SUPERSEAS project identifies governance components of area-based management

Solving complex problems in the aquaculture sector requires integration between actors that do not normally interact. Understanding how these actors can interact and contribute to area-based management in aquaculture was a key goal of the recent mid-term meeting of the SUPERSEAS project, held at the Mekong Delta Development Research Institute of Can Tho University, Vietnam.

Area-based management is founded on the principle of ‘moving beyond the farm scale’. However, this does not just mean increasing the spatial ‘area’ under management, based on a watershed or set of shared resources. It also means incorporating a number of governance processes that directly influence, but extend far beyond, the level of the farm.

At the halfway mark of SUPERSEAS , a four-year project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and led by Wageningen University and the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH), research results indicate that there are four interrelated governance components to area-based management (as summarized in Figure 1).

SUPERSEAS brings together a consortium of public and private partners working on sustainable aquaculture in Southeast Asia. Focusing on Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam, it aims to provide better access for small-scale fish farmers to high-value retail markets, notably supermarkets. The first research findings have been submitted to peer-reviewed journals and are expected to be published later this year.

Figure 1. Key components of area-based management.

First, how farmers organize to respond to systemic environmental risks related to disease and water quality remains a key factor of any area-based approach. However, exactly how farmers organize depends on the scale of their collective or shared production risks. As Mariska Bottema, a PhD researcher at Wageningen University, describes, cooperation should be defined by the socio-spatial extent of farmer networks within which the…