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AquaParks: A Blueprint for Sustainable Aquaculture Success

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By Milthon Lujan

The establishment and operation of aquaparks
The establishment and operation of aquaparks

The future of aquaculture, a critical sector for food security, lies in innovative approaches that promote sustainability and empower small-scale fish farmers. Like other food production sectors, the aquaculture industry also has a range of both negative and positive environmental impacts; therefore, ways to promote the aquaculture industry with minimal negative environmental impact must be sought.

For those seeking to revolutionize small-scale aquaculture, a model of innovation has emerged: the aquaculture park model. This meticulously designed approach goes beyond merely clustering fish farms. It fosters an integrated ecosystem that empowers small-scale fish farmers at every stage of the aquaculture value chain.

What is an AquaPark?

Imagine an organized aquaculture ecosystem, specifically designed to empower small-scale fish farmers. An aquaculture park goes beyond a simple collection of fish farms. It represents a comprehensive approach that encompasses:

  • Planning and Zoning: Areas dedicated to aquaculture activities are assigned, ensuring efficient use of space and resources.
  • Infrastructure Development: Essential infrastructure such as roads, water supply, and electricity is provided, eliminating a major barrier for fish farmers.
  • Aquaculture Inputs: Access to high-quality fish seeds, nutritious feed, and vital extension services becomes readily available.
  • Market Access: Fish farmers are connected with reliable markets, ensuring fair prices and a steady income flow.

The Aquapark Technical Manual: A Roadmap to Success

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has published a comprehensive technical manual for aquaculture parks. This invaluable resource delves into the various stages of aquapark development and provides a step-by-step guide to effectively plan, establish, and manage these dynamic ecosystems.

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Part I: A Global Perspective

The first part of the manual offers a concise global overview of aquaculture park development. It explores best practices related to:

  • Establishment: The essential steps required to get an aquaculture park off the ground.
  • Planning Process: A structured approach to planning and design, ensuring long-term success.
  • Infrastructure: Guidance on the infrastructure needed for efficient operation, including specific considerations for China.
  • Operation and Management: Strategies for effective day-to-day management of the aquapark.

Part II: Inspiration Through Real-World Examples

Part II showcases the power of aquaculture parks through compelling case studies. These success stories include:

  • Chinese Catfish Aquaculture Park: Demonstrating the model’s effectiveness in driving local catfish production.
  • Guangxi Aquaculture Industrial Park: Highlighting the economic benefits of aquaculture parks for entire regions.
  • Integrated Rice-Fish Farming in Hani Terraces, Yunnan: Showing the model’s ability to harmonize with existing aquaculture practices.
  • Guangdong Tilapia Aquaculture Park: An excellent example of aquapark success in tilapia production.
  • Guangdong Zhanjiang Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Industrial Park: Demonstrating the model’s adaptability to shrimp aquaculture.

These real-world examples highlight the significant positive impacts of aquaculture parks on:

  • Local Aquatic Food Production: Contributing to increased food security and diverse food sources.
  • Supply Chains: Streamlining production processes and fostering market stability.
  • Social and Economic Development: Improving local communities, creating jobs, and promoting economic growth.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Encouraging responsible resource management and minimizing environmental footprint.

Why AquaParks Matter

The aquaculture park model addresses several key challenges faced by small-scale fish farmers:

  • Limited Resources: Aquaculture parks provide access to crucial infrastructure and resources, creating a level playing field for smaller actors.
  • Fragmented Value Chain: The model integrates all stages of aquaculture, from seed production to market access, streamlining operations and optimizing efficiency.
  • Environmental Concerns: Aquaculture parks promote sustainable practices, fostering responsible water management and waste reduction.
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Benefits for All

The aquaculture park model is beneficial for all stakeholders:

  • Fish Farmers: Increased productivity, better incomes, and access to valuable technical knowledge.
  • Consumers: Safe, high-quality seafood produced with minimal environmental impact.
  • Environment: Sustainable aquaculture practices contribute to healthier ecosystems.
  • Economy: Increased aquaculture production strengthens food security, generates jobs, and drives economic growth.

Building the Blue Future

An aquaculture park aligns perfectly with FAO’s Blue Transformation initiative, which aims to harness the potential of our oceans, lakes, and rivers for a sustainable future. This model enables governments and private investors to play a crucial role in:

  • Developing Strategic Policies: Supporting the implementation of aquaculture parks through policy frameworks and financial incentives.
  • Facilitating Investment: Encouraging private sector investment in infrastructure development and technical assistance for aquaculture parks.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Promoting best practices and fostering collaboration among stakeholders for successful aquapark development.

Reference (open access)
Zhang, L., Hou, Y., Ye, W., Yuan, Y., Li, Q., Jiang, S., Li, H., Qiang, J., Lu, S., Li, B., Yuan, X. & Shao, X. 2024. The establishment and operation of aquaparks – Experiences from China. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Papers, No. 712. Rome, FAO.