As the world prepares for 120 percent increase in the world population, sustainability concerns are also brewing over the capacity to meet expanding aquaculture needs that would follow. With two thirds of the world’s sea food expected from the aquaculture setting by 2030, TEMITAYO AYETOTO examines experts’ suggestion of a reversal to cost and health effective organic farming methods to address the backlash of artificial procedures.
The practice of raising fish or plants for food, aquaculture, has been a dependable system of creating large sustainable amount of fish more quickly and efficiently than with wild-caught fishes for decades. Many species are raised in contained fresh water or ocean water environments including catfish, tilapia, cod, as well as, others.
But far above its assurance of buoyancy, the system has recently become overshadowed by unsustainable costs of operating requirements of its inorganic structure, which many producers are struggling to maintain. With the challenge, producers find it difficult to keep up with local fish demands.
The shortfall in the production of aquaculture and artisanal fish production leaves Nigeria with a huge expenditure on the products’ importation, according to data from the National Wet Season Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) 2017. The survey which indicated a serious decrease in fish production in some states attributed it to high cost of fish feeds, poor market, non-access to credit facilities, aquatic pests and diseases, among others.
It listed some fish diseases that contributed to the drop in production as fin rot, abdominal swelling, fish louse, bacterial diseases, abdominal dropsy and broken head diseases, among others. The country’s total annual fish demand was estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, with fish farmers able to supply just 30 percent of the figure.
According to fish producers in Lagos, the exorbitant rates of acquiring farming implements contributed to the recent hike in the price of fishes, noting that the situation has made it increasingly difficult for young people to venture into fishing.
Segun Zebulon, chairman, Fishermen Cooperative, lamented that in spite the readiness of thousands of fishers in the cooperative, dearth of requisite equipment have continued to draw back their production capacity, he told a news wire service. He said youths who desire to venture into the fishing business must possess at least N2 million to surf the high sea for fishing, noting that many fishermen still operate with canoes or local boats which only suit shallow waters.
“Before now, the outboard engine was sold for N400,000 but now, it is over N1.5 million. The second hand outboard engine that we used to buy at N200, 000 is now N450, 000. The prices of fishing nets and other accessories we need have also increased. You have to buy fuel to power the engine and you know that we do buy in Jerry cans which are an additional cost. So, we cannot help it. The costs we incur to get the fish have to affect the market prices of the little fishes we are able to catch,’’ he said.
The current methods of fish farming, according to experts, are inefficient and responsible for high operating and maintenance costs as the needed next generation hatchery has not been developed or commercialised.
Denis Fletcher, the chief executive officer and founder, Northwest Trout Farms, Oregon, US in a document provided to business a.m. said most species of fish don’t thrive when fed commercial feed, treated with pesticides, antibiotics, vitamins and other chemicals. These current practices negatively affect the fish as well as their environment and allow unnatural substances to be introduced into our food chain, since farmed fish are raised on unnatural diets and in open enclosures which often breed disease.
In terms of productivity, genetics and overall health of the species, he noted that losses suffered are almost immeasurable as fish meal based feeds are made from smaller fish, lower on the food chain. To create 1kg of fish meal, it takes 4.5kg of smaller fish and in fact, 40 percent of global seafood is ground up to make feed. This lower food chain is the food for many species of aquatic life and depleting them may cause serious implications for aquatic ecosystem and other sea animals. He also cautioned that fish feeds derived from vegetable sources such as corn and soy are unwholesome and have little benefit as a viable feed source.
“Unfortunately, not all fishes are created equal and as unsustainable commercial fishing practices have affected many fish populations and changed the world fish supply substantially; it can also be difficult to find quality seafood and decipher labels to know where they are sourced. Among the many labels are wild-caught and farm raised,” the aquaculture expert said.
Expatiating on the inefficiency of wild-caught seafood for both the environment and health, as well as the impact of large scale commercial fishing and fishmeal based feeds; he explained that current methods have drastic impact on native seafood species and on the ocean ecosystem.
To contain the bane, he averred that farmers must begin to retrace their methods to organic roots which are self-sustainable, and replenishing natural sources without.
He said: “Using only organic farming techniques where chemicals are not used and the feed source is natural component of the diet of the species. Insect, based feed consist of black soldier fly larvae, crane flies and red worms reared on-site. Black soldier fly and red worm carry no known viruses or diseases, absorbs omega-3 fatty acids and have a high protein percentage. All are inexpensive to produce in large quantity. Success is predicated on a simple concept: don’t dictate nature; rather understand support and enhance it”.
He highlighted the benefits to include production of healthier, more marketable and sustainable product, while lowering losses of fish due to bacteria and viruses; elimination of food waste that would otherwise go into the landfill; recycling of Omega-3 Fatty Acids using bio conversion; creation of value from agricultural and food waste and genetics improvement among others.
He said the goal should not be aimed altering the natural order but rather on concentrating and accelerating natural processes. “NWTF clearly defines the difference between improving genetics and altering genetics of food products. Clearly defines what a truly sustainable, organic heirloom food product looks like, and how this defined balance benefits Oregon and her citizens collectively,” Fletcher said.
Nigeria’s government is however making subtle efforts to encourage higher use of organic system in general agriculture practices, as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is leading the initiative for the passage of the Fertiliser Quality Bill to address issues of fertiliser adulteration and input supply inadequacies. The bill also seeks to monitor the activity of fertiliser manufacturers, distributors and farmers.
Corroborating Fletcher, Ohiare Jatto, the director, Farm Input Support Services at the ministry said while organic fertilisers such as manures, leaves, and compost contain only plant or animal-based materials which are end products of naturally occurring processes, the inorganic varieties are manufactured artificially to contain minerals or synthetic chemicals.
He pointed out that organic fertiliser was still highly preferable due to its soil protection components when compared with the inorganic variety, grousing that local farmers tended to use more of inorganic fertiliser. The department, he said, was currently sensitising farmers on the complementary use of both organic and inorganic fertiliser.
“We have been trying to see how we can go into complementary use of both varieties. Organic fertilizer is good for our soil; it protects our soil more than the inorganic fertilizer but farmers are more used to the inorganic fertilizer like NPK and Urea. Knowing the importance of organic fertilizers, we have a division that deals with the sensitisation of farmers either for the whole use or complementary use of organic fertilizer. We work with some research institutes including the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) so that whoever wants to come in with new organic fertiliser, we first of all subject it for field trials and laboratory analysis,” Jatto said.
Nigeria’s total annual fish demand is estimated at 2.7 million metric tonnes (mmt), leaving 70 percent to $625 million expenditure on fish imports, although foreign exchange sourcing issues have led to a decline in imports generally. The CBN changed the structure and economics of the fisheries segment with its ruling that 41 imported goods were no longer eligible for forex from either the interbank market or the bureaux de change in a list includes tinned fish in sauce/sardines, and fish.
According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, the fishing industry stood among the four pillars that grew the agricultural sector by 10.13 percent year on year.