White Leg Prawn
Governance and Outlook
Vannamei are farmed in many nations but predominately those in Asia and Latin America. Governance systems play an important part in ensuring environmental sustainability and whilst these have evolved rapidly with the growth of the industry, there are differences between countries. Poor governance can result in industry stagnation, the spread of preventable diseases, environmental damage and opposition to aquaculture by local communities and groups1, and can lead to the ‘boom and bust’ cycles seen in warm water prawn farming.
Four principles – accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of governments, equity, and predictability of the rule of law – are necessary for effective aquaculture governance. These principles should guide the administration, legislative and regulatory framework of aquaculture. In addition to governments, other stakeholders such as communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and producers should also be involved in the governance of the industry.
Many countries in Asia-Pacific have made efforts to set up policies, administrative, legal and regulatory frameworks to develop and manage aquaculture. Overall, Asia-Pacific regional countries enjoy established strong aquaculture governance structures (policies, institutions, regulations, etc.) in support of sustainable development and management of aquaculture at all levels.
In some of the countries that have made conducive policies, implementation is delayed by the lack of financial and skilled human resources. Policies and regulations may be enacted, but unless there are sufficient government personnel with adequate skills and financial resources to monitor and enforce them, they will remain ineffective. Almost all countries in the region now require licensing to practice aquaculture. All commercial aquaculture establishments must undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) or Initial Environmental Examinations (IEEs) and register with the authorities before starting to farm. As aquaculture governance has improved and production increased in the region, many products have found markets internationally.
Whilst regulations have been created or tightened, the most important development has been the increasing uptake of Best Management Practices (BMPs), codes of conduct or practices3 and certification schemes.
Certification is a voluntary process by which suppliers demonstrate environmental protection, responsible sourcing and production practices that minimise impacts and comply with national legislation. The use of independent third party international certification schemes within warm water prawn aquaculture has been growing4, 5, 6; seeking to promote and instil responsible aquaculture practices in the industry via individual farm certification.
As many wild fish stocks are already exploited at their maximum or have been overfished in Latin America, the significance and contribution of aquaculture will continue to grow. In order to fully realise this potentially valuable contribution to food security and economic growth, Latin America faces a number of challenges in the development and implementation of sound aquaculture governance through policy and planning. In some cases, aquaculture is considered an extension of fisheries, this being a failure to recognise that management strategies for fisheries and aquaculture are different. There is however, a recent recognition in the region of the imperative to create proper management and governance approaches to accommodate aquaculture’s circumstances and the need for governments and industry to work more closely together.
Between 2008 and 2011 annual global production of farmed penaeids - prawn species from the Penaeidae family, which includes monondon - was 3.5-4 million tonnes. In 2018 it was 5.7 million tonnes8, and the trend is set for continued future growth.
Several strong inter-governmental agencies have been established in support of prawn farming/general aquaculture development in Asia-Pacific. Dedicated international and regional agencies provide technical and financial assistance for the development and better management of the aquaculture sector in the region. Many countries in Asia-Pacific have also established private or semi-private aquaculture associations/partnerships focussing on overall aquaculture development and/or specific aspects such as trade (e.g. the Vietnam Association for Sea Food Exports or VASEP). Many bilaterally assisted programmes have also contributed to this endeavour and these efforts are continuing.
NGOs have also contributed. The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership9 for example, implement Aquaculture Improvement Partnerships (AIPs) aiming to reduce or mitigate the potential cumulative impacts of warm water prawn farming practices at a zonal level; with producers, suppliers and buyers working together to address sustainability issues. The sector is likely to develop further with greater adoption of certification schemes which require adherence to governance regimes.
Intensification of warm water prawn aquaculture is likely to be the only means to continue to increase prawn production and maintain profitability10, and there may continue to be further consolidation of the industry, with increasing larger, more efficient farms
It has been recognized that improved governance to facilitate aquaculture sustainability and development is now a high-ranking priority in this region. Increasing market demand, natural conditions suitable for culture, the need to contribute to food security, as well as social and economic development, should enable producers, workers and public/private administrators to strive for a wider and more successful aquaculture industry; exchanging experiences and cooperating on complex problems. Steps are being taken to address this; for instance, the FAOs Blue Growth Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean has been initiated to improve sustainable management of aquaculture (and fishery) resources11. Also a national initiative in Ecuador called the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership or SSP has recently been launched. SSP is a certification based on ASC standards, but with augmentations for water quality, traceability, and antibiotic usage12.