Jan 13, 2022 News
In response to low fish catches…
Kaieteur News – Acknowledging that there are credible reports and concerns about low fish catches plaguing the agriculture sector, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali said fishermen will be able to breathe a sigh of relief quite soon as his government has come up with an innovative solution. According to the Head of State, the government will be examining, in collaboration with fisher folk, the establishment of marine cages.Often times referred to as “cage culture” this experimental method of aquaculture involves the confinement and production of fish inside some type of mesh in existing water resources such as ponds, rivers, estuaries, open ocean, etc. The mesh retains the fish, making it easier to feed, observe and harvest.
Preliminary research conducted by Kaieteur News notes however that this form of aquaculture is still in its trial stage even though some countries have had some degree of success with a limited number of species.
Speaking to stakeholders during the launch of the government’s Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC) on Tuesday, President Ali said, “We are not sitting back and being an observer to the discussion on the reduced fish catch out there. Globally, there is a reduction and we are seeing scientific explanation as to why that reduction is there.
There is no political direction or directive for the fish not to come here. This is a global issue and how will we address it? We have started in Region Six with a project for swamp shrimp and we are investing in that but while we are doing that we have just completed the prefeasibility for two things: first aquaculture, looking at the growing of prawns and tilapia.”
The Head of State said too that the government has already identified 100 acres of land for prawn production that would give the administration enough capacity to ensure the existing demand is met.
In Hinterland communities, he said the government is looking at marine cages in the rivers where the water is flowing to grow tilapia there in a more natural environment which reduces the cost of operations and helps boost hinterland livelihood. For the fisher folk on the coast, he said Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha will engage them shortly on a similar marine cage project that would guarantee a set volume of production annually.
“When you examine the numbers, each one of those marine cages can bring in a net value of close to $8M annually and you can pay back for the investment within six months. So we are not sitting back. We have a responsibility to find solutions and that is what we are doing.”
While the President touts marine cages as one of the possible solutions to the reduction in fish catches, there are numerous research papers which indicate that this route may not be the safest and most environmentally friendly for fish.
According to a paper by Global Seafood Alliance (GSA), an international non-governmental organization dedicated to advancing responsible seafood practices since 1997, it was noted that worldwide, interest in commercial marine cages has been growing.
It noted for example that several nations have attempted submerged Atlantic salmon farming, with farms deployed or under development in New Zealand, China, Chile and Scotland.
Despite significant interest, GSA said, “the submerged culture of salmonids has had limited success. While small-scale trials with submerged cages in freshwater settings demonstrate they can be used to overwinter salmon beneath surface ice, a range of studies at industry scale demonstrate mixed results on submergence as a viable production method.”
They noted for example, “Salmonids grow poorly when held in submerged cages for longer than a month in the on-growing phase in seawater. Even when continuous lighting reduces some of the negative side effects of submergence, growth rates are still lower relative to surface cages.”
Overall, GSA said if marine cages or the submerged culture of fish is to mature and fulfill its promise, research to empirically document production and environmental benefits, and issues surrounding fish welfare throughout the production cycle need to lead the way. For the time being, this evidence does not exist.
It further added, “Robust, industry-scale experiments of new production technologies are difficult to conduct, but possible, and significant co-investment from government and industry is required to achieve them. Conducting meaningful scientific research will thus assist in ensuring the successful adoption of submerged culture, where possible.” (See link for referenced article: https://www.globalseafood.org/advocate/a-review-of-marine-fish-aquaculture-in-submerged-cages/0
Another research paper reviewed by this newspaper also supports the inconclusiveness of marine cage success as it states: “Closed fish cages have gained increased interest in marine aquaculture. However, knowledge on the seakeeping behaviour of a floating closed cage and the influence of the contained water inside the cage are still limited.”
Kaieteur News will continue the examination of this matter in a subsequent feature.
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