Organic Aquaculture - A new approach in fisheries Development
Dr. Subhendu Datta Senior Scientist Kolkata, India
Introduction: For Organic Agriculture, USDA's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) presented a definition in 1995: “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony". The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole. Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water. Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people. Diminishing fishery harvests, wild fish food-safety issues, environmental concerns, increased fish consumption, and the increasing market share of organic foods have combined to focus attention on “organic aquaculture.” Consumer demand may well drive the organic production of finfish, shellfish, and other aquatic species into the mainstream during the next decade. Organic aquaculture has attracted the attention of researchers from several academic disciplines as well as that of environmental advocates and entrepreneurial innovators. A small number of “certified” and non-certified organic fish and microalgae products have made it to the retail market place in the developed countries. While the regulatory specifics still need to be addressed, this new organic market niche has significant potential for growth in the future (Boehmer et al., 2005).
Conventional Aquaculture: 1
Aquaculture is defined as the production of aquatic animals and plants under controlled conditions for all or part of their lifecycle. The combination of the environment, equipment, and techniques selected for the farming of an aquatic species is referred to as the aquaculture production or cultural system. Several different types of systems have been developed based on availability of environmental resources and the type of species being raised. Environmental factors that can influence aquacultural system and species selection include salinity of the water (marine, brackish and fresh), seasonal climate, watershed drainage, and tides. The major aquaculture systems are pond culture, cage culture, raceway, recirculating and integrated. Each of these systems has characteristics that may lead to consideration for organic production. Conventional Aquaculture: Environmental Issues The outlook for aquaculture worldwide is growing. According to FAO statistics, aquaculture’s contribution to global supplies of fish, crustaceans and molluscs continues to grow, increasing from 3.9 percent of total production by weight in 1970 to 27.3 percent in 2000. Aquaculture is growing more rapidly than all other animal food producing sectors. Worldwide, the sector has increased at an average compounded rate of 9.2 percent per year since 1970, compared with only 1.4 percent for capture fisheries and 2.8 percent for terrestrial farmed meat production systems” (FAO, 2001a). Aquacultural activities, like their terrestrial farming counterparts, affect surrounding ecosystems. Despite numerous regulations aimed at ameliorating these effects, environmental impacts currently associated with some operations and practices draw criticism of the industry. Concerns include pollution from solid waste and effluent by-products, pesticide and antibiotic residues, introductions of species to non-native environments, and transmission of disease between individual organisms and to other species. These impacts have been documented across several production systems and types of farmed species (Pillay, 1992). Developments in research and policy are increasingly being focused on resolving these environmental problems. Members of the aquaculture community believe that sustainable and ecologically based management practices can lead to environmentally benign aquacultural operations. Costa-Pierce (2002) envisaged a future where “ecological agriculture research is oriented to the design, development, and monitoring of aquatic farming systems that preserve and enhance the form and functions of the natural and social environments in which they are 2
suited. Aquaculture depends upon inputs from various food, processing, transportation and other industries, and can produce valuable, uncontaminated wastewaters and fish processing wastes, all of which can be a vital part of an ecological system that can be planned and organized for community-based aquatic foods production – and natural ecosystem rehabilitation, reclamation and enhancement – not degradation.” Additionally, aquaculture may provide some relief to over-fishing pressures for some species by supplying rising consumer demand for these products. Thus, the opportunity exists to create aquacultural systems that are models of environmental stewardship. The development and implementation of organic production practices may lead the way in this effort. Organic Production in Aquaculture Defining “organic aquaculture” is very much a work-in-progress and, for many reasons, an endeavor marked by controversy. Members of both the organic and the aquaculture communities disagree on how, or even if, aquatic animal and plant production systems can qualify as “organic” as the term is commonly used. Any potential definition must be a multi-faceted one. “Organic” in the context of food production connotes standards and certification – a verifiable claim for the production process and production practices – as well as more elusive characteristics such as consumer expectation for food quality and safety and general environmental, social, and economic benefits for farmers and for society. The variety of species produced in aquacultural systems and vast differences in cultural requirements for finfish, shellfish, mollusks, and aquatic plants add to the complexity of defining this sector. Some species and some production systems may prove quite difficult to adapt to a traditional “organic” system (Boehmer et al., 2005). Traditional organic farming systems “rely on ecologically based practices, such as cultural and biological pest management, and virtually exclude the use of synthetic chemicals in crop production and prohibit the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production.” Sustainability, environmental stewardship, and holistic, integrated approaches to production are hallmarks of organic systems. Standards for organic cropping and terrestrial livestock husbandry practices have existed for decades. In recent years, standards have been incorporated into state and national organic rule making and certification requirements. Interpreting practices and standards developed for terrestrial species into practices and standards relevant to aquatic species, both animal and plant, remains a major challenge for 3
organic aquaculture. How can aquatic operations comply with the requirements for an organic system plan, for obtaining acceptable stock, for implementing health care monitoring and management, for maintaining prescribed “living conditions,” for development and acceptance of allowed and prohibited substances lists, for organic feed requirements, for controlled postharvest processing, for nutrient management, and for required animal identification and record-keeping? Many specialists agree that the most immediate deterrent to production of organic animals is the issue of providing organically produced feed, especially for species requiring significant proportions of animal-based protein. Where will it come from? Can wild-caught fish and fish by-products be utilized as organic feed stock for farmed species? Should emphasis be placed on farming low trophic species? Other points:
Criteria for evaluating the suitability of a production site for an organic aquaculture operation; specifically, how standards will be developed for the site of production to address nutrient concentration/effluent management and water testing parameters, chemical drift, the emergence and transfer of disease, the escape of captive species to the wild, biodiversity, and detrimental impacts on indigenous species;
Guidelines to control practices used in aquaculture operations that are consistent with organic principles, especially with regard to chemicals administered to control diseases and parasites, and to accommodating “natural behaviour” and animal welfare in closed systems;
Induction of triploidy in fish species; Origin of livestock requirement for aquaculture operations that obtain stock or fry from wild populations;
• • •
Status of “wild caught” fish and related by-products; Conversion requirements for producers wishing to change over to an organic system; Recordkeeping/traceability elements, and inspection practices pertinent to aquatic species; and
Harmonization of organic aquaculture standards between countries.
Today, organic aquaculture production takes place primarily in Europe, where certified organic salmon, carp, and trout are grown and sold. Certified organic mussels, Tiger shrimp, white shrimp, and tilapia also are cultured in such diverse places as Vietnam, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, New Zealand, and Israel. Standards and certification procedures are set by just a few certification agencies. Universal acceptance of any standards does not currently exist. To risk investment in this sector, producers require formally recognized standards in order to communicate the advantages of organic aquaculture products to consumers. The key to the continued growth and development of organic aquaculture lies in resolving a number of issues that currently stand in the way of instituting internationally accepted certification standards (Boehmer et al., 2005). Research and Development Aquatic species, both animal and plant; ecological situations and locations; and various production systems, both marine and freshwater; are now under scrutiny in order to determine adaptability to organic production systems. Concern about the production and handling requirements that organic standards would impose and the overarching environmental impacts that organic systems attempt to address has pointed research and development efforts in some new directions. Current research activities with important implications for the organic aquaculture industry include: alternative feeds, especially protein sources from grain and oilseed plants; culture of low-trophic aquatic species; disease management and use of natural and alternative medicines; polyculture and multi-species systems; self-filtering systems; techniques for expanded recovery of fishery by-catch and waste for use in organic systems; implications of using closed containment systems; environmentally sound effluent management systems; and consumer studies related to food preferences and purchasing habits (Bullis, 2004; Mathies, 2002). Draft IFOAM general principles concerning organic aquaculture production (IFOAM, 2002) Conversion to Organic Aquaculture
Conversion to organic aquaculture is a process of developing farming practices that encourage and maintain a viable and sustainable aquatic ecosystem. The time between 5
the start of organic management and certification of the production is known as the conversion period.
Aquaculture production methods can vary widely according to biology of the organisms, technology used, geographical conditions, ownership structure, time span, etc. These aspects should be considered when the length of conversion is specified.
Management techniques must be governed by the physiological and ethological needs of the organisms in question. The organisms should be allowed to meet their basic behavioural needs. Management techniques, especially when applied to influence production levels and speed of growth must maintain and protect the good health and welfare of the organisms.
When introducing non-native species, special care must be to avoid permanent disruption to natural ecosystems.
Location of Production Units
Location of organic production units maintains the health of the aquatic environment and surrounding aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem.
Location of Collecting Areas
Wild, sedentary/sessile organisms in open collecting areas may be certified as organic if they are derived from an unpolluted, stable and sustainable environment.
Health and Welfare Management practices achieve a high level of disease resistance and prevention of infections.
All management techniques, especially when influencing production levels and speed of growth maintain the good health and welfare of the organisms. Living aquatic organisms should be handled as little as possible.
The well being of the organisms is paramount in the choice of treatment for disease or injury.
Breeds and Breeding
Breeding strategies and practices in organic aquaculture interfere as little as possible with natural behaviour of the animals. Natural breeding methods are used.
Organic aquaculture production provides a good quality diet balanced according to the nutritional needs of the organism. Feed is only offered to the organisms in a way that allows natural feeding behaviour, with minimum loss of feed to the environment.
Feed compromises by-products from organic food processing and wild marine feed resources not otherwise suited for human consumption.
Harvesting • Harvesting certified organic aquatic organisms from enclosures or collecting areas creates minimum stress to the organisms. The act of collection does not negatively affect natural areas.
Transportation of Living Animals
The transportation medium should be appropriate for the species with regards to water quality, including salinity, temperature, oxygen, etc. Transportation distance, duration and frequency should be minimised.
Slaughter process minimises the stress and suffering of the organism. Slaughter management and techniques governed by careful consideration of the physiology and ethology of the organisms in question and accepted ethical standards.
Organic aquaculture and the environment In marked contrast to the freshwater-dependent terrestrial agricultural production systems, aquaculture (including organic aquaculture) can also be realised within marine and/or brackish water environments. For example, over half (54.7 percent) of total global aquaculture production currently originates from marine or brackish coastal waters (Figure 1). 7
This includes aquatic plants and molluscs within marine waters (46.6 percent and 44.4 percent total marine production in 1999) and crustaceans (shrimp, crabs) and finfish (mainly salmonids) in brackish water (56.2 percent and 35.7 percent of total brackish water production in 1999 (FAO, 2001). In the case of the total reported certified organic aquaculture products produced in Europe (4 200 - 4 700 tonnes in 2000 (Baker, 2001, Barret, 2001, Bergleiter, 2001a), 87-93 percent of these were produced in marine and brackish waters (i.e. Atlantic salmon and blue mussels). The use of these hitherto largely untapped vast aquatic resources (over two-thirds of our planet being covered by oceans) is particularly essential in view of the urgent need to conserve our precious fresh water supplies for human consumption and conventional agriculture, including livestock production (Vorosmarty et al., 2000). In addition to organic fish and mollusc production, the seas hold particular promise for the production of organic aquatic plants for either for direct human consumption or as much needed organic feed inputs for animal husbandry.
Figure 1: Major aquaculture species groups by rearing environment in 1999 For the organic aquaculture sector to successfully co-exist with other food production sectors, it will have to successfully source its own organic feed and nutrient resources. For example, a major concern with the organic production of carnivorous fish species such as salmon and trout (over 73 percent of farmed finfish production within developed countries currently being carnivorous finfish species) is the use or not of fish meal and fish oil within organic feeds for these species (Tacon and Pruder, 2001). In particular, questions revolve around: 8
whether a product derived from wild caught animals can be certified (Kirschenmann, 2001).
what the maximum level of fish meal or fish oil is that can be used within certified organic feeds (GAA. 2000, Merican, 2001).
the transfer of essential protein and lipid sources from one part of the globe to the other (Bergleiter, 2001b ).
concerning the ethics and long term sustainability of producing organic carnivorous fish species (Staniford, 2001).
Organic agriculture and aquaculture: The Indian scenario Aquaculture and fish farming activities are included as allied activities in Indian agriculture. So to understand the organic aquaculture under Indian context, one has to understand the organic agricultural scenario in India. Organic agriculture in India: (Provided to FAO by the Ministry of Agriculture, India, December 2001, Source: Scialabba and Hattam, 2002). The Indian definition "Organic agriculture is a system of farm design and management that creates an ecosystem which can achieve sustainable productivity without the use of artificial external inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides." Legislation The Indian Government's strategy for organic agriculture is covered by the National Programme for Organic Production which aims to promote sustainable production, environmental conservation, reduction in the use and import of agrochemicals, the promotion of export and rural development. This strategy is promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Commerce. 9
Specific legislation has only been developed for the export of organic products. This is regulated by Public Notice No. 19 (RE-2001)/1997-2002, 11 June 2001 (duly amended by 25 (RE-2001)/1997-2002, 2 July 2001). Support to organic agriculture Economic: A programme of direct economic support is provided to farmers; however, this is limited in scale. As an incentive to adopt organic farming Rs 10 000 (approximately US$230) per ha is provided both during the conversion period (3 years) and after (as required). The total cost to the country will be Rs 3.5 million (US$80 000) per year until 2006-2007. This financial support aims to compensate for losses, promote organic agriculture, support infrastructure development (e.g. the purchase of machinery and equipment, and the re-structuring of rural buildings), for conducting feasibility studies and preparation of guidelines for organic production. Some other specific financial incentives do exist, such as tax reductions and preferential conditions to credit. Research: Although support to agricultural research is not specific to organic agriculture, backing is given to, for example, the development of biofertilizers and biological control of pests and diseases. The scheme developing biofertilizers has an outlay of US$1.3 million during the years 1998 to 2002, a regular form of extension, technical assistance and training for farmers. A programme also exists for the promotion of organic farms and gardens for self sufficiency at the community level. So far 4 model farms have been developed and replicated. There are now 10 farms following the model developed for the production of organic joha rice and 20 farms using the model for organic sugarcane production in Siphajar, near Guwahati. There are 10 farms producing organic pineapples in Jumerdhepa near Agartala using another model and a further 20 farms using the fourth model for organic passion fruit production in Mao, near Manipur. Marketing: There is no regular support for the marketing or certification of organic products, however, occasionally on a case by case basis, financial help can be made available.
Inspection and certification India has no locally based certification bodies, however, two international certification organizations have branches in India, namely IMO India, part of the Institute of Marketecology, Switzerland and Skal India, subordinate to Skal International, from the Netherlands. ECOCERT International is also active within India, but does not have a local branch. These market for export to the European Union under article 11 of EU Regulation 2092/91, but also certify to standards of non-European Union countries. A National Accreditation Policy has recently been approved in India (May 2001) for the accreditation of certification bodies. The certification bodies already working within India are now being accredited. The Norms that apply follow the standards of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission guidelines for the production, labelling and marketing of organically produced foods. For the present the National Steering Committee for Organic Farming, set up under the Chairmanship of the Secretary of Commerce to the Government of India, together with members from the Ministry of Agriculture, is the competent authority which consents to such accreditation. However, the Ministry of Agriculture will be the nodal Ministry to develop the mechanism for organic standards in the course of time. The organic market In 2000-2001 there were approximately 41 000 ha of land certified as organic in India. At present, organic products sold on the domestic market receive a premium of about 20-30 percent over conventional products. Such organic food is usually sold directly from the farmer or through specialized shops and restaurants. As India has no national legislation for organic agriculture, there is no mandate stating that organic products labelled as such need to be certified, however, a national Indian Organic Logo will eventually be developed for export. Many organic farmer are organized into farmers associations such as the Organic Tea Manufacturers Association, from Calcutta; the Delhi Trust for Development, based in New Delhi and Vidharbha Organic Farming Association, from Hingarh Ghat. Other farmers associations exist but still remain to become active. India does not import any organic products, however the export market was estimated to be worth approximately US$700 000 in 2000-2001. The main market for
exported products was the European Union and involved rice, pulses, sugarcane products, walnuts, fruit pulp, tea, coffee and spices. Future developments Large tracks of land in India particularly the hilly states of North-Eastern India are already cultivated with very low use of agrochemicals, and traditional production systems adopted by farmers for many perennial crops have been, by and large, without any use of fertilizers and pesticides. Although yields in these areas are low and production is principally for subsistence, there exists great scope for organic agriculture. Work carried out in different universities and institutions suggests that the productivity in these areas could be improved further by adoption of organic techniques, for example, organic manure and biopesticides. Recently a package of organic practices for a number of crops has been standardized and is now at the implementation stage. There is growing appreciation for organically grown food, especially as it provides additional value to production. However, there are a number of challenges that India and its organic community need to face: • awareness needs to be raised amongst producers, processors and consumers regarding organic agriculture and the potential on the domestic and export markets for organic products; • domestic markets need to be developed and supported, and the role of NGOs encouraged; • a holistic approach to organic farming needs to be encouraged, both with farmers but also at research institutes and universities; • local certification should be developed and a database on organic farms and marketing of produce should be initiated and maintained.
Scope of organic Aquaculture in India: In India there is an ample opportunity to boost organic crop, livestock and fish production to catch the organic food market of the world. The north-eastern region can become a major organic farming of the world. In N-E region of India, particularly the hill States, have already started moving towards organic agriculture. In the eastern region, it is estimated that about 1.8 million ha already existing as 12
organic by default. It is obvious that large quantity of FYM, compost, vermi-compost, feeds, biopesticides and other organically produced inputs and biomass would be required to compensate for the fertilizers and pesticides. For the sustainability of organic farm, it is important to note that a certified organic farm(s) has to produce most of these inputs in-situ. But that is lacking in the region. With increasing purchasing power and heightened ecological awareness, the demand for organic aquaculture products by major importing countries such as the US and Europe have been on the rise. For India, if the marine shrimp exporter can get 25 per cent of their products labelled as organic, it will fetch an additional Rs 3,000 crore, virtually doubling the present export realisation of Rs 3,500 crore from shrimp. Though aquaculture currently contributes to around 30 per cent of the total shrimp trade of the world, the real future development lies in shrimp farming, especially produced the organic way. Taking the sale of organic salmon as a case in point, its sales in Europe had shot up forty-fold between 1997 and 2000. Further facilitating the export potential, many countries, including the European Union have formulated specific standards and guidelines for organic fish products, distinct from organic farm products. The decision of the US Congress to allow labelling of wild seafood as organic is another such initiative. In India, such initiatives are still lacking. However, on the positive side, making a transition to organic systems, especially in extensive system of shrimp farming would be easy. Also, the technology for production of low-cost organic feeds is available e.g. the shrimp feed, Mahima, developed by CMFRI. Large and comparatively clean and pollution-free water bodies are also available. The natural seed availability for the organic programme is still not in peril. But the institutional support system in the fisheries sector, for research and trade in general should be made capable to tackle the transitional challenges. There is a surging global market waiting for such a product, valued at over $20 billion. Over 90 per cent of this global organic market comes from India's traditional marine export market of US and Europe, and demand for organic products from several of these countries have been growing between 20 to 30 per cent. This represents an interesting combination of product and market diversification, whose rationale is based upon the consumer perceiving value to be added to the product through its differentiated, more natural but controlled production regime (The Hindu Bussiness Line, 2005). 13
Conclusion: Organic fish farming is a new concept and is still in the early stages of development and strives to re-establish a proper balance in aquaculture systems, for the benefit of the fish, the environment and the consumers. Organic fish farming systems and standards that define them are likely to witness considerable evolution and refinement over the years. However, for the moment, three basic issues have to be conformed with - for setting up standards. Nutrient cycling within closed systems, following the law of return, is a central organic principle. Also, the use of pesticides, dyes and antibiotics, which are conventionally used in aquaculture are not to be permitted. Water, which is both soil and air to the fish, is the critical issue, the quality of which plays an important role in the quality of the product. Standards must be set up on the quality and purity of the incoming and outgoing water in terms of environmental impact. The feed, consisting of fishmeal, fish oil, cereal-based products, vitamins and minerals etc. should be organically produced. It is not an easy task to bring down and remove the level of organo-chlorine pollutants in the marine fish that are used for conversion into fishmeal. National standards would have to be set up which the farmers and exporters who seek ecolabelling will have to abide by.
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