Issue 17: Seldom-discussed aquaculture issues in Asia

June 26, 2023

There are no simple answers to questions such as: What are the drivers that propel China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam to become the world's top aquaculture producers? Is it all plain sailing, or is the water choppy? How are challenges handled? What role does aquaculture play in meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia?

Take the last question. Aquaculture supports SDG 1 (poverty alleviation) in Asian countries through job creation and improving livelihoods, and by obtaining revenue from international seafood trade. Food produced from aquaculture supports SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being) as aquatic foods can be considered to be a relatively healthy food option.

But aquaculture as practiced in Asian countries have downsides that push back certain SDGs, specifically SDG 6 (clean water), SDG 13 (combat climate change), SDG 14 (life below water – conserving and sustainably use the ocean). The environmental costs the Asian aquaculture sector should bear are hefty. The destruction and degradation of mangroves, wetlands, and coastal areas within Asian countries is staggering. In addition to production, the negative impacts of packaging, marketing, and transporting aquatic products out of Asia into global seafood supply chains are significant.

Why should one care about all these aspects of aquaculture in Asia? Why bother to stitch them together? Can't one just focus on a single aspect (e.g. animal welfare)? Not familiarizing oneself with the entire ecosystem is not a smart move. One risks not being able to spot problems that come from outside one's stomping ground until it is too late. One may fail to figure out the real reasons why the outcome of a project is disappointing if the reasons originate from factors beyond that single aspect one focuses on.

This issue of ASWT brings up several seldom-discussed topics as examples to remind one of the wide range of characteristics and aspects of Asian aquaculture. Two of them are on shrimp farming, one focused on Vietnam, and the other on the Philippines. Even in the corner of shrimp farming alone, there is a large bundle of strands that need to untangled and understood.

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