Aquaculture certification steers to zone management

Mitigating the risk of aquaculture diseases is one of many goals of zone management, a promising tool for ensuring responsible farmed seafood production across a given region. Industry, academia and NGOs are seeing the merit behind a shared resource with active, multi-stakeholder support and stewardship.
One aquaculture expert says this systemic assessment of the environmental impacts of aquaculture is more about the water than the organisms being farmed.

“Zone management … covers the issues of sustainable resource management, but we don’t think about the fish (or shrimp, or mussels) as the common resource. We need to think about water as the core focus,” Anton Immink, global aquaculture director for Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), told the Advocate.

Early examples show the efficacy of the approach: In 2011, SFP helped establish a multi-stakeholder alliance with tilapia producers in Hainan Province in tropical China to embrace zone management. The area had earlier witnessed a “boom and bust of unregulated growth,” Immink wrote in a 2013 report for SFP. Farmers in the region, he and fellow SFP researcher Han Han concluded, came to realize the need for establishing a code of good practices, a step toward cooperation and self-regulation. The process only succeeds with active participation, but Immink said it should be an “easier lift” than full farm-level certification.

“Nobody should be concerned that zone management is a limit on production,” he added. “In Indonesia an initial assessment by SFP has indicated that more production should be possible in areas with good water exchange. But data on disease risk management also need to be taken into account.”

Because aquaculture is so uniquely dependent on water quality, and because multiple producers typically occupy shared water resources, a regional management technique could prevent the spread of devastating diseases, the cause of massive losses for both the global farmed salmon and farmed shrimp industries. Zone management can also cover environmental and social benefits such as improved ecosystem surveillance programs, more accurate estimates of carrying capacities and greater community rights.

Other benefits include more robust data collection and industry representation in the marketplace and in the ever-intensifying competition for resources with other industries. Immink, a former aquaculture data manager for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has long advocated for greater zonal management responsibility among producers.

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