Plenary Lecture

What Can Sustain the World's Fastest Growing Source of Food so that it Keeps Pace with World Population Growth?

Professor Neil Ridler
co-author: Professor Nathanael Hishamunda
Department of Economics
University of New Brunswick

Abstract: The focus of this paper is aquaculture, which is the fastest growing source of food (at 5.8 per cent on average annually since 1985 according to FAO), and predominantly from the developing countries, particularly China, but also elsewhere in Asia and Africa.
Governance and institutions have become a focus of study because of their importance. Empirical research has demonstrated that most (up to 75%) of the differences in per capita income between countries can be attributed to governance factors; the collection of laws, institutions, and government policies that make up the economic environment (Hall and Jones, 1997; Johnson, 1997;Keefer and Knack, 1997; Landes, 1998). This paper examines institutions and governance within one sector, aquaculture. Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing source of food. It has been heavily promoted in many countries with fiscal and monetary incentives. More than 80% of aquaculture output comes from developing countries, and by providing protein and increasing the availability of food aquaculture contributes to the Millennium Development Goals. It generates employment income (often female employment in fish processing and marketing) enhancing the accessibility to food. Through multipliers it increases economic growth, tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings. On the environment, aquaculture can have positive effects by reducing the pressure on over-exploited fish stocks.
However there are costs and these have generated public mistrust of the sector. The state has not always intervened to minimise market failures, particularly negative externalities. As a result there has been unanticipated environmental damage and social upheaval. Public mistrust has been reflected in consumer boycotts, litigation, moratoria on sites, and even vandalism.
"Good" governance appears to be necessary, even though not sufficient, for aquaculture to flourish, and be sustainable. Deadlines for licence decisions secure property rights and transparent procedures, reduce risks and transaction costs, enticing entrepreneurs to invest in productive activities. The global nature of modern aquaculture and its novelty provides an opportunity to analyze what contributes to its success (or failure), and to learn from best practices. The institutional framework governing Norwegian salmon farming is cited as a model.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Neil Ridler, PhD., Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Canada, he has numerous refereed papers, and reports. For the last fifteen years he has been a Visiting Scientist and Consultant at FAO of the UN.

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