What is good aquaculture? << back

Small-scale aquaculture

Did you know that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that between 70 and 80 percent of all aquaculture is small-scale?  This means that these enterprises are “family-owned or leased, managed and operated”.  While small-scale enterprises are important for subsistence farming as well as for supplying local markets, small-scale scale aquaculture is also involved in global distribution chains. However, due to their size, small-scale farmers often experience difficulties implementing ‘good aquaculture practices’ which advance food safety, animal health and welfare as well as minimizing negative environmental and social impacts.  Global multi-stakeholders initiatives (comprised of governments, NGOs and the private sector) and ‘certified aquaculture’ are helping to change this.

Let’s explore two examples:

In Vietnam, small-scale shrimp farms account for 80% of all farms ( 85% of the total shrimp farming area) and shrimp is one of the 4 main export aquaculture species (44.93% 2015). The benefits of certified aquaculture can be demonstrated by small-scale farmers in Ca Mau province. In Ca Mau, small-scale farmers grouped together to attain organic certification, as part of a project entitled ‘Mangroves and Markets’. Between 2013 and 2015, these small-scale farmers helped to increase mangrove coverage 39%-44% in the Nhung Mien forest area and planted an additional 80 hectares of mangroves. Thus certified aquaculture is working to promote and protect biodiversity in the face of climate change where mangroves are the first line of defense.

In India, 90% of shrimp is produced by small-scale farmers using less than 2 hectares for their enterprise.  In 2007, the first group of farms joined together to create a ‘shrimp society’, with the assistance of the National Center for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA) which was created by the Indian government agency, the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA). A shrimp society is typically between 20 and 70 farms. As of 2015 the number of ‘shrimp societies’ in India had grown to 220 with 5312 farms involved in the initiative. Farms in ‘shrimp societies’ benefit from assistance in the implementation of better management practices a.k.a. ‘good aquaculture practices’. Currently, multi-stakeholder initiatives are working to help Indian ‘shrimp societies’ improve market access through group certification.

Shrimp is just one many species which illustrates the importance of small-scale farmers in aquaculture. As the world’s population continues to grow; so will the need for increased engagement with small-scale aquaculture. Through multi-stakeholder initiatives, the promotion of ‘good aquaculture practices’ provides a responsible roadmap, and ‘certified aquaculture’ contributes by providing a market incentive.