Aquaculture currently supplies around half of the fish consumed globally and is projected to grow from 66.6 million metric tons in 2012 to 93.2 tons by 2030. But significant improvements in aquaculture technologies, farming systems and value chains are needed to achieve this increase in production in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible.
FISH’s sustainable aquaculture flagship program focused on how productivity-improving technologies and management practices can enable aquaculture to achieve its fullest contribution to equitable livelihoods and food and nutrition security while delivering environmental benefits Research was directed towards tilapia and carp farming systems, which are widely cultured species that together supply over 27% of world aquaculture production.
Research was focused in countries with low and medium Human Development Indicators and high dependence on fish for food, where aquaculture is in early stages of development but needs accelerated growth to fill projected shortfalls, or where aquaculture is already established but opportunities exist to sustainably intensify to the supply levels required to meet growing domestic or regional demand.
FISH worked across four clusters of research and innovation: fish breeds and genetics, feeds, fish diseases, and aquaculture systems.
Improvements in fish breeding and genetics
The lack of access to improved strains for many farmed fish species is a major impediment to achieving efficient and sustainable fish farming across the globe. FISH disseminated improved fish strains from earlier genetics research, applied genetics technologies to a wider range of species, and created a strong platform to produce more resilient fish over the next decade. The knowledge and tools developed provide the foundation of genetic gain in fish upon which other improvements in fish feeds, health and management can support secure and sustainable livelihoods for fish farmers.
Sustainable and accessible fish feeds for small-scale farmers
Improvements in feed accessibility for small-scale fish farmers is crucial to enhancing productivity of genetically improved fish. FISH research on fish feeds and nutrition improved our knowledge of the nutritional requirements of tilapia. We learned how to make better use of local ingredients and improve feed management systems for productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability. The focus was on tilapia aquaculture but also included carps and catfish.
Improved fish disease detection, management and prevention
Aquaculture productivity is often limited by the introduction and spread of infectious fish diseases, compromising livelihoods and food and nutrition security in Africa and Asia. FISH’s fish health research on tilapia and carp systems aimed to improve disease diagnosis and prevention measures at breeding nuclei, multiplication centers, hatcheries and farms. New epidemiological tools were developed and widely applied, along with new diagnostic and management techniques for disease prevention, detection and control.
Aquaculture system models and innovations
FISH generated increased understanding of the impacts of existing and improved aquaculture systems and technologies to identify appropriate ways to enhance their contribution. The research combined baseline data collection, cost-benefit analysis, life cycle assessment, randomized evaluation, and econometric techniques to assess the performance of aquaculture systems and technologies under different agro-ecological, socioeconomic and cultural contexts in low- and middle-income countries. Models for integrating improved breeds, health and feeds for gender-responsive sustainable intensification were also developed and new digital tools were applied to performance assessment, prioritizing innovations that create new engagement, employment and enterprise opportunities for youth and women.