The scale of area-based management: what are aquaculture farmers really doing?
Area-based approaches to address environmental risk are gaining popularity in aquaculture management. Researchers in the Global Challenges Programme (GCP) project SUPERSEAS recently published a study in the Geographical Journal that demonstrates the need to rethink the development and application of area‐based approaches, taking into account how farmers themselves understand environmental risk.
Key environmental challenges faced by the aquaculture sector like disease and water pollution demonstrate that aquaculture production is not isolated from the surrounding environment. Governments and NGOs are turning to area-based approaches to address these risks.
Despite the increasing popularity of these approaches, there is little evidence of how aquaculture farmers manage environmental risk beyond farm boundaries. Without a farmer’s perspective, there is a danger of misrepresenting how farm‐level practices relate to area-based approaches to risk management.
A study of farmers in two cases of area-based aquaculture management in South East Asia demonstrated that farmers display a clear focus on the farm.
The majority of environmental risks identified by farmers were those flowing from the environment to the farm and were addressed through on-farm risk management approaches. Though farmers did recognize off‐farm risk, this did not translate into proactively shared risk management at a broad area level. The off‐farm strategies which farmers did carry out collectively were applied to protect farms from acute environmental risks close to the farm.
The research demonstrates that area‐based management is unlikely to emerge at an all‐encompassing landscape level, where there is maximum diversity of production systems, risk and competition between farmers.
We need to rethink the development and application of area‐based approaches, taking into account the most effective scale, both social and spatial, of shared risk management.
“Areas” for area-based environmental risk management appear to be better defined by the social and spatial extent of farmer networks within which the interpretation of risk is shared.
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The related paper can be accessed at: Bottema MJM, Bush SR, Oosterveer P. Moving beyond the shrimp farm: Spaces of shared environmental risk? Geogr J. 2018;00:1–12.