Environment and sustainability

Global population is forecast to reach around 9 billion by 2050. To feed the world, global agricultural output must increase by around 60% from present levels. This must be achieved against a background of increasing competition for natural resources such as water, feed ingredients and farming sites.

Maintaining environmental integrity while massively increasing food production will require farming systems to reduce their unit production environmental footprint. Many farming practices that are regarded as sustainable today will not be acceptable when scaled up. Sustainable intensification of aquaculture means doing more with less. The Sustainable Farming Systems Programme aims to help aquaculture become a more efficient user of natural resources, both in terms of farm productivity and environmental efficiency.

The programme develops better management practices for major aquaculture farming systems, and promotes aquaculture as a secondary or additional use of water resources. The programme focusses on practical interventions that can be directly achieved by small-scale farmers in a developing country context.

Key activities

Key activities of the programme are:

  • Development of better management practices for key aquaculture production systems.
  • Organising small-scale farmers into associations to facilitate cluster-based approaches to extension.
  • Development of culture-based fisheries as a secondary use of water bodies.
  • Development of strategic policy frameworks to guide governments and development agencies in promoting sustainable intensification of aquaculture.

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Subject tags

A collection of subject tags relating to technical matters.

In this collection

Aquaculture sustainability: Towards 2030

To provide food to the world’s population in 2050, it has been estimated that agricultural output, primarily from crops, livestock and fisheries, including aquaculture, must increase by 60 percent. Intensification of aquaculture is inevitable in the face of increasing demand, limited land areas, and improved technology. Whether we are able to accomplish this in a sustainable manner will depend on global governance and stewardship as much as on technological progress.

Feeds and feeding: Problems and plausible approaches in intensification and attaining sustainability

Improved feed management represents a critical component in the sustainability equation, and the industry’s responses, particularly in respect to the use of fish meal and fish oil, will determine whether feeds are likely to become a limiting factor in attaining sustainability. In order to continue to contribute to global food fish supply, the sector will have to intensify. The presentation discusses plausible means of reducing dependence on these commodities as well.

Marine capture fisheries as a source of food for aquaculture in the Asian region

Asian aquaculture is the world’s major user of fishmeal, and 86 percent of fishmeal used in Asia (excluding China) now goes to aquaculture. With no new sources of fish, many argue that we have already reached the limit in coastal trawl fisheries. There is a shift away from using fresh fish directly as feed, towards pelleted feeds. The Asian aquaculture industry will be affected as supplies tighten and costs rise.

Sustainable intensification in aquaculture production: Role of domestication and Selective Breeding

The Atlantic salmon, tilapia and whiteleg shrimp are the most successful aquaculture species. Fundamental to this success has been the success of genetic improvement of the broodstock. Selective breeding has taken a sustained long-term effort. Genetic gains in shrimp have contributed to annual gains in pond efficiency, translating into lower costs of energy, labour, capital and feed costs, combined with higher annual yields.

Carbon footprint to move towards sustainability

Carbon footprint has become a useful tool for greenhouse gas emission assessment and management for climate change mitigation, and is expected to increase in importance, assisting in identifying hot spots for improvement, evaluating performance of different farming systems, comparing new and current products, and selecting appropriate climate-friendly technologies. Comparative carbon footprint values can give an indication of green farming systems as well as climate-conscious products.

Promising aquaculture practices for sustainable intensification

Although there is no panacea on the horizon, there is a huge potential to increase Asian aquaculture productivity through wider dissemination of existing technologies, especially in less developed countries. Greater implementation of better management practices will improve efficiency of existing systems, and an ecosystem approach to aquaculture will contribute to more appropriate integration of aquaculture with other land uses, and to preserving environmental integrity.

Application of aquaculture planning and management tools for sustainable intensification of aquaculture

Aquaculture planning and management tools are supported by a range of broader cross-cutting system capacities needed by any jurisdiction to fulfill its responsibilities with respect to ensuring ESD and thereby, the sustainable intensification of aquaculture. These include legal instruments, standard operating procedures, capacity and capability (expertise) necessary to implement the specific tools. The single most important tool necessary in all instances is the political vision and leadership.

Small farmers: Better practices and challenges in moving towards sustainability

Farmers organised as a cluster engage in collective planning, decision making and implementation of crop activities, using a participatory approach to accomplish their common goals. The evidence shows that if farmers can see benefits, particularly long-term benefits, they will change their farming practices under a variety of conditions and drivers. With provision of adequate support and services they can be part of the solution in moving aquaculture towards sustainability.

Sustainable ethical aquaculture trade

The EC FP7 research project Sustaining Ethical Aquaculture Trade is using Life Cycle Analysis as a core tool to assess the broader impacts of aquaculture on the global environment, allied to detailed modelling of local environmental impacts. The ethical dimensions and contradictions of Asian production systems based on trade with Europe are considered with reference to the shrimp and tilapia value chains in China and Pangasius farms in Viet Nam.

The role of the private sector in sustainable aquaculture

Sustainability is critical to Cargill’s businesses, and we are involved in a range of stewardship activities to support responsible use of natural resources. Our innovative approaches to conserve resources, use renewable raw materials and reduce impacts are aimed at helping to protect and preserve our environment. The challenge will be how to structure aquaculture development to allow adequate investment and economies of scale with appropriate safeguards of sustainability and food safety within a smallholder-based industry.