Investing in research, communication, training/extension for responsible aquaculture

Like all spheres of human endeavour, knowledge has also been critically important to the development of aquaculture, irrespective of whether we are talking about the earliest aquaculture innovations starting in China or Egypt or the breeding and disease challenges in the 1970s and 1980s and now in more recent times. However, few scholarly investigations probe aquaculture development through a knowledge lens. Other sectors such as business are examining knowledge in detail (see for example, the knowledge economy thinking), but this issue seems to be a relatively untouched line of scholarly investigation by researchers in the aquaculture sector.

Knowledge generation is increasing exponentially and aquaculture is no exception. Identifying and applying the needed knowledge, and even just keeping up with present continuing challenges is not an easy task for most of us, and particularly for many of the newer aquaculture stakeholders, particularly in a globalised world where communication channels have increased, diversified and are easily accessible to most. Looking back to Kyoto (June 1976) and the last global conference, the Millennium Conference (February 2000), there was a clear recognition of the importance of networking and related forms of knowledge sharing and learning. This panel reviews the cases of the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA; and EATIP (European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform ( as two examples of ongoing knowledge sharing networks using knowledge platforms and different knowledge management activities. It is expected that such networking and wider knowledge sharing activities will intensify in the coming decade, guided by the goals set out in the Bangkok Declaration, and hopefully further refined and improved at this Conference.

Our panel also reviewed other knowledge and communications experiences through an examination of cases on marine cage farming in Turkey/Mediterranean, salmon farming in Chile, small-scale shrimp culture in India, catfish farming in Viet Nam and aquaculture farming in Europe. Local knowledge, particularly farmer-based knowledge, some of which has a long history, but in more recent times supported by “good science”, in many cases produced through various international partnerships, is highlighted. Our review raises a number of questions, such as whether aquaculture as a sector is adequately examining/ managing available knowledge; for example, traditional knowledge sources or some of the new thinking in the social and information/communication sciences.  

Aquaculture has been and seems likely to continue to be a story of growth, extremely rapid growth in some cases with both positive and negative impacts, but in other cases, much slower development phases of 25-40 year cycles. Our selected cases raise a variety of sector growth questions around knowledge production and particularly, its communication and use (for example, in new training and extension thinking) and more importantly, its communication among the changing audiences, as aquaculture continues to attract an increasing variety of new stakeholders, as it attempts to deal with a widening set of change processes often involving a complex mix of governance and social change challenges. We go on to suggest that aquaculture stakeholders need to better understand some of these knowledge processes, such as knowledge translation, the use of knowledge platforms and brokers. All are suggested as potential knowledge strategies likely increasingly critical to the sustainable development of aquaculture and its movement towards attaining the goals set out in the Bangkok Declaration. 

Investment in basic research is at all times very relevant, and governments should strengthen funding for this kind of research. However, a more applied and directed research is also needed and some countries have found mechanisms to support this, in some cases through public–private partnerships. Such research is very relevant to the solution of very practical problems for the farmers; for example, the development of a needed vaccine or the production of a type of feed for larvae. 

Our cases suggest an initial set of lessons learned that reaffirm the fundamental importance of knowledge, both from the research sector and also from local or indigenous farmers plus other stakeholders. Knowledge sharing seems poised to expand at all levels and scales, but we can expect a variety of challenges in optimal knowledge sharing, not only around the rapid growth in aquaculture, particularly given the increasing number of stakeholders, but the accompanying pressures (e.g. market pressures that increasingly cross scale, time and level boundaries), most of which have received little attention to date.

At the regional scale for the coming decade, the newly formed Network of Aquaculture in the Americas and the plans in Africa for redevelopment of similar knowledge-sharing mechanisms provide further future case material for continued examination and lesson learning with and between regions; regions in which aquaculture will continue to follow different but knowledge-linked paths. Work to date around various start-up interregional knowledge sharing activities suggests a future set of activities for development of optimal knowledge networking globally. 

Finally we suggest a number of new future directions in which aquaculture could learn a great deal from related knowledge management in other sectors. For instance, we review some of the work in the health sector with a particular focus on the knowledge sharing and knowledge translation thinking leading to strengthened knowledge management related to policy change as well as implementation. We see major gaps in aquaculture work to date around what we are calling “aquaface thinking” (a term borrowed from work at the coal face), where knowledge management strategies are strongly linked to this aquaface or implementation science.


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Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010

The conference was organised by FAO, the Thai Department of Fisheries and NACA and held in the Mövenpick Resort and Spa, Phuket, Thailand, 22-25 September. The conference was the third in a series of aquaculture development conferences, following on from the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok 2000, and the FAO Technical Conference on Aquaculture, held in Kyoto 1976.