Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the world. Global production of farmed fish and shellfish has more than doubled over the past 15 years. Meanwhile, per-capita consumption of fish is 17 kg per year, nearly half of which comes from aquaculture, a sector which employs around 12 million people worldwide.
Shrimp farming is an important part of aquaculture and is valued at around 9 billion USD. Recently, shrimp production has shifted from traditional, small-scale businesses into a global industry. Technological advances have led to higher production and brood stock is now shipped worldwide.
Virtually all the shrimp we eat come from just two species: Pacific white shrimp and giant tiger prawn, accounting for 80% of all farmed shrimp. These industrial monocultures are susceptible to diseases and can create ecological problems like high energy use, mangrove habitat destruction, effluent, and waste when not well managed.
Fish farming involves raising fish in tanks, ponds or ocean enclosures. The most important species are carp, salmon, tilapia and catfish. It offers an alternative to widespread overfishing of ocean species.
However, farming carnivorous fish, such as salmon, does not always reduce pressure on wild fisheries, since they are usually fed fishmeal and fish oil extracted from wild fish. The fish farming industry produced 33.8 million tonnes of fish in 2008.
The sector has considerable potential to grow further, if smallholder fish farmers can improve productivity and gain access to world markets through initiatives such as those being taken by us and our partners.
Well maintained mangrove forests are extremely productive ecosystems that benefit both the marine environment and people. They protect coastal zones, provide nursery areas for fish, and generate livelihoods for millions of people, for example through tourism.
Mangrove forests support a wide variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusks, which are an essential source of food for coastal communities around the world. Mangrove wood is resistant to rot and insects, and its dense root systems trap sediments, helping to stabilize the coastline and prevent erosion.
Fisheries and aquaculture provide incomes for almost 55 million people worldwide, with a particular concentration of smallholder fish farmers in Asia. In China alone almost 14 million people work in the sector. There are also many jobs in processing, packaging, marketing and distribution. In total, fish production supports 10% of the world’s population.
Yet unfair employment practices in the sector—including exploitation of local labour, gender discrimination and child employment—are undermining trust in the sector and jeopardising markets for farmed seafood.
Many fish farmers are underperforming, because they lack up-to-date knowledge and quality inputs. Even farmers who produce large amounts of shrimp in a sustainable way are not getting a premium price, as the chain of custody cannot be reliably demonstrated to buyers.
Aquaculture’s rapid growth has had a profound effect on ecosystems. Demand for inputs places a huge strain on scarce resources. The discharge of fish feces, unused fish feed, and chemicals on aquaculture farms reduce the amount of oxygen in the water and relseasing chemicals that can kill aquatic species, decreasing biodiversity.
This pollution jeopardizes production, and since intensive farming causes various bacterial diseases, fish farmers are using antibiotics in greater numbers. Intensive systems also require high levels of inputs, mostly feed, which in turn requires increasingly intensive soil, water, and waste management. Feed is critical, representing almost 60% of operational costs, but many feed companies use fish meal from unsustainable wild fish stocks.
Aquaculture has also resulted in the destruction of coastal and magrove areas, causing surrounding areas to be more prone to floods, droughts, and tropical storms.
Solidaridad built on the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal and the food security programme in Bangladesh to increase transparency in seafood supply chains and promote good practices. We also created partnerships with producers, input suppliers and buyers to pilot innovative solutions. For example, we took 15 European companies on a trade and investment mission to Myanmar, which led to two investment pilots for tilapia and shrimp. In addition, a partnership with Wageningen University, Deltares and Pur Projet set out to redesign shrimp-farming polders in coastal Bangladesh.
Over 60 EU-approved factories in Bangladesh and Myanmar shared in-depth performance and compliance information with regard to traceability, food safety, and social and environment sustainability for the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal.
Over 25,000 fish and shrimp farmers joined our training programme in Bangladesh.
Many smallholder shrimp farmers find it difficult to meet the standards required for access to high-end niche markets. Due to a lack of knowledge, they often use inappropriate inputs and are unaware of the benefits of certification. Our producer support programmes, which focus on optimising farming systems, can double production and triple incomes.
Although millions of fish farmers in Asia produce a significant volume of seafood that meets high-end market requirements, they are often not visible within international markets. By 2020 we aim to build a thriving international seafood sector where wholesalers choose sustainable seafood, processors invest in safe, high-quality supply chains and farmers receive support to increase sustainable output and reduce their environmental footprint.
Together with our partners in Sustainable Agriculture, Food security and Linkages (SAFaL), we assist farmers in establishing sustainable farming practices and increasing their income, while safeguarding the environment. About half of the producers we support are extensive monoculture shrimp farmers; the remainder have freshwater farms and engage in polyculture. The business cases we develop involve local premium retailers as well as international shrimp buyers.
We support local fish farmers who produce black tiger shrimp, giant prawn, pangasius and tilapia. The primary aim is to capitalise on the unique characteristics of improved traditional, low-input, and low-intensity production systems in order to meet international demand for high-quality produce with a distinctive origin, and invest in capacity to increase competitiveness in export markets.
In line with significant improvements in supply chains, we are helping to build the reputation of the Bangladeshi seafood sector through strategic brands such as Premium Panga for high-end domestic retail markets and high-end black tiger shrimp, such as Selva Shrimp, for export.
"I am motivated to assist small-scale shrimp farmers with getting access to high-end markets."
Mr. Anis Manager Gazi fish farm in Bangladesh
Informing global influencers
Supermarket chains and large retailers are important players in setting market requirements, given the increasing globalisation of the aquaculture value chain, with large retailers controlling the growth of international distribution channels.
The STIP addresses the biggest single issue in seafood supply chains worldwide: transparency. By systematically disclosing information about traceability, food safety, and social and environment sustainability, it will help set the agenda for investments in sustainable seafood by businesses, investors, and development organisations.
The STIP supplier database will help ensure that production meets increasingly stringent market requirements by collecting and making available data and information on supply chains and markets. As a result, buyers will be able to find suppliers that meet their specific needs and market requirements. Exporters can use the STIP to explore new markets and find international buyers that match their own needs.
"At Solidaridad we build alliances with producers, buyers and certifiers, in order to devise tailored solutions that will pay off for producers and market players alike."
Daniel Knoop Internation Programme Manager, Aquaculture Solidaridad
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