targets comparison between global and national forecasts
      2. Constraints to growth

  3. PLANNING LESSONS
    1. Planning: a rational process
    2. Planning methods
      1. Types of planning
      2. Participation and consensus
    3. Reflections on aquaculture country plans and strategies
      1. What are the criteria for a successful planning process?
      2. What should be the assumptions and factors upon which to base projections?
      3. What decision-making methods are the most suitable, and in which context?

  4. CONCLUSIONS
    1. Aquaculture forecasts
    2. Aquaculture planning
REFERENCES
APPENDIX 1: SUMMARY OF CONTENTS OF COUNTRY PLANS
APPENDIX 2: NOTES AND COUNTRY PLANS REFERENCES

4 Conclusions

4.1 Aquaculture forecasts
Findings suggest that answers to the two questions raised at the beginning of the study, namely: (1) do individual countries have a realistic ambition to expand their aquaculture production and (2) is the sum of national forecasts likely to be compatible with projected increases in demand for food fish, are generally positive. Countries do wish to expand aquaculture output, and with some exceptions, their assumptions were realistic. The examination of national plans and strategies has provided unique insights into the ambition and commitment of governments to develop aquaculture, and most have appeared to endorse the sectors growth. National priorities for development, in particular with regard to the role of aquaculture to contribute to food security (often cited as one of the three reasons behind a countrys will to develop the sector, along with foreign exchange earnings and economic growth) was indicative of the realisation that aquaculture can be an innovative motor of growth with many additional benefits, whilst revealing growing concerns over overexploitation of capture fisheries and the motivation to find alternatives to declining catches. As for the second question, aggregation of national plans indicated that global forecasts underestimated the supply of fish food coming from aquaculture. Chinas future expansion is critical but using a modest 2 percent growth rate and without increases in food fish output from capture fisheries, results suggested that most of the demand projections would be met.

Thus, aggregated country productions from aquaculture are expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 4.5 percent over the period 20102030. From these findings, a conclusion, yet sanguine, may be that the aquaculture sector could replicate the expansion of agriculture. However, much depends on the realism of assumptions used to support projected targets, and countries formulating development plans for their aquaculture sector are encouraged to place a stronger emphasis on the rationale supporting their production forecasts. This is useful to improved sector development planning, at an international scale, and progress monitoring. Many factors affect the evolution of an activity like aquaculture and setting realistic production targets is a difficult task. The sector is susceptible to unforeseen shocks, meteorological, pathological or economic, when countries compete in marketing a commodity and expand their production simultaneously.

The level of accuracy of projections can only be assessed from the clarity and realism of the assumptions upon which they are based. The scrutiny of global projections requires explicit calculations and assumptions, which is not always the case for national aquaculture development plans. However, country plans and strategies reveal governments commitment to aquaculture development. From this perspective, national plans may be more informative than global forecasts to gauge where future production impulses will originate and what will shape future regional development trends.

Whilst macro projection models were based on commodity prices, per capita incomes, rates of population growth and landings from capture fisheries to estimate future supply, population density could be another factor to take into consideration in the setting of future production targets. This is suggested through the examples of Norway and Brazil, for which low population densities are seen as an asset to develop aquaculture further whilst avoiding conflicts over resource use and social opposition as typically encountered in more densely populated areas.

Because the gap between the estimated requirements from aquaculture in the next decades and what countries expected production was not large (even with a modest 2 percent annual growth for China), there may not be causes for immediate concern. Proper monitoring of aquaculture output should be maintained (or developed in countries where it is not yet in place). Technological developments could bring answers to immediate concerns over resource use: self-maintained offshore cages for intensive production (Mann, 2004), alleviating pressure from coastlines and inland waters, could significantly contribute to increases in aquaculture outputs and stabilisation of fish prices.

However, potential for high profits from the farming of high-value marine finfish may be the prime motive behind this form of aquaculture and, in the case of the United States, it has been recommended that a moratorium is imposed on its development until national aquaculture legislation is adopted and comprehensive, open and transparent regulations are finalized (Belton et al., 2004) to avoid loopholes and conflicts over the use of coastal and offshore resources. Further concerns may be voiced over the market allocation of this type of production. Targeting developed country markets with high value fish exports is often a prime aim for many developing countries. Balancing both domestic needs for extra protein provision in low-income, fooddeficit countries, and foreign income generation from the same activity is likely to involve delicate and politically-challenging decisions.

4.2 Aquaculture planning
The third question addressed in this report dealt with planning processes. Appraisal of country plans and strategies revealed a generally weak planning process. This was mainly due to the fact that detailed information on the methodologies and procedures followed to complete a final plan were omitted or sketchily reported. This shortcoming would be easily fixed and the report has provided a planning framework of issues to address and which could be used directly by countries willing to develop or enhance their aquaculture sectors. Back-up by the application of the Delphi method as a consensus-building technique, not only would this greatly improve the quality of future plans, but would also enable an evaluation of their likelihood of success, as it has been demonstrated in the literature that transparency, legitimacy and agreement (reached through participation and consensus) were key to the success of a plan. It is also recommended that a more thorough assessment of past and present trends, at both national and international levels, are useful in determining more accurately areas with potential for development and in setting realistic production targets.

Beyond absolute increases in production, the sustainable development of aquaculture will depend on accurate and sensitive planning as issues of resources allocation for production and distribution of production will generate debate and require compromises. Much has been written on the concept of sustainable development and its irreconcilable goals of economic growth and development on one hand, and ecological (also social and economic) sustainability of the other what Robinson (2004) has referred to as squaring the circle. Aquaculture development could be seen in this sort of dilemma, and like the impossible mathematical problem, will require new tools to be solved. These new tools call for a process by which [multiple conflicting objectives] can be expressed and evaluated, ultimately as a political act for any given community or jurisdiction.

Planning will therefore be key to the sustainable development of aquaculture as it encourages the development of new modes of public consultation and involvement intended to allow multiple views to be expressed and debated (ibid, p. 382). Technical progress will undoubtedly play a crucial role in supporting aquaculture development, but its direction and (re)orientation will have to be constantly revisited through decision-making processes. By extension of Robinsons argument, the sustainability of aquaculture and it fulfilling worlds expectations as a supplier of fish for food security and as a vector of economic development is more likely to be a political act, than a scientific achievement.

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Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - January 2004

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