Southeast Asian countries, led by Vietnam, followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and Singapore, have successfully joined the ranks of world’s top 20 producers of fish from aquaculture. Growth in aquaculture in the region is driven by the scientific and technological breakthroughs developed in the region, and the adoption of these culture technologies among receptive entrepreneurs. However, the development of aquaculture in the region has brought and caused a number of unintended problematic scenarios, such as the following: (1) inequitable distribution of opportunities and benefits across adopters of aquaculture; (2) technology and production cost dualism among aquaculturists; (3) social conflicts and economic losses due to competing uses of resources for aquaculture and other purposes; and (4) high cost of rehabilitation of habitats affected by misuse of natural resources for aquaculture. However, the present and future role of aquaculture in the region offer optimism as its population is projected to remain as fish-eating with estimated consumption at 16.7 million mt while the regional fish production is estimated to enable global export over 1 million mt to deficit regions in 2020.
In response to the persistent and emerging social and economic issues in aquaculture in Southeast Asia, the R&D activities of the Program on ‘Meeting social and economic challenges in aquaculture’ (MSECAP) intend to address the four categories of problems discussed and adopted for development of action plans during the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Conference on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security Towards 2020, held last June 2011. These issues define the scope and coverage of the MSECAP as follows: (i) enhancing the role of aquaculture in addressing food, income and livelihood security through improved governance, multi-agency collaboration, and comprehensive and inter-disciplinary approaches; (ii) promoting sustainable aquaculture through enabling policies that support the management of natural and environmental resources; (iii) enabling mechanisms, institutions and infrastructure to encourage adoption of better aquaculture practices; (iv) understanding and improving linkages from production to marketing and trade of fishery products to support small and medium enterprise (SME) development; and (v) strengthening the capacity of aquaculture stakeholders by mainstreaming specific rural and peri-urban aquaculture programs and policies in local, national and international development programs.
Develop and implement social and economic strategies in aquaculture and resource management to secure food and income through stakeholder collaboration.
Respond to the specific recommendations for meeting the social and economic challenges in aquaculture identified and adopted during the 2011 ASEAN-SEAFDEC Conference. These include:
- prioritizing collaborative R&D in aquaculture in the region to have a clear regional assessment and understanding of the role of aquaculture in poverty alleviation and provide basis for policy formulation;
- allocating R&D resources to address emerging issues on the impacts of climate change and global trade on aquaculture with emphasis on small-holder fish farmers; and
- enhancing multi-agency collaboration, sharing of information and resources between and among SEAFDEC and its member countries and other organizations in addressing the common problems of alleviating the socioeconomic conditions of the poor sector of region
Collaborative ways of dissemination and adoption of aquaculture technologies to secure food for inland and coastal communities
- Co-establish with stakeholders the necessary baseline information for designing demonstration activities that promote culture of new and indigenous aquaculture species in upland (e.g. hatchery and grow-out culture of tilapia in Dumarao, Capiz) and inland communities (e.g. grow-out of freshwater prawn in Laguna de Bay)
- Formulated adoption pathways for aquaculture technologies to guide MSECAP technology demonstration, implementation and adoption studies/activities (e.g. adoption pathway for inland freshwater technologies based on Dumarao experience; and adoption pathway for coastal communities based on Guimaras and Sagay experience)
Assisted and developed aquaculture-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
- Determined through season-long training an on-farm/actual economic indicators (affordability of investment cost, economic profitability, social cost and benefits) for determining viable technologies suitable for SMEs owned and operated by small-holder fish farmers
- Trained fishers and other stakeholders on entrepreneurial skills and financial management of aquaculture enterprises
- Assisted collaborators and established sustainable fish farm models that showcase commercially viable business using aquaculture technologies
Enhanced mechanisms for good governance and involvement of stakeholders in managing aquatic resources
- Recommended policies and up-scaled ordinances to support and maintain fisheries management mechanisms resulting from on-field studies (from barangay to city level, for example, on abalone and sea cucumber catch size regulation as one of the strategies for managing enhanced stocks in Sagay Marine Reserve)
- Increased adoption of full-cycle aquaculture technologies by fish farmers, especially for high-value species (i.e. grouper and mud crab culture where use of wild-sourced juveniles persist) to reduce and stop negative environmental impacts of unsustainable culture practices
Organized a network of social science experts in aquaculture from all SEAFDEC member countries and partners
- Enhanced the initiatives and collaboration forged by the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Human Resources Development Training in Rural Aquaculture in 2008-09 for launching further aquaculture capacity development training, and dissemination of aquaculture and resource enhancement protocols in the Region