By Joao Gomes Ferreira, 24/09/2010 | .mp3, 12.51 MB | 820 views |
Programme: Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010
Attention is presently turning to the processes, methods, and tools that allow the principles of the ecosystem approach to aquaculture to be translated into practical implementation. An essential element for this is the use of virtual technology and decision-support tools, particularly if developing nations are to promote the key elements of aquaculture sustainability.
We provide an overview of current and emerging issues and trends related to this topic over the past decade, an assessment of progress with regard to the expectations and commitments expressed in the Bangkok Declaration and conclude with some thoughts for the future.
‘Virtual technology’ is the means by which conceptual models can be made more formal and tested against reality. It involves the collection of data, the integration of these data within a system (information system), the formalisation of the system and the action on the system (simulation) with a given purpose. In this review, we therefore address two different types of tools: (a) modelling tools (the way by which information is used for a given purpose – modelling is used here in a very broad sense) and the link to data collection technology, and (b) tools which allow measurements to be made and translate data into information (information and communication technology).
Natural resource managers, aquaculturists and other stakeholders pose questions on water quality diagnosis, growth and system carrying capacity and environmental effects, local-scale interactions, prediction of harmful algal blooms, disease control systems, environmental product certification, socio-economic optimisation, spatial definition of natural and human components of ecosystems and of competing, conflicting and complementary uses of land and water. A good many of these can be addressed, at least in part, by means of virtual technologies and decision-support tools. Different stakeholders need replies to these questions at differing time and space scales; for instance an environmental manager for an estuary or coastal bay might be interested in system-scale carrying capacity, both in terms of production and environmental impact, while at the level of ICZM the role of bottom-up (e.g. nutrient-related) effects and top-down (e.g. shellfish grazing) control might be an important consideration. Farmers will be more concerned with optimising production and profit, disease control and market acceptance. Farmers and managers in the west may be more focused on open coastal systems, whereas in Asia, Central and South America or in Africa, the emphasis may be more on inland or fringing systems such as shrimp and/or fish pond culture.
The data that are needed for management and decision-making are similar across most aquaculture operations. However, the space and time resolution of the data sets are dependent on the scale of the aquaculture operation. Consequently, the data acquisition approaches and needs expand with the scale of the aquaculture operation, and become a system-scale requirement when placed in the context of spatial planning, ecosystem-scale carrying capacity assessment and ICZM.
Examples of key applications focusing on specific issues are provided and contextualised by means of case studies addressing a range of culture types and cultivated species; these consider aquaculture sustainability at the system-scale and farm-scale, deal with open water and land-based pond culture, and with forecasting at the scale of the cultivation cycle and real-time evaluation of animal welfare.
The Bangkok Declaration (NACA/FAO, 2000) aims to ensure the sustainable development of aquaculture over a ten-year horizon. Among the 17 strategic elements of the Bangkok Declaration, none of them made explicit reference to the use of virtual technology, since this area was only starting to emerge. However, it is clear that virtual technologies and decision-support tools for novel management are directly related to a number of strategic elements such as: applying innovations in aquaculture, investing in research and development, and improving information flow and communication.
The main constraints in the application of virtual technology in developing countries are identified, together with potential ways to address such problems. The aquaculture industry is going to be affected by many different issues and trends over the coming years, often operating concurrently, sometimes in unexpected ways, and producing changes in the industry that may be very rapid indeed. Without a doubt, virtual technology and decision-support tools will play an important role in addressing many of these, and will therefore underpin many of elements of the Bangkok Declaration and Strategy. Some of the directions and challenges are: innovations that will drive virtual technology, information exchange and networking, links between industry and research centres, collaboration between developed and developing countries, and strategic alliances in developing countries, making virtual technology tools more production- and management-oriented. Even if attractive and promising, these tools will have to be adapted to local realities and conditions to really become useful (and used) in the future. This requires a compromise with respect to ease of use, data requirements and scientific complexity. A few of the gaps identified in this review are: disease and harmful algal bloom modelling, use of models for certification and traceability, and modelling with data scarcity.
In the future, virtual technologies will play an increasingly important role in the prediction of potential aquaculture siting and production, environmental impacts and sustainability, and the next decade will bring about major breakthroughs in key areas such as disease-related modelling, and witness a much broader use of virtual technology for improving and promoting sustainable aquaculture in many parts of the world.