By Nathanael Hishamunda, 22/09/2010 | .mp3, 13.2 MB | 1058 views |
Programme: Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010
There is a consensus that modern aquaculture has a business orientation, similar to any small or medium-sized enterprise. For resources to be invested, there must be an enabling economic environment and secure property rights. However, there must also be controls or incentives to curb short-sighted business behaviour that damages the ecology or society. This requires that aquaculture not only be profitable but also environmentally neutral, technically feasible and socially acceptable. Governance plays an important role in achieving this goal.
This paper examines aquaculture governance from a global perspective, looking at its current status and the role of governments in administering and regulating aquaculture, including licence procedures, possible strategies and policy instruments. It also looks at the role and responsibilities of other stakeholders, such as industry, non-governmental organisations and communities.
Over the past decade, considerable progress has been made in addressing aquaculture governance issues. For example, many governments worldwide utilise the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), particularly its Article 9. They also use the FAO published guidelines for reducing administrative burdens and for improving planning and policy development in aquaculture, and have defined adequate national aquaculture development laws, policies, strategies and plans. Moreover, individual countries have used “Best Management Practices” and manuals on farming techniques that have been promoted by industry organisations and development agencies. The aim is to ensure an orderly and sustainable sector development.
However, aquaculture governance remains an issue in many countries. Some of its manifestations include conflicts over marine sites, disease outbreaks that could have been prevented, a widespread public mistrust of aquaculture in certain countries, inability of small-scale producers to meet foreign consumers’ quality standard requirements and inadequate development of the sector in certain jurisdictions despite favourable demand and supply conditions.
There are other key observations that emerge from this global perspective of aquaculture governance. Firstly, the importance of governance cannot be over-stated. It is as critical to successful aquaculture as feed, seed, capital and technology. Without good governance aquaculture operations will not appear or will not last. Markets and inputs may exist, but unless there are individuals willing to spend time and money, and face the risks, aquaculture operations will not be durable.
Secondly, private-sector entrepreneurs (farmers) are the drivers behind durable aquaculture. Their operations may be capital-intensive or low-input intensity but their motivation is risk-adjusted net income. This has been known for a long time in agriculture. Hence, secure property rights with the exclusive right to the proceeds, and protection from arbitrary confiscation of farms are among the minimum conditions for private sector investment. Such property rights are among the factors that underpin an “enabling environment”. Other factors include economic and political stability, the rule of law, low levels of corruption, and effectiveness and efficiency of government activities. If they are in place and markets and inputs exist, entrepreneurs are more likely to invest in aquaculture.
Thirdly, the behaviour of entrepreneurs must be circumscribed. This can be done by economic incentives, peer pressure or regulations. The ideal would be for self-regulation, because then entrepreneurs’ sense of corporate governance would value all stakeholders, including future generations. Unfortunately, experience has demonstrated that many entrepreneurs will ignore negative externalities in their pursuit of short-term profits. Hence, their behaviour must be modified so their interests are reconciled with those of the broader society.
Finally, because the goal of aquaculture governance is to maintain a sustainable industry, the three observations above must be acknowledged and implemented by policy-makers. Not only must an enabling environment permit entrepreneurs to create a profitable and competitive industry, negative externalities mitigated if not avoided altogether and social licence encouraged by accountability and transparency, but also policy-makers must learn from best practices elsewhere and implement them. Mariculture governance will require particular attention.