If we could start again
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
Fish are good environmental tell tales and will show their disapproval in the simplest of ways, by dying