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Sustainable aquaculture technologies

Igang cages, Philippines
Sustainable aquaculture technologies focus on increasing aquaculture production and productivity to maximize impacts on poverty and hunger without compromising the environment.
Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-production sector in the world and now supplies almost half of the global fish consumption. Trends in many of the drivers of demand indicate that aquaculture will continue to expand. In particular, Asian and African aquaculture must grow substantially to meet domestic and regional demand for fish by increasing production without using more water and land resources.
Smallholders have small plots of land and subsequently their ponds are usually small. Due to lack of capital, smallholders depend largely on available resources on the farm to fertilize their ponds, which are unproductive and generate little surplus for sale. While this sort of aquaculture can be a viable means of diversifying livelihoods, reducing poverty and vulnerability to external shocks such as climate change, we must focus on determining how to help farmers secure the assets needed to develop productive and profitable businesses. This means working with a range of partners to develop appropriate technologies, improve management, secure access to essential inputs (quality seed, fertilizers and feed and affordable credit) and improve connections to markets.
Farmers need timely access to healthy, productive fish seed.  Selective breeding of fish has yielded sustained improvements in growth of at least 5-10% per generation, resulting in strains that perform much better in farm conditions than their wild ancestors. Access to genetically improved strains, however, remains limited. If aquaculture is to grow without excessive demands on land, water and feed, genetic improvement programs for key fish species need to be implemented with effective means for seed distribution.
Shortages of quality fish seed are compounded by a similar lack of access to affordable quality fertilizers and feed which are essential elements of increasing production and productivity. However, access to fishmeal and fish oil, key aquaculture feed ingredients, is declining because of diminishing catches, competing demands and rapidly escalating prices. If farmed seafoods are to be an environmentally sustainable means of improving food and nutrition security, then producers must increasingly rely on plant-based feeds that neither compromise the nutritional quality of the farmed product, nor compete with poor people who would otherwise consume the materials directly.
We aspire to reduce poverty and vulnerability through the development and sustained uptake of productive, profitable aquaculture technologies. This must be achieved at scale to offer a viable means of diversifying livelihoods, creating employment and increasing incomes, thereby reducing vulnerability to external shocks. We also seek to improve food and nutrition security by developing technologies that increase access of nutritious food that meets the needs of poor and socially marginalized consumers.
We will pursue our goals by working in a limited number of geographic areas. To achieve timely impacts at scale we must quickly identify readily transferrable, effective and cost efficient interventions. From past experience, we will seek resources for the scalability of the technologies in those parts of the world where opportunities have been identified, and where we believe increased production of farmed fish can deliver on our aspirations for development impact.
To reduce poverty and hunger while minimizing impacts on ecosystem services requires that WorldFish and development partners must achieve:
  • implementation of robust genetic improvement programs in focal countries that will sustain the continued development of productive strains of fish and aquatic invertebrates that meet the needs of poor producers and consumers;
  • reduced risks of disease;
  • implementation of effective and cost-efficient quality seed multiplication and dissemination programs that facilitate access by poor producers;
  • improved access to affordable credit;
  • improved access to profitable and environmentally sound fertilizers and feeds, and adoption of better fertilizer and feed management systems;
  • the sustained adoption of aquaculture production technologies and development of value chains that produce safe and affordable produce that meet the nutrition needs of poor consumers.
Key research questions
In pursuit of these impacts and outcomes we will address the following key research questions:
  • How are genetic improvement programs best established in focal countries so as to deliver continued improvements in production, productivity, profitability and nutritional value, while minimizing impacts on the environment?
  • How can poor producers in focal countries best achieve access to and benefit from genetically improved seed?
  • How can we develop and ensure use of better feed and fertilizers and management systems in focal countries?
  • How can we increase the availability of and access to farmed aquatic products that meet the nutritional requirements of poor consumers?
  • How can we ensure that small and medium scale enterprises in focal countries receive business development and associated services necessary for sustainable growth?
  • How can we increase aquaculture productivity and production without expanding the ecological footprint?
  • How can we ensure that knowledge transfer and networking systems lead to adoption of WorldFish technologies beyond focal countries, providing the basis for wider impact?