SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • aquaculture;
  • production and consumption;
  • everyday geographies;
  • development;
  • political economy

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Geographers first identified aquaculture as an important field of study during the 1990s, pointing to a ‘net deficit’ in geographical knowledge about the activity. This paper examines how far geographers have come in bridging this knowledge deficit in the last 20 years. While increasing attention has focused on the political economy of export products consumed in the global North, ‘everyday’ geographies of aquaculture production and consumption in the global South have been neglected. We argue that paying greater attention to everyday aquaculture in the global South provides opportunities for geographers to engage with wider questions around development and change that extend far beyond aquaculture. By focusing on changing patterns of aquaculture production for Southern domestic markets, geographers can provide a counterpoint to Northern dominated agro-food studies by re-emphasising the importance of consumption, urbanisation and agrarian transitions from a more place-based perspective and, in doing so, support the development of theory that reflects Southern realties.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Aquaculture (the farming of fish and other aquatic organisms) was the most rapidly growing agri-food sector globally between 1970 and 2010. Production grew at 8.1% per annum over this period. Aquaculture's expansion exceeded that of terrestrial meat production, which increased at an average annual rate of 2.7%, and global population growth which averaged 1.5% a year. By 2010 aquaculture contributed 47% of global production of aquatic organisms (79 million tonnes) and around half the fish destined for human consumption (up from less than 6% in 1970), with a farmgate value of US$125 billion. As a result, global per capita supply of farmed aquatic foods increased more than tenfold from 0.9 kg in 1970 to 11.5 kg in 2010. Aquaculture alone now supplies two-thirds of the aquatic organisms produced in the world's two most populous countries, China and India, and provides 13% of the world's animal protein, excluding eggs and dairy (figures calculated from FAO 2012; World Bank 2012). The industry employs 23.4 million full-time equivalent workers globally, with Asia accounting for 92% of jobs. Given an average family size of five members, this implies that aquaculture contributes to the livelihoods of approximately 117 million people or 1.8% of the global population (Valderrama et al. 2010).

The spectacular global expansion of aquaculture over the last four decades has been addressed by social scientists in a relatively small number of academic publications. Barton and Staniford's (1998) paper ‘Net deficits and the case for an aquacultural geography’ was one of the most significant of these to date; making the case for aquaculture as fruitful ground for exploration by geographers, and outlining a ‘research agenda for aquacultural geography’ (p. 150) with which to address the so-called, and then yet to be realised, ‘blue revolution’.

The title of Barton and Staniford's paper alluded to two apparent deficits evident in the 1990s: the first, a deficit in fish production resulting from a global crisis in capture fisheries; the second, a deficit in attention paid to fisheries in general and aquaculture in particular by human geographers. The paper vividly illustrated the first deficit with graphs that counterposed stagnating capture fisheries against buoyant aquacultural growth. The scale of the second deficit was made plain by a table summarising numbers of publications on fisheries and aquaculture in four leading geography journals from 1980 to 1995, revealing just two papers.

Revisiting this seminal work 15 years on, statistics listed above make it clear that a ‘net deficit’ in fish production has been averted by a boom in aquaculture that has surpassed even the most optimistic predictions (Figure 1). It remains less clear whether the social scientific knowledge deficit has been closed. It is to this question and its implications that we turn for the remainder of the paper. In doing so we map out the nature of contributions by geographers to the field of aquaculture over the last two decades, asking how the volume and focus of academic literature has changed. Based on this review, we take stock of the contemporary relevance of approaches that characterised earlier work and begin to map out an agenda for future research on the changing, multi-scalar and evermore complex geographies of aquaculture development, production and consumption currently unfolding. In doing so we highlight the need for greater engagement by geographers with the ‘everyday’ and (sometimes) ‘seemingly banal’ (Holloway and Hubbard 2001, 1; Rigg 2007) forms and facets of aquaculture development in the global South. By establishing their importance as an object of study, we aim to contribute to and broaden the scope of ongoing public debates around an ever more important source of food and economic activity.

figure

Figure 1. Global capture fisheries and aquaculture production 1980–2010, and global fish production per capita. Note: approximately 30% of capture fisheries production is diverted for industrial uses, including manufacture of animal and fish feeds, so actual capita consumption of fish for food will not equal per capita production

Source: modified from FAO (2012)

[Note: correction added on 6 November 2013 after initial online publication on 23 October 2013. In Figure 1 the keys for ‘capture fisheries’ and ‘aquaculture’ were transposed]

Download figure to PowerPoint

Critical beginnings

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

‘Net deficits’ was noteworthy because it set out a rationale and framework for social scientific investigation of aquaculture. This, its authors argued, should act as a bridge between disciplines and address, in a critical manner, the complex relationships between production, environment, the ‘social milieu’, and economic and political contexts (Figure 2). Barton and Staniford's intent in confronting the sustainability of aquaculture in this manner was to ensure that it would not arrive at an ecological ‘crisis’ similar to that experienced in capture fisheries. While concerned with setting a practical agenda for improving the performance of aquaculture, their approach also reflected general tendencies evident in the critical neo-Marxist environmental geography of the 1990s, deploying a crisis narrative encompassing material and discursive conflicts and the social-ecological impacts of production (Bryant 1998). Less fully articulated in their framework than their empirical ‘fields’ of investigation, however, were the conceptual tools that geography might offer for investigating aquaculture, and the contributions that work addressing aquaculture could make to geographical thinking more broadly.

figure

Figure 2. Research agenda for a geography of living aquatic resources

Source: Barton and Staniford (1998, 151, Figure 4)

Download figure to PowerPoint

Barton and Staniford's critical aquacultural geography was preceded by a small number of social science publications in the late 1980s and early 1990s which had begun to address the rapid growth of aquaculture, particularly as experienced in coastal communities affected by shrimp and salmon farming. Social justice and social movements opposing the expansion of industrial aquaculture emerged as important themes in this literature (Meltzoff and LiPuma 1986; Bailey 1988). In addition, others challenged the validity of aquaculture development discourses and policies in the global South (Harrison 1996; Kelly 1996), and addressed the transformation of fishermen into fish farmers (Weeks 1992) and the wider political economy of aquaculture in a globalising world (Barton 1997). Perhaps most influentially, Bailey et al.'s (1996) edited volume Aquacultural development: social dimensions of an emerging industry consolidated many of these themes to set out a programme for the application of social science to aquaculture, framed by questions concerning property ownership, labour utilisation, relations of production and the role of the state.

These early forays into aquacultural social science are thus marked by a distinctive mixture of concerns regarding the industry's environmental sustainability which feature alongside more traditional questions of agrarian and industrial political economy. However, to the detriment of a more broadly conceived aquacultural geography, only a small number of (mainly anthropologist) scholars turned their attention to the role and organisation of aquaculture in rural development during the 1990s (see Lewis et al. 1996; Harrison 1996). This resulted in a tendency for a Northern core of academic geographers, and social scientists more widely, to ask questions pertaining mainly to export-oriented industrial aquaculture rather than to production for domestic consumption in the global periphery.

‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

We now turn to a more detailed examination of geographers’ contributions on aquaculture, and consider how far the discipline has developed towards a coherent ‘aquacultural geography’. Our analysis is based on a review of the top 50 Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) ranked geography journals over the 21-year period between 1991 and 2012, conducted primarily using the Web of Science database by employing the search term ‘aquaculture’ under ‘topic’, and the title of each journal under ‘publication name’. Thirty-nine titles were identified in this way. An additional search of the same journals conducted using Scopus, entering the term ‘aquaculture’ in the ‘article title, abstract, keywords’ field located two more papers, and a supplementary manual search of our own archives produced a further six, yielding a total of 47 articles. Only six articles originate from the period 1991–2001, but there was a marked increase in publications between 2002 and 2012 from an average of 0.5 to 3.5 per year. This reflects, to some extent, the increasing importance of aquaculture's contributions to global food supplies and economic activity.

It must be recognised that the top 50 ISI ranked geography journals do not represent the full breadth of journals in which geographers publish. For example, searches for ‘aquaculture’ in journals listed under other ISI categories that overlap with the core themes of geography – such as ‘area studies’, ‘planning and development’, ‘social sciences interdisciplinary’, and ‘urban studies’ – reveal additional papers in a variety of ‘non-geography’ journals relevant to geographers. Limiting our search allows us to replicate Barton and Staniford's methodology and thereby track the development of an aquacultural geography. However, in our subsequent discussion we refer to a range of ‘social science’ papers (many of which are by authors who would not necessarily identify with geography as a discipline) that are, nevertheless, highly geography relevant, many of which are cited by geographers and in geography journals.

To illustrate the breadth of topics covered by papers in the ISI geography category we group them into four themes and several subthemes in Table 1. This is intended to give an impression of the range of perspectives adopted and relative frequency with which different subjects are addressed. The theme ‘political economy’ accounts for the largest portion of papers and contains the broadest range of subthemes. Some of these (particularly resource use conflicts and property rights) overlap with the theme ‘environment and political ecology’, which is composed of three main subthemes: society–nature interactions, environmental sustainability, and the social construction of knowledge pertaining to certain aspects of aquaculture. The category ‘land use’ is composed mainly of studies which utilise GIS, either to diagnose patterns of land use change (the largest subtheme, with 10 publications), or to identify land use planning opportunities. Many of the studies under this theme refer to aquaculture within the context of wider landscape scale changes but do not treat it as their primary object of enquiry. A third, largely discreet, group of studies deals with spatial aspects of business innovation in aquaculture.

Table 1. Themes in papers published on aquaculture in the top 50 ISI ranked geography journals, 1991–2012
Thematic areaNumber of publicationsReferences
Political economy19 
Aquaculture development5Belton (2012); Belton et al. (2011); Kipkemboi et al. (2007); Majid Cooke (2004); Coull (1993)
Globalisation4Fløysand et al. (2010); Barton and Murray (2009); Deutsch et al. (2007); Duval-Diop and Grimes (2005)
Governance3Vandergeest and Unno (2012); Peel and Loyd (2008); McDaniels et al. (2005)
Resource use conflicts3Walters (2007); Suryanata and Umemoto (2005); Bennet (1991)
Property rights2Mishra and Griffin (2010); Surayanata and Umemoto (2003)
Trade2Bush and Duijf (2011); Veeck (2008)
Labour1Oseland et al. (2012)
Land use12 
Land use change10Carmona and Nahuelhual (2012); Sakamoto et al. (2009); Hue and Scott (2008); Seto and Fragkias (2007); Abdullah and Nakagoshi (2006); Smardon (2006); Tsai et al. (2006); Bird (2004); Li (2004); Johnson (1994)
Land use planning2Diaz et al. (2010); Hossain et al. (2009)
Environment and political ecology13 
Environmental impacts4Veuthey and Gerber (2012); Merino et al. (2010); Armitage (2002); Kelly (1996)
Environmental sustainability6Merino et al. (2012); Barton and Fløysand (2010); Barton (2006); Pons and Fiselier (1991); Barton and Staniford (1998); Barton (1997)
The social construction of knowledge3Mansfield (2003 2011); Peuhkuri (2002)
Innovation3 
Business innovation3Cooke et al. (2011); Doloreux et al. (2009); Aslesen and Isaksen (2007)
Total47 

The preponderance of political-economic and political-ecological approaches indicates that Barton and Staniford's critical agenda for aquacultural geography has remained relevant. The preceding analysis also appears to imply a significant reduction in geographers’ aquaculture attention deficit. However, Figures 3 and 4, which respectively depict the proportions of papers concerned with named species or groups of aquatic organisms and the percentage contribution of these crops to total global aquaculture production by volume, suggest an alternative conclusion. Figure 3 shows that three crops – shrimp, salmon and pangasius – account for almost three-quarters of all references. However, as Figure 4 indicates, these species account for just 9% of total global aquaculture production. In contrast, carps, seaweeds and shellfish, which together comprise almost three-quarters of global aquaculture output, are mentioned by just one in every ten articles. This indicates a very significant mismatch between the global significance of particular crops and the attention paid by geographers to their attendant conditions of production and consumption.

figure

Figure 3. Frequency of references to aquaculture crops in the top 50 ISI ranked geography journals (1991–2012)

Source: FAO (2012)

Download figure to PowerPoint

figure

Figure 4. Contribution of key crops to total global aquaculture production by volume in 2010

Source: modified from FAO (2012)

Download figure to PowerPoint

Barton and Fløysand (2010, 740) illustrate the source of this bias when stating that, ‘as a productive sector, aquaculture has now claimed a significant role in many developing countries, such as Chile, Ecuador, the Philippines and Thailand. In most cases, its recent growth has been linked to export-oriented development strategies rather than domestic consumption’. Whilst the first half of this statement is undoubtedly correct, production of the carps, tilapias, shellfish, seaweeds and other species groups which dominate output from the global South (including that of Thailand and the Philippines) has, in fact, been driven very largely by domestic demand. As a result, most of the species produced and issues associated with their production have remained invisible to the, mainly Northern, academics who have thus far dominated work in the field of aquacultural geography.

The existence of an ‘export bias’ can be illustrated with reference to a couple of examples. For instance, although pangasius catfish is a crop of major economic significance in India, Bangladesh Myanmar and Indonesia, publications in our sample relate exclusively to Vietnam; the only one of these countries to export the fish to the global North. Similarly, China now produces nearly half the world's cultured shrimp following a decade of massive growth during which output rose from less than 200 000 to more than 1.3 million tonnes (FAO 2012). Not a single paper in our sample explores this remarkable boom, however, the main driver of which has been rapidly expanding domestic consumption rather than Northern demand.

These cases and others like them lead us to conclude that, although the aquaculture knowledge deficit has been partly closed by geographers working on a handful of species in a relatively small number of locations, large swathes of an ever more important field of human activity are yet to be explored or even recognised within the discipline. By way of an agricultural analogy, this is akin to imagining the entire canon of literature on agrarian change written in reference to a handful of high-value cash crops, and with scant recognition given to the existence and conditions of production of rice and wheat, the staples which maintain fully three-quarters of the global population1. This continuing knowledge deficit and the sector's rapidly evolving nature suggest the need to revisit Barton and Staniford's conceptual framework to review its continued relevance and to identify priorities for contemporary research in aquacultural geography.

Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

While the ‘boom crop’ trajectories (Hall 2004) of shrimp, salmon and pangasius for export have attracted geographers’ attention, agrarian and social-ecological changes accompanying the rapid spatial expansion, commoditisation and shifting material conditions of production of shellfish, seaweeds, carps, tilapias and numerous other aquatic organisms produced mainly for domestic or intra-regional markets remain almost entirely uncharted. Rather than static, ‘backward’ or ‘traditional’, many of these crop production systems are highly innovative, rapidly evolving and support dynamic value chains even when based on variations around basic extensive or semi-intensive blueprints.

Political economic concerns explored over the last two decades with respect to the three core export species remain highly relevant for research on this ‘neglected’ 90% of global aquaculture production. Questions raised by geographers outside the field of aquaculture are also pertinent. These include not only issues of sustainability, resource use conflict, access, exclusion and land use transformation, but urbanisation, deagrarianisation, territorialisation and agri-food governance. A number of examples relating to these ‘neglected’ crops and their related production systems are used to illustrate this point below.

Carp aquaculture in the vicinity of India's largest freshwater lake, Lake Kolleru in Andhra Pradesh, provides a dramatic example of social-ecological changes associated with rapidly expanding production. Carp ponds expanded to cover 80 000 ha (around 20% of the lake's surface area) between the late 1970s and 2002, producing some 800 000 tons of food fish per annum for distribution throughout India. Much of this development occurred on state property occupied without authorisation, which was converted to farms as much as 1000 ha in size. Although substantial livelihood opportunities were created as a result, a variety of negative exclusionary effects also occurred, including serious inundation of villages and agricultural crops due to disruption of surface water drainage. In 2006, partly in response to severe flooding, a large area of the Lake was designated as a wildlife sanctuary and 29 470 ha of ponds falling within its boundaries were forcibly destroyed by the state government. The area under carp culture has once again expanded to reach 80 000 ha, however, following conversion of rice paddy in nearby areas (Ramakrishna 2007; Belton and Little 2011).

Cultivation of even the least glamorous of aquatic organisms, seaweeds and shellfish illustrate processes of social and environmental transformation of importance to geographers. For instance, Sievanen et al. (2005) reported that an influx of hundreds of ‘outsiders’ occurred within a matter of months of the successful introduction of seaweed farming to Tawi-Tawi province in the Philippines, with the result that, ‘what were formerly small Sama fishing villages became sizeable towns with large populations’ (p. 302). Meanwhile, Kleinen (2003) described a ‘gold rush’ in shellfish culture on coastal mudflats in North Vietnam that led to power struggles between the local authorities and a family which initially controlled much of local production and trade. This culminated in the allocation of formal rights to some commune residents to grow shellfish on previously ambiguously titled coastal lands and the concurrent marginalisation of many women and children who had previously collected wild shellfish from these same areas.

Elsewhere, moves to culture fish and shellfish ‘offshore’ in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the USA, as well as attempts to farm shellfish and seaweeds suspended from wind farms at sea in Northern Europe, have resulted in legal machinations designed to establish private property rights in the last great commons: the open ocean (Skladany et al. 2007). As Mansfield (2004) remarks of attempts to privatise marine fisheries, such neoliberal approaches ‘mark a profound geographical transformation in the political economy of the oceans’ (p. 572).

Back onshore, themes of urbanisation and ‘space–time compression’ are increasingly apparent as the growth of the extended metropolitan regions of large Asian cities such as Bangkok at once stimulate demand for farmed aquatic products and provide the means with which to produce and market them (Belton and Little 2008). As a result, aquaculture (particularly tilapia culture) has become both an outcome and a harbinger of urban development and a ubiquitous feature of the peri-urban fringe, radiating ever further outward as successive waves of land use change modify the landscape. Similar processes can be observed throughout peri-urban Asia, where aquaculture represents a link between rural and urban livelihoods; competing for land and labour with often more lucrative or stable urban livelihood opportunities and land uses, and with other often less specialised, less profitable or more labour-intensive agricultural practices (Belton et al. 2009).

The combination of extreme dynamism, diversity and capacity to rapidly transform social and physical landscapes apparent in the examples presented above represents perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of aquaculture as it has developed in the global South. The examples also underline that these tendencies are no less apparent in the production of everyday domestic ‘aquatic staples’ than of the export commodities which have attracted the vast majority of geographers’ attention to date. Taken in the aggregate, these commonalities hint at the existence of a distinct mode of agrarian development, centred in the South, which has hitherto seldom, if ever, been fully recognised.

New frontiers for an aquacultural geography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The nature and diversity of themes hinted at by material presented in the preceding section indicate that Barton and Staniford's ‘old’ questions remain highly pertinent to the study of aquatic crops which have thus far escaped geographers’ attention. However, export-oriented portions of the sector have also undergone enormous changes since Barton and Staniford set out their agenda; a shift reflected in the way that critiques of the worst excesses of the early boom in coastal aquaculture (Vandergeest et al. 1999; Stonich and Bailey 2000) have largely given way to concerns around new forms of regulatory control and governance (Vandergeest and Unno 2012; Vandergeest 2007; Ha and Bush 2010; Bush and Duijf 2011). This new emphasis reflects fundamental changes in the structure of some parts of the global agri-food system, in which food quality and traceability requirements (and the private regulation thereof) have assumed centre stage.

These new forms of regulation have resulted from the increasingly oligopolistic nature of supermarket chains, shifts from price-based to quality-centred competition among them (Busch and Bain, 2004), and the rise of third party standards designed to provide assurance of material product qualities and intangible ‘credence’ attributes such as environmental conditions of production. These so-called ‘twin driven’ value chains (Islam 2008) have begun to dominate regulation of the main aquatic export crops that have attracted most attention from geographers to date. Such forms of governance are likely to become more pervasive if Southern producers targeting domestic markets are also forced to step onto the ‘treadmill of quality’ that standards and certification schemes have begun to engender in Northern markets.

As food safety becomes increasingly institutionalised in the regulation of aquaculture production and trade in developing countries, consumer acceptance of food-related risks is also set to change. As in the North, the supermarket revolution and food scares are major drivers of new food safety regimes (Reardon et al. 2010). The first products to be subsumed under these regimes are likely to be those that are already meeting stringent requirements for export markets such as the EU and USA. The extent to which these systems will subsequently be applied to commodities thus far neglected by geographers is unclear and will depend in part on the extent of their inclusion in the assortments of Southern supermarkets. For instance, major regulatory shifts will occur if Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)-based food safety systems are extended to aquaculture products that have been traditionally sold in local ‘wet’ markets. Such changes would be likely to transform production and marketing practices and hasten the emergence of industrial modes of production and associated processes of consolidation (Goss et al. 2000; Bush and Belton 2011).

Running in parallel to scholarship on the conventional globalised agri-food system is a significant body of work detailing the emergence of ‘alternative’ food networks founded on ‘post-productivist’ values such as organic, ‘local’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘fair’, which run counter to, or alongside, the prioritisation of profit, standardisation and efficiency (e.g. Morgan et al. 2006). Such networks are now a well established feature of Northern ‘foodscapes’, but have yet to take root to a significant degree in the South. However, demand for at least some of the attributes they promote may emerge with the rapid growth of the global middle class. This is suggested by the state of the Asian organic market which is growing at 15–20% per year, albeit from a very low base, with China representing the fastest growing organic market globally (Willer and Kilcher 2012). Aquaculture is also the fastest growing certified organic subsector, with output increasing at 40–60% per annum (Szeremeta et al. 2010); though it must be emphasised that it remains a very small niche, currently contributing only 0.1% of total production.

Increasing attention to carbon footprints (Thrane et al. 2009), life cycle assessment and energy intensity (Pelletier and Tydemers 2010) may also lend support to organic or ‘local’ aquaculture production systems. Interest in such attributes appears to be on the rise in the South (e.g. Vandergeest 2009), as championed by global movements such as Slow Food and Terra Madre. In aquaculture these tendencies might also coincide, at least partially, with ‘cuisine shifts’ favouring the consumption of previously abundant wild species, indigenous to particular locales, which as naturally available supplies have contracted have taken on a greater cultural significance (and economic value) and can now be supplied through aquaculture (see, for example, Joffre and Schmitt (2010) regarding the renewed popularity of mud skippers in Vietnam).

Whether and how such shifts play out for the neglected 90% of aquaculture species provides a new frontier for geographical researchers interested in defining the social conventions and material conditions that constitute different ‘worlds of food’ (Morgan et al. 2006). Exploring these conventions and conditions does not presume that domestic aquaculture production in the South will follow the same path as that in the North, or that of those aquatic products exported to and regulated by the North. Instead, an improved geographic appreciation of aquaculture production and consumption as one of the (perhaps the most) dynamic food sectors globally, has the potential to generate clearer understandings of the social and environmental consequences of a rapidly growing, diversifying and intensifying industry of considerable importance to domestic economies throughout the global South.

Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

This paper has sought to address the status of the aquaculture knowledge deficit among geographers first identified by Barton and Staniford (1998), and to revisit the agenda that they set out for an aquacultural geography. Our analysis has revealed a number of important conclusions, highlighting, on the one hand, significant improvements in the volume and scope of aquacultural geography and the continuing relevance of Barton and Staniford's framework and, on the other, major gaps in terms of the species, farming systems and locations studied, reflecting a Northern export-oriented bias in much research to date. Furthermore, the review reveals a number of conceptual entry points to the study of aquaculture that would make Barton and Staniford's empirically focused framework (Figure 2) more open to geographical knowledge with relevance beyond the sector.

We contend that the arrival of aquaculture as the provider of half the fish destined for human consumption represents a vindication (in at least certain respects) of the blue revolution rhetoric that early aquacultural geographers, including Kelly (1996) and Barton and Staniford themselves, critiqued. Yet while export-oriented aquaculture has received substantial scholarly attention (particularly with respect to questions of political economy and ecology), the carps, shellfish and other aquatic staples that account for the vast majority of global aquaculture production and consumption have thus far garnered considerably less coverage, and the social and environmental dilemmas posed by their cultivation remain poorly documented and understood. This represents a major omission which geographers can do much to address.

The preceding sections highlight the existence of two distinct sets of questions pertinent to the study of aquaculture by geographers. The first are broadly in line with the agenda set in ‘Net deficits’ in the scope of their political-economic/ecological agenda. The second, newer, set of questions relates to changing modes of governance within a globalised conventional agri-food sector and to the emergence of ‘alternative’ food movements. Geography has only recently addressed the role of standards and governance in aquaculture as core export species have become subject to regulation by third party certification (Belton et al. 2011; Bush and Duijf 2011; Vandergeest and Unno 2012). Alternative ‘aqua-food’ networks have been slower to appear than terrestrial alternative food movements, but have also recently begun to receive attention (Hatanaka 2010; Konefal and Hatanaka 2011).

The twin themes of global agri-food governance and alternative food systems are the subject of a growing literature which includes major contributions by geographers (e.g. Murdoch et al. 2000; Goodman 2004; Morgan et al. 2006). However, it is important not to overstate the importance of these questions for contemporary aquaculture for a variety of reasons. From a practical standpoint, they relate primarily to categories of industrial export crop similar to those which dominate other agri-food sectors, or to niche markets with a limited impact on global trade or food security. In this regard it is worth remembering that 95% of the global food economy is domestic and just 5% is trade, with the result that ‘what happens in urban markets and in urban–rural supply chains is by far the most important market force affecting farmers’ (Reardon 2012). Although questions regarding the governance of aquaculture and the emergence of alternative forms of production are likely to grow in importance over time, they currently pertain to production practices and social worlds which are in many ways exceptional.

From a theoretical perspective, there is also a danger in conceptualising agricultural and rural change in the South based on the experience of Northern countries with respect to the rise of post-productivist tendencies in agriculture (such as alternative food networks and organic production), and to other areas of current interest such as private environmental governance. To envision agrarian change in the South as locked into the same trajectories apparent in Northern agriculture is to overlook how producers are situated in complex webs of global and local conditions that shape what De Konick et al. (2012) label a ‘mosaic of directionalities’ in agrarian transformation. While some of these may resonate with work on Northern (or global) agro-food systems, many others, including some of those briefly touched upon in earlier sections, will possess their own distinct, and hitherto inadequately theorised characteristics (Wilson and Rigg 2003). Caution must also be exercised in extrapolating from experiences with export commodities produced in the South but fully incorporated into the global agro-food system (e.g. shrimp), to the myriad of other forms of production that service domestic demand. The lack of attention to the producers, products and production systems oriented to Southern domestic markets may reflect a general tendency for place-based studies of agrarian change to have been displaced by more globally oriented agro-food studies. These have a tendency to focus on non-staple crops and the emergence of new market channels (Minten et al. 2013).

We therefore argue that a greater opportunity lies in conducting research which, rather than focusing on these predominantly Northern concerns, embraces what Rigg (2007) calls the geography of the ‘everyday’ in the global South. By making everyday practices explicit, Rigg argues, we are able to reconcile the ‘contradictions between the emergence of a world worn flat by the indefatigable forces of globalisation, and a world where localities and localism are gaining in significance and where difference and complexity are becoming ever more pronounced and powerful’ (p. 11). By applying this notion of the everyday to the neglected 90% of aquaculture species, geographers are well positioned to address the very substantial knowledge deficit identified in this paper. In doing so they stand not just to engage with a much wider set of questions about development and change, but to redress a more systemic neglect of the global South as a whole within the discipline and to produce geographical knowledge, theory and conceptual frameworks which run counter to the current flow from Northern core to Southern periphery (Rigg (2007).

Current forecasts indicate that growth in aquaculture over the last four decades, which has led to the closing of the production deficit in global fisheries, is set to continue. The importance of aquaculture for food and income, as well as a driver of social and environmental change, is therefore also likely to increase. As adherents of a discipline interested in processes of development and change, geographers are ideally placed to trace out the implications that a continuing global aquaculture boom will have, not only in terms of global trade, but also in terms of the complex interactions between production and consumption. Attention to wider political economic dynamics which have dominated analysis of the rise of industrial aquaculture thus far remain necessary but so too is exploration of the existence and significance of everyday production and consumption practices in the domestic economies of the global South. Some recent publications have engaged with everyday aspects of the production of export crops, such as labour organisation and informal state–society relations (Oseland et al. 2012; Belton et al. 2011), but similar treatments of the ‘neglected 90%’ of aquatic staples remain scarce.

By combining a variety of approaches geographers can begin to close the continuing net knowledge deficit in aquacultural geography while addressing an even larger set of lacunae with implications that resonate beyond the boundaries of aquaculture. Global dynamics highlighted in early geographical work on aquaculture remain important in the newer fields of agro-food and alternative geographies, especially as they highlight power and influence along the production–trade–consumption axis. More fundamentally, however, revisiting the types of questions originally posed by Barton and Staniford through the study of ‘everyday’ aquaculture in the global South and broadening their remit to encompass geographies of consumption, urbanisation, agrarian transition and growth holds great promise, not only to redress the remaining empirical knowledge deficit, but to build theory around the locale-specific processes and material realities that are revealed. Such a task will become even more pressing given that aquaculture production is expected to expand a further 50% by 2020 to meet global demand (FAO 2010), the vast majority of which will be composed of ‘everyday’ commodities produced for Southern domestic markets. Geographers are perhaps uniquely placed to appreciate, interpret, understand and predict the implications this sheer growth will bring to the people and places involved.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

This paper is a contribution to the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish. We would like to thank the reviewers for their thoughtful comments on an earlier version of the paper. Ben Belton and Simon Bush are joint first authors.

Note
  1. 1

    Agricultural geographers perform rather better than their aquacultural counterparts with regards to the mismatch between the coverage of staples and export crops: a Web of Science search in ISI listed geography journals over the period 1990–2012 reveals a total of 78 articles on rice and 57 on coffee.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Critical beginnings
  5. ‘Aquacultural geography’ revisited
  6. Setting a new agenda: revisiting the neglected 90%
  7. New frontiers for an aquacultural geography
  8. Discussion and conclusion: moving beyond the knowledge deficit
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  • Abdullah S and Nakagoshi N 2006 Changes in landscape spatial pattern in the highly developing state of Selangor peninsular, Malaysia Landscape and Urban Planning 773 263275
  • Armitage D 2002 Socio-institutional dynamics and the political ecology of mangrove forest conservation in Central Sulawesi Indonesia Global Environmental Change 123 203217
  • Aslesen H W and Isaksen A 2007 New perspectives on knowledge-intensive services and innovation Geografiska Annaler Series B: Human Geography 89 4558
  • Bailey C 1988 The social consequences of tropical shrimp mariculture development Ocean and Shoreline Management 11 3144
  • Bailey C, Jentoft S and Sinclair P 1996 Aquaculture development: social dimensions of an emerging industry Westview Press, Boulder CO
  • Barton J R 1997 Environment sustainability and regulation in commercial aquaculture: the case of Chilean Salmonid production Geoforum 283 313328
  • Barton J R 2006 Sustainable fisheries management in the resource periphery: the cases of Chile and New Zealand Asia Pacific Viewpoint 473 366380
  • Barton J R and Fløysand A 2010 The political ecology of Chilean salmon aquaculture 1982–2010: a trajectory from economic development to global sustainability Global Environmental Change 204 739752
  • Barton J R and Murray W E 2009 Grounding geographies of economic globalisation: globalised spaces in Chile's non-traditional export sector 1980–2005 Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 1001 81100
  • Barton J R and Staniford D 1998 Net deficits and the case for aquacultural geography Area 302 145155
  • Belton B 2012 Culture, social relations and private sector development in the Thai and Vietnamese fish hatchery sectors Asia Pacific Viewpoint 53 133146
  • Belton B and Little D C 2008 The development of aquaculture in central Thailand: domestic demand versus export-led production Journal of Agrarian Change 8 123143
  • Belton B and Little D C 2011 Immanent and interventionist inland Asian aquaculture development and its outcomes Development Policy Review 29 459484
  • Belton B, Little D and Grady K 2009 Is responsible aquaculture sustainable aquaculture? WWF and the Eco-certification of Tilapia Society and Natural Resources 22 840855
  • Belton B, Little D C and Sinh L X 2011 The social relations of catfish production in Vietnam Geoforum 42 567577
  • Bennet R 1991 Resource use, conflicts and cultural landscape development in the coastal zone Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift 45 95105
  • Bird M 2004 Evolution of the Sungei Buloh Kranji mangrove coast Singapore Applied Geography 243 181198
  • Bryant R L 1998 Power, knowledge and political ecology in the third world: a review Progress in Physical Geography 22 7994
  • Busch L and Bain C 2004 New! Improved? The transformation of the global agrifood system Rural Sociology 69 321346
  • Bush S R and Belton B 2011 Out of the factory and into the fish pond: can certification transform Vietnamese Pangasius? in Spaargaren G , Loeber A and Oosterveer P eds. Food in a sustainable world: transitions in the consumption, retail and production of food Routledge, London 257290
  • Bush S R and Duijf M 2011 Searching for unsustainabilty in pangasius aquaculture: a political economy of quality in European retail Geoforum 422 185196
  • Carmona A and Nahuelhaul L 2012 Combining land transitions and trajectories in assessing forest cover change Applied Geography 32 904915
  • Cooke P, Porter J, Pinto H, Cruz A R and Zhang F 2011 Notes from the Iberian Algae Belt European Planning Studies 191 159173
  • Coull J R 1993 Will a blue revolution follow the green revolution? The modern upsurge of aquaculture Area 254 350357
  • De Konick R, Rigg J and Vandergeest P 2012 A half century of agrarian transformation in Southeast Asia, 1960–2010 in Rigg J and Vandergeest P eds Revisiting rural places: pathways to poverty and prosperity in Southeast Asia University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu 2537
  • Deutsch L, Graslund S, Folke C, Troell M, Huitric M, Kautsky N and Lebel L 2007 Feeding aquaculture growth through globalization: exploitation of marine ecosystems for fishmeal Global Environmental Change 172 238249
  • Díaz G I, Nahuelhual L, Echeverría C and Marín S 2010 Drivers of land abandonment in Southern Chile and implications for landscape planning Landscape and Urban Planning 993 207217
  • Doloreux D, Isaksen A, Aslesen H W and Melancon Y 2009 A comparative study of the aquaculture innovation systems in Quebec's coastal region and Norway European Planning Studies 177 963981
  • Duval-Diop D M and Grimes J R 2005 Tales from two deltas: catfish fillets high-value foods and globalization Economic Geography 812 177200
  • FAO 2010 The state of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Rome, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • FAO 2012 Fisheries Global Information System database (www.fao.org/figis) Accessed 29 April 2013
  • Fløysand A, Haarstad H and Barton J 2010 Global economic imperatives, crisis generation and local spaces of engagement in the Chilean aquaculture industry Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift – Norwegian Journal of Geography 64 199210
  • Goodman D 2004 Rural Europe Redux? Reflections on alternative agro-food networks and paradigm change Sociologia Ruralis 44 316
  • Goss J, Burch D and Rickson R E 2000 Agri-food restructuring and Third World transnationals: Thailand, the CP Group and the Global Shrimp Industry World Development 28 513530
  • Ha T T T and Bush S R 2010 Transformations of Vietnamese shrimp aquaculture policy: empirical evidence from Ca Mau Province, The Mekong Delta Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 28 11011119
  • Hall D 2004 Explaining the diversity of Southeast Asian shrimp aquaculture Journal of Agrarian Change 4 315335
  • Harrison E 1996 Digging fish ponds: perspectives on motivation in Luapula Province, Zambia Human Organization 55 270278
  • Hatanaka M 2010 Certification, partnership, and morality in an organic shrimp network: rethinking transnational alternative agrifood networks World Development 38 706716
  • Holloway L and Hubbard P 2001 People and place: the extraordinary geographies of everyday Pearson Education, Harrow
  • Hossain M, Chowdhury S, Das S R, Sharifuzzaman N G and Sultana A 2009 Integration of GIS and multicriteria decision analysis for urban aquaculture development in Bangladesh Landscape and Urban Planning 903 119133
  • Hue L T V and Scott S 2008 Coastal livelihood transitions: socio-economic consequences of changing mangrove forest management and land allocation in a commune of central Vietnam Geographical Research 46 6273
  • Islam M S 2008 From pond to plate: towards a twin-driven commodity chain in Bangladesh shrimp aquaculture Food Policy 33 209223
  • Joffre O M and Schmitt K 2010 Community livelihood and patterns of natural resources uses in the shrimp-farm impacted Mekong Delta Aquaculture Research 41 18551866
  • Johnson P C 1994 Ecology and change in the agricultural system of the Kaonde of Northwestern Zambia Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 151 116
  • Kelly P F 1996 Blue revolution or red herring? Fish farming and development discourse in the Philippines Asia Pacific Viewpoint 371 3957
  • Kipkemboi J, Van Dam A A, Ikiara M M and Denny P 2007 Integration of smallholder wetland aquaculture–agriculture systems (fingerponds) into riparian farming systems on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya: socio-economics and livelihoods The Geographical Journal 1733 257272
  • Kleinen J 2003 Access to natural resources for whom? Aquaculture in Nam Dinh, Vietnam MAST 3 4062
  • Konefal J and Hatanaka M 2011 Enacting third-party certification: a case study of science and politics in organic shrimp certification Journal of Rural Studies 27 125133
  • Lewis D, Wood G D and Gregory R 1996 Trading the silver seed: local knowledge and market moralities in aquacultural development Intermediate Technology Publications, London
  • Li X 2004 Analyzing spatial restructuring of land use patterns in a fast growing region using remote sensing and GIS Landscape and Urban Planning 694 335354
  • Majid Cooke F 2004 Symbolic and social dimensions in the economic production of seaweed Asia Pacific Viewpoint 453 387400
  • Mansfield B 2003 From catfish to organic fish: making distinctions about nature as cultural economic practice Geoforum 34 329342
  • Mansfield B 2004 Rules of Privatization: Contradictions in Neoliberal Regulation of North Pacific Fisheries Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94 565584
  • Mansfield B 2011 Is fish health food or poison? Farmed fish and the material production of un/healthy nature Antipode 432 413434
  • McDaniels T, Dowlatabadi H and Stevens S 2005 Multiple scales and regulatory gaps in environmental change: the case of salmon aquaculture Global Environmental Change Part A 151 921
  • Meltzoff S K and LiPuma E 1986 The social and political economy of coastal zone management: shrimp mariculture in Ecuador Coastal Management 14 349380
  • Merino G, Barange M, Blanchard J L, Harle J, Holmes R, Allen I, Allison E H, Badjeck M C, Dulvy N K, Holt J, Jennings S, Mullon C and Rodwell L D 2012 Can marine fisheries and aquaculture meet fish demand from a growing human population in a changing climate? Global Environmental Change 22 795806
  • Merino G, Barange M, Mullon C and Rodwell L 2010 Impacts of global environmental change and aquaculture expansion on marine ecosystems Global Environmental Change 204 586596
  • Minten B, Murshid K A S, Reardon, T 2013 Food quality changes and implications: evidence from the rice value chain of Bangladesh World Development 42 100113
  • Mishra S R and Griffin A L 2010 Encroachment: a threat to resource sustainability in Chilika Lake India Applied Geography 303 448459
  • Morgan K, Marsden T K and Murdoch J 2006 Worlds of food: place, power and provenance in the food chain Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Murdoch J, Marsden T K and Banks J 2000 Quality, nature, and embeddedness: some theoretical considerations in the context of the food sector Economic Geography 76 107125
  • Oseland S E, Haarstad H and Fløysand A 2012 Labor agency and the importance of the national scale: emergent aquaculture unionism in Chile Political Geography 31 94103
  • Peel D and Lloyd M 2008 Governance and planning policy in the marine environment: regulating aquaculture in Scotland The Geographical Journal 1744 361373
  • Pelletier N and Tyedmers P 2010 Life cycle assessment of frozen tilapia fillets from Indonesian lake-based and pond-based intensive aquaculture systems Journal of Industrial Ecology 14 467481
  • Peuhkuri T 2002 Knowledge and interpretation in environmental conflict: fish farming and eutrophication in the Archipelago Sea SW Finland Landscape and Urban Planning 612 157168
  • Pons L J and Fiselier J L 1991 Sustainable development of mangroves Landscape and Urban Planning 201 103109
  • Ramakrishna, R 2007 Kolleru carp culture in India: an aquaplosion and an explosion Aquaculture Asia 11 1218
  • Reardon, T 2012 Urbanization and transformation of food systems and rural economies (www.sciencecouncil.cgiar.org/meetings-events/ispc-meetings/en/) Accessed 29 April 2013
  • Reardon T, Timmer C P and Minten B 2010 Supermarket revolution in Asia and emerging development strategies to include small farmers Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 6 December, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003160108
  • Rigg J 2007 An everyday geography of the global south Routledge, London
  • Sakamoto T, Van Phung C, Kotera A, Nguyen K D and Yokozawa M 2009 Analysis of rapid expansion of inland aquaculture and triple rice-cropping areas in a coastal area of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta using MODIS time-series imagery Landscape and Urban Planning 921 3446
  • Seto K and Fragkias M 2007 Mangrove conversion and aquaculture development in Vietnam: a remote sensing-based approach for evaluating the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Global Environmental Change 173 486500
  • Sievanen L, Crawford B, Pollnac R and Lowe C 2005 Weeding through assumptions of livelihood approaches in ICM: seaweed farming in the Philippines and Indonesia Ocean and Coastal Management 48 297313
  • Skladany M, Clausen R and Belton B 2007 Offshore aquaculture: the frontier of redefining oceanic property Society and Natural Resources 20 169176
  • Smardon R 2006 Heritage values and functions of wetlands in Southern Mexico Landscape and Urban Planning 743 296312
  • Stonich S C and Bailey C 2000 Resisting the blue revolution: contending coalitions surrounding industrial shrimp farming Human Organization 591 2336
  • Suryanata K and Umemoto K 2003 Tension at the nexus of the local and global: culture property and marine aquaculture in Hawai′i Environment and Planning A 35 21992213
  • Suryanata K and Umemoto K 2005 Beyond environmental impact: articulating the ‘intangibles’ in a resource conflict Geoforum 366 750760
  • Szeremeta A , Winkler L , Blake F and Lembo P eds 2010 Organic aquaculture: EU Regulations EC 834/2007 EC 889/2008 EC 710/2009 Background Assessment Interpretation Brussels IFOAM and IAMB
  • Thrane M, Nielsen E H and Christensen P 2009 Cleaner production in Danish fish processing – experiences status and possible future strategies Journal of Cleaner Production 173 380390
  • Tsai B W, Chang K T, Chang C Y and Chu C M 2006 Analyzing spatial and temporal changes of aquaculture in Yunlin County Taiwan The Professional Geographer 582 161171
  • Valderrama D, Hishamunda N and Zhou XW 2010 Estimating employment in world Aquaculture FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Newsletter 45 2425
  • Vandergeest P 2009 Opening the green box: how organic became the standard for alternative agriculture in Thailand Paper prepared for the Berkeley Workshop on Environmental Politics Berkeley, CA, USA 17 April 2009
  • Vandergeest P 2007 Certification and communities: alternatives for regulating the environmental and social impacts of shrimp farming World Development 357 11521171
  • Vandergeest P, Flaherty M and Miller P 1999 A political ecology of shrimp aquaculture in Thailand Rural Sociology 644 573596
  • Vandergeest P and Unno A 2012 A new extraterritoriality? Aquaculture certification, sovereignty, and empire Political Geography 31 358367
  • Veeck G 2008 China's exports and imports of agricultural products under the WTO Eurasian Geography and Economics 495 569585
  • Veuthey S and Gerber J F 2012 Accumulation by dispossession in coastal Ecuador: shrimp farming, local resistance and the gender structure of mobilizations Global Environmental Change 22 611622
  • Walters B 2007 Competing use of marine space in a modernizing fishery: salmon farming meets lobster fishing on the Bay of Fundy Canadian Geographer 72 139159
  • Weeks P 1992 Fish and people: aquaculture and the social sciences Society and Natural Resources 5 345357
  • Willer H and Kilcher L eds 2012 The world of organic agriculture – statistics and emerging trends 2012 Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick, and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Bonn
  • Wilson G A and Rigg J 2003 Post-productivist’ agricultural regimes and the South: discordant concepts? Progress in Human Geography 27 681707
  • World Bank 2012 World Development Indicators 2012 (http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/world-development-indicators) Accessed 15 September 2012