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Mitigating impact from aquaculture in the Philippine

Final Report Summary - PHILMINAQ (Mitigating impact from aquaculture in the Philippine)

The PHILMINAQ project aimed to develop sustainable management practices and mitigate aquaculture impacts in the Philippines. The project built competence within marine scientists for monitoring and modelling aquaculture environmental effects.

Three monitoring levels were developed, along with hydrodynamic and depositional models which served as tools for planning and optimisation of production. Networks of marine scientists at both national and international levels were established, while governmental agencies were assisted towards sustainable management applications. Moreover, guidebooks addressing to stakeholders of different levels were prepared and disseminated.

The Asia-Pacific region is the world's largest aquaculture contributor. The challenges confronted by the sector are the sustainable economic growth, the environmental stewardship and the equitable distribution of benefits. An effective governance framework, along with knowledge generation and dissemination, could help the developing countries of the region to respond to such challenges.

In the Philippines in particular, aquaculture went through major changes from 1980 onwards. Even though total fishery production increased, the country's contribution in global fish production decreased. The prospects for further production expansion were enormous and the sector could contribute significantly to food security, employment and foreign exchange generation.

The augmentation of relevant activities though along with unsustainable practices was associated with the emergence of environmental and social issues, such as the increase of fish kills in cage culture and the degradation of municipal fishing grounds. Combined efforts of the government, industry and civil society towards a national framework for sustainable fishing and aquaculture were taking place. However, even though policies on environmental issues already existed, their implementation was insufficient.

The majority of fish farmers in the Philippines were poor, having low risk bearing ability, lack of rights to access and use the resources and weak entitlements to convert the resources into outcomes. Most of the farm owners were male, with women being employed in the sector either because of better income opportunities compared to other industries or because the farms were owned by their family.

Social, economic and institutional constraints impeded the involvement of both women and poor social groups in the aquaculture industry. However, opportunities for their increased participation arose because of the sector evolution during the past years and its modest requirements in physical and human capital. It should be noted that aquaculture often provided higher income and employment opportunities compared to agriculture.

A meeting of key stakeholders was organised as part of PHILMINAQ in order to identify issues which could facilitate aquaculture management and improve water bodies in the Philippines. An ecosystem based approach was suggested in order to overcome the sector problems. Furthermore, suggestions towards increased involvement of the poor, women and youth were formulated for national, regional and local levels. It was suggested to create an integrated institutional framework within which stakeholders could collaborate so as to manage aquaculture development while taking into account the vulnerability of specific social groups.

It was noted during the project elaboration that the environment could be negatively affected by the aquaculture activities' waste, identified as soluble, solid or chemical. Other observed environmental effects were related to oxygen depletion, increased turbidity, currents' modifications due to structures, transmission of diseases to wild stocks, genetic mixing and changes in local biodiversity.

Mitigation of those impacts required the determination of priorities related to their importance and scale of influence. Relevant regulations should meet aesthetic, social and economic criteria. Their overall objectives targeted the protection of legitimate users of the environment, of the environmental biological structure and of the natural functions within the ecosystems. However, managing to regulate the numerous small-scale fisheries remained a challenge, since policies applied in other countries did not seem to prosper in the Philippine case.

Aquaculture development was also connected to degradation of sensitive habitats, such as mangroves or coral reefs. An ecosystem approach was the best alternative in order to mitigate such impacts. It formed a strategy towards the integrated management of land, water and living resources and promoted conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It was proposed to develop regulations representing this strategy based on the ecosystems' calculated safe carrying capacity and to implement them in a coordinated way. The carrying capacity could be determined using adequate box models which represented state variables using dynamic equations. A framework for planning and management should then be developed at central, municipal and local government level. The approach was implemented in three case studies during PHILMINAQ elaboration.

In addition, various codes of conducts and practices were reviewed and compared to the Philippine codes for aquaculture so that the latter could be refined and expanded. Codes' improvement and implementation could enhance the environmental awareness of producers and result in more responsible management. Legislations concerning aquaculture and fisheries were also assessed. Finally, PHILMINAQ undertook a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations for aquaculture in the Philippines, in order to provide a compilation, review and synthesis of existing procedures and practices.

Water quality standards in different countries of the Asia-Pacific region were evaluated and compared to the relevant Philippine regulations in order to provide recommendations on the water quality guidelines of the country. Some recommendations were already incorporated by the relevant regulations prior to the project completion. In addition, PHILMINAQ resulted in recommendations on the improvement of aquaculture feeds for better profitability and reduced environmental impact which were included in the national feed quality standards.

Apart from that, best practice guidelines (BPGs) were prepared for cage and pen operators in marine, brackish and freshwater with emphasis on mitigating environmental impact. Their development strategy ensured that they did not adversely affect the poorer small-scale farmers. BPGs were combined with better management guidelines proposed to local government units (LGUs).

PHILMINAQ designed a joint cooperative order (JAO) between the national agencies involved in aquaculture development, management and control. JAO encouraged cooperation and improved linkages, while it also assisted LGUs in preparing their municipal fishery ordinances. Additionally, a dissemination methodology was established, and meetings to motivate cooperation and clarify jurisdiction between the involved agencies were organised.

The dissemination of knowledge to stakeholders was evaluated as being critical for the project success. A guidebook, targeting local governments and the communities and associated to aquaculture environmental impacts was produced. Its objectives were to assist stakeholders to:
1. appreciate the potential of aquaculture regarding food security assurance, income generation and employment;
2. identify the threats to the environment as a result of unsustainable practices;
3. acquire information regarding the national policies in the sector;
4. understand the role of national agencies towards sustainable aquaculture and fisheries management.

Furthermore, a GIS database was realised as a management tool for national and local authorities aiming to assist planning and management, monitoring, control and surveillance, policy formulation and zoning of responsible and sustainable coastal aquaculture development. Its application allowed for identification of potential impact of the activities on key resources so as to assist the development of site suitability analyses. It also facilitated monitoring and control of the sector so as to evaluate management strategies.

Three different survey methodologies were developed to assess aquaculture effects. They consisted of low cost simple surveys performed at a local scale, medium level surveys undertaken by government regional offices and comprehensive baseline surveys performed at a national scale. Field manuals for the different categories were prepared and circulated.

Finally, managing the sector was assisted by the application of a modelling approach for zoning and estimating carrying capacity, which was combined with the development of a methodology for zones selection. Locations of sensitive habitats were taken into consideration during the procedure. Modelling was evaluated under two different scenarios.

The combination of different methodologies and the incorporation of numerous aquaculture parameters in PHILMINAQ project resulted in a series of recommendations regarding aquaculture industry. Approaches to improve existing infrastructure efficiency along with suggestions for additional investments were developed. Likewise, different activities of the production chain were examined and assessed. The project included the determination of the potential for expanding the sector through participation in new markets, introduction of new species or application of marketing strategies and technology development.

The overall conclusions of PHILMINAQ varied according to the producers' different potential. Small farmers could increase their productivity in trained in best practices. Larger farming businesses, with increased access to credit, could have the ability to farm offshore. Finally, large integrated fish farms, capable of developing export markets, should be encouraged to apply best environmental practices and undertake regular environmental monitoring surveys.

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