Social aspects of site selection and management
Aquaculture is practised at different levels, varying from small homestead pond farming by peasant farmers as a means of livelihood to vertically-integrated mega-farms owned and operated by multinational corporations. Though aquaculture is a traditional practice in some parts of the world, it is an innovation in other areas. This, together with the flux of new entrants especially in economically more rewarding systems such as shrimp farming, has resulted in conflicts of interest, and opposition to aquaculture has arisen particularly in areas where farms are located near populated coastal areas or near places of recreational activities.
Traditionally, in many parts of the world, a family fish pond was a mark of social prestige. Feudal landlords in eastern India proudly invited their honoured guests to fish in their fish ponds. Ranch fish ponds in the USA and in some European countries obviously served a similar purpose. The ‘put and take fishing’ or stocking of water bodies with young or adult fish for recreational fishing on payment can be considered a modern commercialized version of this practice. Experience in many developing countries seems to indicate that a reasonable cash income from the sale of produce is a major decisive inducement for farmers. The income has to be adequate to contribute to the liveli-hood of family members if they have to devote their resources and effort on a sustained basis. In the new circumstances, there is a need for attaining a reasonable opportunity cost because of the wide variety of options that may open up. Seed collection and marketing is an example in many farming areas, where the local communities have benefited by part-time occupation.
Experiments in many countries show that aquaculture has had a definitive role in managing social changes under certain special circumstances. The introduction of salmon farming on the northern coast of Norway was meant to attract settlers to sparsely-populated areas. More recently, the failure of salmon fishing and the resettlement of Alaskan fishermen for an occupation in salmon farming is another example of the positive role of aquaculture. Without aquaculture production of seed stock,Alaska’s wild harvest salmon and oyster industries could not achieve a fraction of the present total production, which reflects another dimension of aquaculture development.
Social aspects of aquaculture development make it necessary to identify and ameliorate the negative impacts of such enterprises. Equitable distribution of the benefits of development has received special attention, particularly with regard to the establishment of large-scale farming. When the farms are located in publicly owned land and aquatic sites that are common-property resources used by small-scale fishermen for beaching their boats and drying nets, controversies may arise about free access through farm sites, giving rise to lack of cooperation at the local level.