The concept and definition of sustainable development is complex and continues to be widely debated. It is broadly recognised that sustainability requires an understanding of issues concerning natural resources, economic output and human/social welfare, and the exchanges between them. It also relates to providing undiminished assets to future generations, and to various concepts of human and ecological equity. Various frameworks have been developed to describe general cases of sustainability and those applying to specific sectors. An important practical view to emerge is that indicators, providing various measured values describing characteristics of a specific resource or productive activity, may be an effective means of describing desirable or less desirable paths of development. Policy approaches and directions for development could thus be built up 'from the ground' using suitably validated systems of indicators. In practical terms, the use of indicators can contribute to a wide range of benefits including better farm management, increased food supply, poverty eradication, rural development, sound investment, and improved allocation and management of resources.
Many governments have recognized the potential benefits of promoting the use of indicators in the assessment and management of the sustainability of the aquaculture sector. Recent discussions on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries during the Second Session in 2003 of the Aquaculture Sub-Committee of COFI (the FAO Committee of Fisheries) have highlighted the scope for flexible and pragmatic indicators that could be used by industry all major stakeholders.
The COFI Aquaculture Sub-Committee regularly monitors and discusses progress made in the implementation of the provisions of the Code which are relevant to aquaculture and culture-based fisheries.
Indicators and criteria of sustainable shrimp aquaculture
Related efforts by the FAO Fisheries Department included the organization in 1998 of an expert meeting on Indicators and Criteria of Sustainable Shrimp Aquaculture in Rome. The meeting prioritized and prepared a recommended short-list of the criteria and indicators of sustainable shrimp culture whichculture that could form the basis for regular reporting by countries to the COFI. The indicators are multidisciplinary and far-reaching, covering ecosystem and bio-physical, economic and social, and legal and institutional aspects of shrimp culture.
The 1998 meeting concluded that it would be premature at this stage to request governments to report actual data on those indicators to the 1999 Session of COFI. Instead, it elaborated a questionnaire to allow governments to review and comment on the recommended indicators, their present and future ability to acquire the related data and information, and on the nature of assistance deemed desirable to adopt a comprehensive statistical system for their shrimp culture sub-sectors in view of the inadequacies of many existing systems. This questionnaire was sent by FAO to governments of producing countries of cultured shrimp. The results of this survey have been summarized [please link to below attachment], and, overall, from the responses received it can be inferred that there continues to be a significant need for support to capacity building both in the public and private sector with a view to enhance the information base on various aspects of shrimp culture to better manage this sector and to improve the planning of future developments as part of integrated coastal area management programmes.
Expert consultation on indicators of sustainable aquaculture development
The FAO Fisheries Department held an expert consultation in 2001 which objectives were to make recommendations for the development of valid and effective sustainability indicators for aquaculture at the local, national and international level. Guidelines for developing such indicators will be published as the essential practical tool within these recommendations; these should enable public and private interests to develop appropriate and relevant indicators to meet their needs. Key outputs from the consultation include:
- considered comment on the value and potential application of sustainability indicators for aquaculture;
- views on the specific areas of indicator category and type which are most likely to offer value in application, and on those which may merit further development;
- draft guidelines on the development of indicators by relevant interests; and
- according to such guidelines, recommendations for further action to collect, develop, apply and validate sustainability indicators, and to proposals for how they may be used for local, national and international objectives for sustainable development.
It is further expected that this initiative will also contribute to:
- awareness raising on opportunities and limitations in the development and application of sustainability (and other) indicators in aquaculture
- better understanding and awareness of the existing diversity of aquaculture practices/systems and the socio-economic contexts of aquaculture production,
- increased stakeholder participation and consultation (in particular of producers and local communities) in planning, policy-making, management and conflict resolution,
- improvements in cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary collaboration.