Fisheries and aquaculture

Brazil has all the favorable conditions for the fishing activity and to aquaculture, since it has a coastline of 8,500 km and 12% of the fresh water available on the planet. However, we still need to overcome barriers and invest more and more in knowledge and research for the country to stop being an importer and become an exporter of fish, making it an aquaculture power.

In 2009 the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture (MPA) was created by Law No. 11,958. However, the milestone occurred in 2003, with the edition of the Provisional Measure (today, Law No. 10,683) that created the Special Secretariat of Aquaculture and Fisheries (SEAP/PR), an agency responsible for promoting and developing policies directed to the fishing sector.

A month after the creation of the MPA, to strengthen the promotion of fishing and aquaculture production in Brazil, Embrapa Fisheries and Aquaculture was born, installed in Palmas, state of Tocantins. One of the missions of the new research center is to enable technological solutions for the sustainability and competitiveness of aquaculture and fishing, for the benefit of Brazilian society. It is a way to consolidate and strengthen further the work that was already being done by other units of Embrapa, other research institutions and universities, as well as by the private sector.

Fisheries and aquaculture

Fishing is based on the withdrawal of fish resources from their natural environment. Aquaculture, in turn, is based on the cultivation of aquatic organisms, often in a confined and controlled space. The essential difference between the two is that the first, being an extractive activity, does not comply with the demands of a competitive market. Aquaculture enables the production of more homogeneous products, traceability throughout the chain and other advantages that contribute to food security, in order to generate quality food, with planning and regularity.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture is the fastest agricultural activity in terms of productive results and one of the few able to respond with ease to population growth, which can contribute to the fight against hunger around the world.

Current situation

According to MPA data, between 2007 and 2010, aquaculture production of exotic species represented 65% of the total produced by Brazilian fishery. This predominance owes much to the fact that species such as tilapia (Pseudocrenilabrinae) already have a structured production chain and a vast technological development, thus resulting in lower production costs, fish quality and lower prices.

However, Brazil has great productive potential of native species, since it presents a great diversity. Brazilian river basins include 52 native species like: tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), pacu (Serrasalminae), mantrixã (Brycon amazonicus), surubim (Pseudoplatyatoma coruscans), cachara (Pseudoplathystoma fasciatum), among others. Few of them have fully developed and consolidated production technology for the different stages of cultivation. Pirarucu (Arapaima gigas), for example, considered a high-value species, still has low production scale, hindering the production and marketing of the fish.

Research results

Some results of research in the area of aquaculture can be observed within the Aquabrasil project, led by Embrapa Pantanal and finalized in 2012. The project had as main objective the development of technical and scientific knowledge, especially concerning genetic improvement for the promotion of a sustainable aquaculture. The selected species were the white shrimp (Litopenaeus schmitti), farmed tilapia (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia - GIFT), tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) and surubim cachara (Pseudoplathystoma fasciatum).

Genetic improvement obtained a gain of 28% in the GIFT growth rate and a reduction of 21 days of farming time in net tank systems. Sixty-two families were formed, and the first generation of breeders for the genetic improvement program has already been evaluated and made available to the private partners of the project.

Concerning the surubim, 72 families were formed and the first improved juvenile fishes are probably going to be obtained in 2014. In the year of 2012, the first improved lineage of white shrimp was obtained. As for tambaqui, a lot of information have been made available in order to assist factories to produce more efficient rations for its cultivation.

All generated knowledge is disseminated to producers, technical assistance and rural extension, as well as society in general. The goal is to overcome difficulties and challenges, strengthen the sector and make it more competitive.

Research challenge

Brazil has native aquaculture species with great economic and productive potential, however, none of them also has scientific and technological information for the structuring of the production chain. From that comes the great challenge of the national research: generate knowledge and technology to the sector.

In this sense the focus of research today is in the area of reproduction and fish farming, nutrition and feeding of aquaculture species with the production of more sustainable feed that minimize the environmental impact, management and conservation of fisheries resources, aquaculture species health, agroindustrial processing of fish, aquaculture production systems, treatment and reuse of wastewater and sustainable development of artisanal fisheries. The idea is that the Brazilian aquaculture become level to livestock farming in terms of production.

Another major challenge is to develop a sustainable aquaculture, since the activity demands a lot of natural resources such as water, energy and soil. It is, therefore, necessary to properly manage and rationalize them, i.e. to produce profitably, with conservation of natural resources and with the promotion of social development. The activity is considered by the National Environmental Council (Conama) as being of low impact and, therefore, simplifies the environmental licensing for enterprises in the area.

One of the main obstacles in the area today is related to issues of health and biosecurity. There is also a difficulty in early diagnosis of diseases, although studies and actions in this direction are already in progress, such as the development of methodologies for monitoring and evaluation of water and fish quality, as well as production management techniques.

Another bottleneck in the sector is the technological processing of the native fish production chain, as already mentioned. This causes producers to sell their fish without added value. In Brazil, in general, the processing of the fish comes down only to the precarious cooling or freezing of species and incipient filleting

The challenges are many. However, public research, in partnership with universities and the private initiative, is moving towards the consolidation of the sector in which technological progress and innovation, as happened with agriculture, will transform Brazil into one of the largest aquaculture powers in the world.