Improving knowledge, information, research, extension and communication on aquaculture

Aquaculture has transitioned rapidly over the past decade to reach global status as a critical source of nutritious and safe food. Aquaculture has a global menu of hundreds of species, with more anticipated. Production sites cover the salinity spectrum from seawater to freshwater, with traditionally dug ponds, input-dependent intensive systems, ocean and lake cage technologies, computer-operated recirculation tanks and more. The far reaching diversity creates vast opportunities and challenges to scientists, educators, managers and planners. Expansion, especially in developing countries, has realised extraordinary advancements and highlighted needs for improvement. Growth in productivity faces increasing pressures from land degradation, climate change, scarce water supplies and competition for input resources. Global demand will intensify incentives for expansion of culture areas and higher efficiencies in yields. Increases in production must occur in the context of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and new societal drivers. Opportunities abound, yet country-level constraints and economic outlooks will influence the pace of growth and location of future production areas.

Research, extension, policy and information systems are powerful mechanisms that must address several dimensions of food security at once. Sustaining a long-term trajectory of increasing production to meet future food security needs will depend on the ability of institutions to protect aquatic ecosystems amidst strong pressures for increased local consumption and international trade. Viable solutions will be expedited from collaboration among numerous public and private services that can integrate new discovery knowledge and information sharing, available credit and inputs, and global to local communications. Impact-oriented research reaching farmers and consumers by motivated extension and outreach across enterprise scales is another critical service. Public education must not be overlooked for improving the image of and knowledge about responsible aquaculture. History reveals the short life of unsustainable development strategies. Such practices can be avoided with new decision-making tools and effective communication of case studies and lessons learned. Accurate and timely statistics on production value and volume, species and locations at national levels that can be aggregated for global trend analysis, market information systems and forecasting will aid public and private investments, development and trade policies.

Some challenges can benefit from reshaping research towards a new and different future and building new alliances and synergies to address many key elements articulated in the Bangkok Declaration and Strategy. Development goals require sustainable resources, diverse expertise, specific strategic objectives and targeted outcomes, such as reducing food insecurity. New fields of science and analytical tools are improving husbandry techniques, system operations, selective breeding, feed formulations and disease management. More scientific data on health benefits from fish consumption are also emerging. Virtual technologies and remote sensing are becoming powerful tools to aggregate diverse data sets for new field applications, including site planning for sustainable development among competing forces and complex scientific factors. Integrating expert systems into virtual environments and new modelling tools offer novel approaches for multidisciplinary planning and analyses.

Intuition-based aquaculture is being systematically replaced by science-based practices and improved technologies from world-class research institutions and new innovations by entrepreneurial farmers and private companies. Opportunities exist to improve research environments with stronger public-private networks and collaborative team-building. Open solicitations for new ideas can accelerate creativity to drive high technology through low technology applications. Pioneering scientific breakthroughs will emerge throughout the world; however, synthesis and translation are most often required for farm applications to create high-impact benefits from widespread adoption. Field-based or on-farm research and demonstration can engage farmers with realistic cost/benefit analyses for effective socioeconomic development processes. Farmer engagement facilitates solutions for farm-level problems and adoption of new practices with local economic, market and social relevancy and shortens time lags between research and deployment of new technologies. Stakeholder input and engagement ultimately set the trajectory of development. Rigorous evaluation and planning processes can align collective knowledge systems and limited resources across different programmes for strategic collaborative frameworks to solve complex and intractable problems.

With the immensity of evolving global demand for energy-efficient farmed aquatic animal protein, research and technology transfer institutions will require more resources and investments in training and equipment to develop the human resources capacity for advancing technologies, tools and practices to meet the challenges of expanding sustainable aquaculture production. Ultimately, sustainable expansion depends on continued improvements of farm management driven by competitive forces among farmers and businesses and solving issues raised by societal and political systems. Innovation will be required to reach remote areas and gain acceptance of new technologies. Bilateral and multilateral collaborations are expanding through scientific, technical and policy exchange programmes narrowing information and scientific knowledge gaps. To meet global needs for food security and poverty alleviation in rural communities to thriving international markets, bold actions and tactics will be required by farmers, companies, academics, government officials and the public who collectively oversee and manage the world’s natural resources and their bounty for human needs: in this case, food from farmed aquatic species. The sustainable availability of an adequate food supply and peoples’ access to nutritious diets is largely dependent upon educated individuals, responsive institutions and an enabling environment that engages a broad range of stakeholders. With significant improvements in sustainable aquaculture productivity and development, the imbalances between aquatic food supply and demand may be overcome to decrease food insecurity, scarcity and price volatility over the coming decades.


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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.