Legal and environmental factors
For an orderly development of aquaculture, as for any industry, a suitable legal framework is essential. As a first step, it is necessary to examine existing laws and see how far they are applied, or applicable, to aquaculture. In many cases, it may be found that there is no accepted legal definition of aquaculture or any of the associated terms such as fish culture, mariculture, etc. in the country. Fishery laws do not normally apply to aquaculture, nor can it be brought under the existing regulations relating to agriculture and animal husbandry. Even though it is realized that specialized regulations are necessary to meet the specific needs of aquaculture, there is a growing body of opinion in favour of bringing it under the same legally protected and financially assisted remit as agriculture. In fact this has already been done in some countries, and seems to have helped aquaculturists gain access to greater incentives and scientific and extension support. Aquaculture has, in many cases, to be closely associated with agriculture and animal husbandry in integrated rural development programmes. However, there are many who feel that aquaculture should continue to be legally a part of fisheries because of its closeness or identity in the secondary and tertiary phases of the industry (harvesting, handling, processing and marketing). The need and potential for harmonizing farming with fishing on a national or regional basis are also arguments in favour of this. In ranching or enhancement of natural stocks with hatcheryraised young, the need for harmonized fishing restrictions becomes especially important.
One of the first problems that an aquaculture entrepreneur faces is obtaining the right to establish and operate a farm in a suitable area. As mentioned earlier, wastelands unsuitable for agriculture are generally utilized for land-based aquaculture, and foreshore or protected coastal areas for other types of open-water farming. Often the ownership of these is vested in the state or local communities. Whether they can be acquired on outright purchase or long-term lease will depend on existing laws. The duration of the lease, maximum extent of land or water area that can be leased or sold to indi- viduals or private enterprises and the environmental regulations that limit the use of the sites are major considerations. Just as existing regulations may be restrictive, the lack of specific regulations governing the use of such areas for aquaculture or the interpretation and application of regulations promulgated for other purposes (without any reference whatso-ever to aquaculture) may become a major impediment.
In cases where regulations for the sale or lease of sites for aquaculture exist, the procedures may be long and complicated, often requiring the clearance and permission of many departments and authorities, as for example land revenue for property rights; irrigation department for water use; agriculture department for water use in relation to agriculture in neighbouring lands; department of environment for environmental impacts; fisheries department for regulations on fishery production, culture of selected indigenous or exotic species and marketing. In order to facilitate aquaculture development, these procedures have to be streamlined and simplified, so that the necessary decisions will be made in a reasonable period of time, based on a proper understanding of the case. Successive project reports, government inspections (or public hearings where applicable) and departmental clearances before issue of permission can not only be frustrating to entrepreneurs, but also very expensive and time-consuming. In order to harmonize the various interests involved and to avoid conflicts among users, it may often be necessary to resort to the zoning of areas. The development of a unified approach and the establishment of a suitable administrative authority at the regional or federal level have been suggested as appropriate methods for the effective consideration and accommodation of all relevant interests and for early decisions on aquaculture proposals.
For various reasons it may be reasonable and necessary to limit the areas to be used for aqua-culture or the number and magnitude of operations permitted. But this should be based on relevant data on socio-economic and environmental impacts, sanitation and fish health, markets, etc., and measures may have to be taken to prevent the misuse of permits and speculative deals.
A legislative safeguard is required for the successful operation of aquaculture in order to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases. This would entail the regulation of movement of uninspected ova and fry and the institution of quarantine measures where feasible. As far as possible, eggs and fry should be obtained only from hatcheries and farms that are regularly monitored by fish health specialists and certified by competent authorities as free from disease. Indiscriminate introduction of non-indigenous species has to be controlled, but the rules should not be arbitrary and must be based on scientific evidence of adverse effects.
In order to facilitate investments in the sector, an aquaculture plan may have to include possible incentives. Besides the usual tax holiday for the run-in period offered to new industries, the types of subsidies and loans given to agriculture could be extended to aquaculture as an incentive in the early stages.
As in other types of industry, there is currently much interest in and some movement towards foreign investment and joint venture operations, particularly for the farming of species that have export markets. Review of statutes and regulations relating to foreign investments, admissible percentage of equities, partnership arrangements and general administrative procedures should be carried out with a view to attracting foreign participation and reducing red tape in the establishment of new ventures.
Aquaculture may, in some cases, require special market regulations. The farmer, as well as the consumer, will benefit from the availability of products throughout the year. For this purpose, it may be necessary to permit the sale of farmed products when there is a closed season in the capture fishery. Similarly, it may be an advantage for the farmer to grow the fish or shellfish to a size below the minimum size allowed to be fished in capture fishery, to meet specific market demands. Unless legal provision is made to exempt culture fishery products from such restrictions, aquaculture industry will lose some of its intrinsic advantages.
If aquaculture is expected to become a sizeable industry in the country, it will be advisable to consider the need for a regular compulsory health inspection programme for all ma jor communicable diseases through certified inspectors with adequate diagnostic facilities. Legal provision may also be necessary to build up a suitable insurance programme for aquaculture. Most forms of aquaculture are presently classed as high-risk activities because of a number of hazards which are beyond the control of the operators, such as adverse weather conditions, changes in water supply, natural calamities like typhoons, cyclones and floods and epidemics of mortality due to communicable diseases. Despite major problems in arranging insurance cover, an aquaculture development plan should aim towards establishing a suitable insurance facility in the private or public sector.