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Aquaculture Prospects in ASEAN

Some 53% of the world’s salt water fisheries are operating at maximum capacity, while a further 25% is over-fished, depleted or recovering from depletion. For inland fisheries, the fish are regarded as the most critically threatened vertebrates in the world. Since ASEAN relies to such a great extent on fishing and marine resources, the threat of the collapse of fish stocks is of considerable importance. The main threats are from over-fishing, habitat degradation, land-based pollution, alien species and climate change. There is a particular risk from the collapse of unique local sub-species, which have not been fully documented and whose role in the local ecologies is not fully established.

Around the world, approximately 1,000 species of fish are caught during fishing, while 236 are used in aquaculture. On current trends, the world will need another 40 million tonnes of fish annually by 2030 to meet demand. Clearly, therefore, there is a need to ensure that genetic research on aquacultured species discovers means of improving and increasing yields and determines additional species that may be suitable, while avoiding enhanced risks to the environment. This will provide opportunities for science-based business and will also be helpful in promoting regional development, particularly in archipelagic states of Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. Since 38 million people are currently employed in aquaculture around the world, then it is likely to be an important provider of employment in the future, particularly in rural areas. In many cases, aquaculture may be practiced at the household level using small scale nets, traps and so forth, although in other cases economies of scale and scope offer a decisive competitive advantage. Current rice field based aquaculture activities provide more than 100 species of economically useful plants and animals. There is an opportunity for expansion of these practices here, as well as spreading local knowledge more fully throughout the region.

Shrimp farming has represented one example of how aquaculture may be developed in ASEAN and some of the problems that may be associated with it. Primarily, this latter includes pollution issues, since at least some of the farm systems used are unable to flush away refuse and this contaminates the shrimps. This results in loss of production immediately, health problems and, further down the distribution channel, the threat that this pollution issue may be used to create barriers to entry. It is important for new aquaculture projects to be established and managed on a fully transparent basis, therefore, with high levels of cleanliness and efficiency.

More details on the role of genetic research in aquaculture are available at the website of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation at:

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