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LUCIA - A MAJOR BOOST TO AQUACULTURE PRODUCTION By : Frank Girard Saint Lucia has a premier opportunity to expand existing aquaculture production and develop new aquaculture industries to serve national needs and possibly the regional marketplace. Aquaculture is poised to become a major growth industry of the 21st century, given the latest advances in technological developments in aquaculture introduced by the Taiwanese Technical Mission to the St. Lucian Government. The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries & Forestry is seeking to facilitate improved communication and interaction among aquaculture producers and the aquaculture community in general. The Ministry is also conducting investigations of new aquaculture products or processes that demonstrate a high potential for commercialization; market development programs for new or improved aquaculture products or processes; activities that have a strong potential to create employment opportunities involving aquaculture; and other activities that accelerate the commercialization of promising aquaculture technologies in St. Lucia. A new thrust is being made by the ministry to promote sustainable aquaculture development in St Lucia; the extent to which the proposal includes participation with private aquaculture farms or businesses on the island. On Wednesday April 22nd, 2009, Minister for Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries & Forestry, Ezechiel Joseph, led a delegation to a Demonstration Shrimp Farm owned by Mr. Elford Bradley of Forrestiere. He has engaged in shrimp farming for several years dating back to the early 1970s. According to Mr. Bradley : “I now have 1.6 acres under aquaculture and operating six ponds all together.” He disclosed however, that the government-operated Aquaculture Hatchery at Union Agricultural Station is expected to
assist him and other aquaculture farmers with the provision of the right feed for their shrimp farms, which harvest in excess of One Million baby shrimps per year. The price of the Shrimp better known as “prawns” ranges between EC$25 to $35 per pound. Minister Joseph said, there is great prospect in the aquaculture industry and the government would provide the necessary support to St. Lucian aquaculture farmers, who now number 75 islandwide. There was also a serious concern about the need to market their products as well as to supply adequate amounts to the local market. The St. Lucia fish Marketing Corporation is poised to assist in this regard. The Demonstration Shrimp Farm was also visited by the Head Of the Taiwanese Technical Team to St. Lucia, Mr. Sunny Shaw, who spoke eloquently about the construction of the modern Aquaculture Hatchery at Union. He said, Taiwan had many years of experience in aquaculture development and production. He noted, that St. Lucia stands to benefit greatly from the transfer of technology in aquaculture. Mr. Shaw noted the weakness in providing adequate feed to shrimp farms on the island. He is confident that this challenge will be met shortly when the new Aquaculture Hatchery becomes fully operational, by supplying more nutritious ingredients. The visit to Elford Bradley’s Demonstration Shrimp Farm was quite an eye-opener, especially the first-hand harvesting techniques demonstrated to the visitors. Meanwhile, United States aquaculture provides wholesome products for domestic consumers and contributes significantly to employment opportunities and the quality of life in rural communities in the United States. In 1983, United States aquaculture production was 308,400,000 pounds with a farm gate value of $261,000,000. In 1994, the industry
produced 666,000,000 pounds with a farm gate value of $751,000,000. Aquaculture accounted for approximately 6 percent of the total United States fish and shellfish harvest in 1994. In 1994, per capita consumption of aquatic foods in the United States was 15 pounds per person per year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has identified aquaculture as one of the world's fastest growing food production activities. The world production of aquaculture doubled from 10,000,000 metric tons in 1984 to 21,300,000 metric tons in 1995, with a value of approximately $40,000,000,000. Demand for aquaculture foods is projected to double by 2025. MARICULTURE : In the meantime, the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries & Forestry is exploring the possibility of introducing mariculture to Saint Lucia, particularly spiny lobsters. Mariculture is the farming of aquatic plants and animals in salt water. Thus, mariculture represents a subset of the larger field of aquaculture, which involves the farming of marine organisms for food. The major categories of mariculture species are seaweeds, mollusks, crustaceans, and finfish. Recent information indicates that the total amount of seafood (including fresh-water species and aquatic plants) is about 140 million metric tons annually. Over 20 percent of the total comes from aquatic plants (mostly seaweeds). Marine fish account for only 2 percent of the total. Mollusks (clams, oysters, abalone, scallops, and mussels) represent the most important species cultured in marine waters. Seaweeds (brown, red, and green) are a close second. While most
people do not think that they eat much (or any) seaweed, extracts from seaweeds can be found in everything from toothpaste and ice cream to automobile tires. Seaweeds themselves are dried and used directly as human food in many parts of the world. Crustaceans include shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish. While shrimp culture has become a major industry in Asia and Latin American since the early 1980s, global production is far less than that of mollusks and seaweeds. Marine fish production is even smaller. Top finfish groups include Atlantic salmon, milkfish, sea bream, sea bass, red drum, yellowtail, striped bass, and hybrid striped bass. The top mariculture-producing countries include the following :
Country Species Produced
China mollusks, shrimp Japan algae, mollusks, yellowtail, sea bream Taiwan mollusks, shrimp, eels Philippines algae, shrimp, milkfish United States mollusks, shrimp, Atlantic salmon, red drum Norway salmon Ecuador shrimp Republic of Korea algae, mollusks Indonesia algae, shrimp, milkfish
Types of Operations Various levels of technology are involved in mariculture, the lowest giving nature the major role in producing the crop. The culturist may help prepare the growing area but does little else. For example, oyster culturists may place old shells on the bottom to provide places for a new generation of oysters to attach. The
oysters feed on wild phytoplankton and are harvested when they reach the proper size. The next level would be to spawn oysters in a hatchery and allow the larval oysters (called spat) to settle on oyster shell, after which the shell is placed on the oyster bed in bays or suspended on ropes from a raft. Mussels and scallops also can be grown on ropes below rafts. Ponds. Shrimp and various species of marine fishes are often grown in ponds. The young shrimp and fish are usually produced in hatcheries, though collection of young animals from nature has been used in the past and is still used in some cases. The ponds may be filled with sea water by pumping water, or through tidal flow (the farmer opens the floodgate when the tide is rising and closes it when the pond is full). Depending on the particular species being produced and the size at stocking, the time required for the animals to reach market size can range from a few months to nearly 2 years. Pens and Cages. In addition to ponds, marine fish also are being reared in floating pens or cages in protected bays.* Most cultured salmon are produced in these types of facilities, primarily in Norway, Canada, the United States, Scotland, and Chile. Various other fish species also are being produced in pens and cages in Japan, Europe, and the Middle East. In recent years, there has been interest and a limited amount of activity associated with cage culture in offshore waters. Indoor Facilities. The highest level of technology is associated with indoor facilities in which the animals are grown in raceways or tanks (circular raceways) that receive pumped seawater that may be taken
directly from the ocean. The water may be flowed through the tanks and discarded, or it may be recirculated, that is, reused by passing it through an elaborate water treatment system. Marine species can be reared to market size in such facilities, but they are most commonly used as hatcheries and to hold broodstock (adults used for reproduction). Considerations While a number of species are being reared successfully by mariculturists, several desirable ones have not yet been produced economically. This lack of commercial production is because their life cycles either are difficult to control under culture conditions or are very complex. In addition, a number of popular food animals are highly cannibalistic. Various species of crabs and lobsters, for example, are difficult-to-rear species that also are cannibalistic. Opposition to mariculture has developed in several countries since the 1980s. Many people do not want to see pens and cages in their bays, and they are concerned about possible environmental impacts associated with mariculture. Scientists are attempting to address these and a variety of other issues that have been raised. The goal is to produce high-quality seafood in an environmentally responsible manner. Although world fish production from capture fisheries leveled off during the 1990s, demand for seafood continues to increase. This is because of the growth of the human population and also the view that seafood is healthy food. Scientists believe that natural production from the ocean will not increase; consequently, if the demand for seafood by humans is to be met in the future, both mariculture and fresh-water aquaculture production will have to increase significantly.
Obviously, there is a great deal in store for St. Lucian aquaculture farmers who are willing to take a plunge in this niche market in the near future. The Ministry stands willing to offer technical assistance. ENDS==========(Frank Girard)