If we could start again

Fish Farmer - - Opinion - BY NICK JOY

SOME­ONE was telling me how this amaz­ing mag­a­zine is now in­creas­ing cir­cu­la­tion in some of the more in­ter­est­ing parts of the world, which made me think about those places where aqua­cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly marine aqua­cul­ture, is just start­ing. What would I of­fer as ad­vice to the gov­ern­ments of those coun­tries if I could?

Now we have a ma­ture reg­u­la­tion sys­tem and our pro­duc­tion is at least rel­a­tively co­or­di­nated.We talk to each other (a bit) and at least try to mit­i­gate the ef­fect of our op­er­a­tions on our neigh­bours.We have also got used to the con­fu­sion that faces gov­ern­ment.

As time passes, we elect peo­ple who are more and more dis­tant from ru­ral ac­tiv­ity, who like to ‘virtue sig­nal’ by pass­ing laws which en­shrine easy an­swers to ev­ery­thing. So en­vi­ron­ment and wel­fare dom­i­nate, while wor­ry­ing about ru­ral em­ploy­ment drops right down the agenda. So what would I ad­vise a coun­try just start­ing down our road? First of all, the thorny sub­ject of site lo­ca­tion; this has proved to be the most in­sid­i­ous of is­sues. It is not that they were sited in the wrong place, but more that we did not know what sep­a­ra­tion dis­tances should be and of­ten busi­nesses wanted to stay close to a hub.

Then other com­pa­nies dis­cov­ered that these ar­eas were good for pro­duc­tion and ev­ery­body jammed in to­gether. Own­er­ship, pro­duc­tion cy­cle, species, and so many other con­sid­er­a­tions im­pinge on this de­ci­sion.

The is­sues in Scot­land came from al­low­ing small farm­ers to de­velop small sites which got taken over by larger com­pa­nies, which nat­u­rally wanted to grow them.

So my strong­est ad­vice would be to have ex­ces­sive dis­tance be­tween sites to start with and try to keep dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies, species and pro­duc­tion sys­tems prop­erly sep­a­rated un­til your in­dus­try starts to ma­ture.

Next, some­thing that is of­ten for­got­ten in our in­dus­try is the ex­tra­or­di­nary work of what was the HIDB (High­lands and Is­lands De­vel­op­ment Board). Create a team to un­der­stand the needs of aqua­cul­ture: sites, fund­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, staff and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion that young in­dus­tries will have shocks and mis­takes.

Make sure that there is plenty of lo­cal sup­port in the ar­eas where aqua­cul­ture is start­ing.

If all this is in place then there will be en­trepreneurs, ex­ter­nal in­vestors and large aqua­cul­ture com­pa­nies that will want to come into your area.The al­low to hap­pen.

I would sug­gest that a strong in­dus­try needs a good mix. An in­dus­try dom­i­nated by big play­ers be­comes a com­mod­ity pro­ducer, which tends to­wards over­pro­duc­tion, but also to­wards a sin­gle style of pro­duc­tion and thus is vul­ner­a­ble to all the prob­lems of large scale mono­cul­ture.

I am not say­ing that there should not be large scale pro­duc­tion, but gov­ern­ment should as much as pos­si­ble en­cour­age the small scale to keep the in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship alive.

Our in­dus­try has be­come dom­i­nated by one species and pri­mar­ily one

Our in­dus­try is brit­tle to shocks as is shown cur­rently by the is­sues it faces.We are not di­verse and thus we are vul­ner­a­ble.

Lis­ten to the en­vi­ron­men­tal lobby with limited en­thu­si­asm.This is not to say that the en­vi­ron­ment doesn’t mat­ter, but that logic and pro­por­tion of­ten go out of the win­dow.

We need to feed a grow­ing world pop­u­la­tion.The rich coun­tries have Aqua­cul­ture can only thrive where the en­vi­ron­ment is good.

Fish are good en­vi­ron­men­tal tell tales and will show their dis­ap­proval in the sim­plest of ways, by dy­ing.

Pro­duc­tion vol­umes should al­ways be cau­tious and grown care­fully with ap­pro­pri­ate mon­i­tor­ing. Se­abed sur­veys be­fore and dur­ing are crit­i­cal.

If there is a body that is closely work­ing with the in­dus­try then a clear un­der­stand­ing of the per­mis­si­ble growth pa­ram­e­ters will de­velop. Again, this is a key com­po­nent of a nascent aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try.

Lastly, as I learnt work­ing in Mozam­bique, there are plenty of species out there that are won­der­ful to eat and rel­a­tively sim­ple to grow with the right peo­ple. But the mar­ket has the ca­pac­ity to undo all of the good work if there are price crashes. There needs to be sup­port in the mar­ket to pro­vide for a range of prod­ucts.

with wild caught equiv­a­lents, and dur­ing this pe­riod in­dus­try needs un­der­stand­ing.

Scot­land has an aqua­cul­ture sec­tor that is rightly the envy of a lot of the world but it is not per­fect.What is?

Nonethe­less, it has had a good model for de­vel­op­ment and while there are crit­ics, there is lit­tle or no en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age ev­i­dent af­ter 50 years or so. Maybe we are a bit one di­men­sional but we are cer­tainly suc­cess­ful and there have been times when it might not have been so. Good luck to

you all.

Fish are good en­vi­ron­men­tal tell tales and will show their dis­ap­proval in the sim­plest of ways, by dy­ing

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