Southeast Asia’s fish industry at tipping point, says top official
Speaking at an international workshop there on fish health management, Chumnarn Pongsri, the head of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) warned that the industry is teetering on the edge of destruction
“Chemicals and drugs have been heavily used even if it is unnecessary to enhance fish culture and to control diseases in order to keep operations going,” Pongsri said to an industry audience.
The official’s comments were confirmed by a spokesperson at SEAFDEC, a regional treaty organisation that promotes fisheries development in the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“In the short-term, such practices appear to bring sizeable profit to operators. In severe cases, these could result in uncontrollable outbreaks of fish diseases in farms and worse, could lead to the total collapse of the aquaculture industry,” he said.
Unnecessary use of chemicals and drugs should be reduced or even avoided and that that their use should strictly follow the appropriate withdrawal period before fish and marine products are harvested.
Explaining that if these practices are not reined in, the export markets for these fish could turn away from the region. “The intensification of aquaculture and its consequences has caught the attention of consumers in other countries who are concerned over safety and quality of aquaculture products.”
Pongsri also pointed out that producers would have to ensure residues from chemicals and antibiotics used during the culture period should be within acceptable levels.
“The products have to meet sanitary and hygiene standards starting from harvesting, processing, packaging until such products reach consumers,” he said.
He also remarked that compliance with mandatory requirements imposed by importing countries, many of which have adopted Good Aquaculture Practices, would be a must going forward.
According to SEAFDEC, fish production in Southeast Asia has increased significantly to 12 metric million tonnes in 2011, contributing a major chunk of the worldwide production of 55 million metric tonnes.
But despite this high contribution, the status of fish health management in many countries in South East Asia remained unsatisfactory and way off global standards, Pongsri warned.