Feeding Frenzy – Sustainability Key in Coping with Aquaculture Demands

John’s snapper and stingray are hawker favourites at many of Malaysia’s eateries. They are also ravaged by overfishing. Both are identified by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as among the 90 percent of global fish stocks that have been exploited to full capacity or to the point of facing possible extinction. Left unabated, the trend points to seafood being permanently wiped off the menu by 2048. This is bad news for the country, where the oceans are a lucrative trade. Malaysia ranks as the largest consumer of marine products in Southeast Asia while the fisheries industry contributes more than RM11 billion to the economy and supports the livelihoods of over 150,000 people.

 

Aquaculture has emerged as a key frontrunner in response to this crisis, now providing half of the world’s fish for human consumption. It seemed like the perfect solution, leaving wild populations alone and raising our own. Unfortunately, farmed seafood does not come bereft of poor practices that lead to habitat destruction, pollution, endangerment to indigenous species, as well as spread of pests and disease.

 

In an effort to drive sector-wide change, GST Group has been partnering WWF-Malaysia in the Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP) since 2014. The AIP is an initiative to improve aquaculture practices to be greener, socially responsible and environmentally friendly.

 

GST Group started with one farm (Oceanic Aquaculture Venture in Pulau Jerejak, Penang) and have recently included another farm (Supreme Neptune at Pulau Aman, Penang) under the AIP. From the start of the AIP, the farms implement various improvement activities and are committed to further improve the standard of operation in their AIP farms towards responsible aquaculture practices.

 

CRITERIA OF A FARM UNDER THE AIP INCLUDES:

1. Responsible and traceable aquaculture feed: Reducing reliance on trash fish1, using traceable feed ingredients and using more sustainable feed source.

2. Responsible farm operation: Implementing everyday operation practices that are non-detrimental to the environment and proper waste management.

3. Efficient use of energy: Reducing carbon footprints and adapting the usage of cleaner energy source to run the farm.

4. Socially responsible towards workers and surrounding communities.

 

The results speak for themselves. GST Group’s farms experience noticeably higher and healthier yield, allowing them to scale up production to meet the demands of the new markets they could potentially enter. WWF-Malaysia also links up partners to domestic and foreign buyers that prioritise sustainable seafood such supermarkets, hotels and chain restaurants.

 

To date, through the AIP project, GST Group hopes to further improve all the AIP farm practices to the standard of the ASC. Thus, enabling them to achieve the ASC certification for their farmed products.

 

With growing public consciousness about safety and traceability, homegrown aqua-culturists risk missing out on a slice of the global pie if they fail to make the change.

 

By enlisting in initiatives like AIP and proactively moving towards responsible methods, aquaculture players invest not only invest in the future of their business but also that of society at large.

 

This is good news for the country because Malaysia is well on its way to meeting the Department of Fisheries’ production target of 1.76 million tonnes by 2020. Valued at US$3.3 billion, this would ensure food security in the country and increase preparedness for export.

 

WWF’s Role in the AIP:

WWF-Malaysia is a non-profit organization which aims to improve the natural environment in Malaysia through initiatives such as the AIP. WWF facilitates, gives consultation and provides technical services to farms under the AIP without any charge.

 

1 ASC is a world renowned certification body for Sustainable Aquaculture. The ASC certified products are recognize throughout the whole world for being the pinnacle of responsibly produced and environmentally friendly aquaculture products.

1 Trash Fish are low valued small fish which usually consist of juvenile fish and noncommercial valued species. Trash fish are usually the bycatch of trawl fishing operation which is proven to be destructive to the environment and contribute to the problem of overfishing in Malaysia.

 

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Tristan Toh
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