Fisheries have a long tradition of implementing sustainable practices. In aquaculture, the concept of sustainable practices is more recent and there is therefore a need for methodologies to evaluate the sustainability of the practice's performance.
The Aquaculture Performance Indicators (API) assess the economic, social, and environmental sustainability aspects of aquaculture sectors. These indicators are based on the triple bottom-line definition of sustainability. This definition of sustainability affirms that economic activities should consider social and environmental aspects besides the economic profit aspect. Nevertheless, sustainability is a tricky concept and there is still no consensus on its definition.
Discussed case studies
Currently, researchers from the Blue Resources for Development, BlueRForD, collaborative program are applying the API methodology to analyze sustainable performance of aquaculture activities across different sectors and countries.
The researchers met in Cartagena, Colombia, in March, to discuss preliminary results from a number of case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia where they are applying the same methodology and procedures. Their main goal is to understand the environmental impact of aquaculture in the selected countries, for example, the negative externalities connected to the genetic impact on species, the effects of fish escape to the local environments, effects of fish disease, distribution of waste, water use, and costs of feeding.
Received input from stakeholder
During this meeting, researchers also discussed with and received inputs to their research from Mónica Vasquez, the coordinator of sustainability at Fedeacua, which is the Colombian guild of private firms in aquaculture. She commented on the producer’s concerns about aquaculture sustainability and said that the API methodology complements the sustainability criteria of the aquaculture producers in Colombia.
“Engaging with Fedeacua has allowed us to establish direct contact with aquaculture producers and stakeholders in Colombia, and the guild is also providing us key information to advance in our goal of assessing aquaculture performance”, said Jorge Marco Renau, who is leading a research project for the case study of the fish tilapia in Colombia.
Threats to the environment
From the aquaculture perspective, Colombia has many challenges because the aquaculture sector does not have a protocol to evaluate the sustainability of its activities. If aquaculture is conducted without sustainability standards, there are many environmental threats. In this country, the aquaculture activity has grown without control during the last 30 years causing the loss of mangroves, water pollution, and conflict over land use and territory. So far, the only approach to sustainability that aquaculture businesses have is the quality requirements from the US and the European Union to receive their fish exports.
“To the best of our knowledge, we will be the first ones in Colombia to talk about sustainability in aquaculture using scientific evidence,” says Jorge Marco Renau.
After the meeting in Cartagena, he and Nicolás Valbuena went to Huila, which is located in the central-south region of Colombia in the Magdalena River Valley. There, they conducted interviews with not only the two largest producers and exporters of tilapia in Colombia but also small-scale producers, aiming to compare the sustainability performance between export-oriented and domestic-oriented production in Huila, an emerging aquaculture hub in Colombia.
By: Manuela Fonseca (comm officer -EfD Colombia)