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Responsible Fish Farming In Malaysia

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MALAYSIA - Grouper farmers from the states of Johore, Selangor and Penang have banded together to establish the Marine Fish-Farmers Association of Malaysia (MFFAM). This development is significant as the three states account for approximately 80 per cent of Malaysian farmed fish production.

It is hoped that through the MFFAM, members can be influenced to adopt best practices in order to meet market demand sustainably, says Gangaram Pursumal, Manager of the Peninsular Malaysia Seas Programme at WWF-Malaysia.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that membership of this association will be open to all marine fin-fish aquaculture related associations, companies or organisations. The association will have a governing council comprising 12 members, with WWF-Malaysia likely to be playing a key role.

Designed to promote and advance knowledge on all aspects of sustainable aquaculture, the association is being established at a time when the mariculture sector, which is dominated by grouper culture including for the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT), is the fastest growing aquaculture sub-sector in the Asia-Pacific region.

While in the past the production needs of this industry was almost exclusively met from the unsustainable practice of harvesting wild-caught juveniles, there has been a growing trend toward full-cycle aquaculture with hatcheries now accounting for up to 30-35 per cent of all grouper for grow-out.

And while sourcing fish from hatcheries as opposed to wild-caught juveniles is a positive development, there is a need for best practices and standards to be adopted across the entire production process.

Developments in grouper aquaculture are occurring within a heavily market-driven and often poorly regulated environment. Moreover, grouper production in Southeast Asia is mainly comprised of small-scale farmers.

Working with these small-scale producers to main-stream improved practices can be challenging and needs the support of broad associations such as the MFFAM to facilitate improvements in farming practices.

The WWF Coral Triangle programme has acknowledged that grouper farmed in cages is among the worst environmental performers globally due to issues such as feed inefficiency, cage farming effluent and habitat impacts, potential for disease transfer, etc.

While not promoting grouper farming as a means to indirectly reduce pressure on wild stocks, the WWF Coral Triangle programme is committed to promoting better grouper farming practices, especially responsible full-cycle mariculture of LRFF, in this sector, says Dr Geoffrey Muldoon, LRFFT Strategy Leader for the WWF Coral Triangle programme.

Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) can be one way to accelerate the expansion and uptake of best practices. WWF is uniquely placed to build on its strong links with government, the private sector, technical institutions and GAAs to forge these PPPs and obtain multi-stakeholder buy-in to the idea of adopting best-practice standards.

It is hoped to have at least two demonstration sites established in the Coral Triangle that are trialling best farming practices across the production cycle.