World Aquaculture Society Meetings

AQUAFISH RESEARCH INFORMS POLICY TO LIFT CAMBODIAN SNAKEHEAD FARMING BAN THROUGH SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE TECHNOLOGIES

Susannah L. Bodman, Kat Goetting*, and Hillary Egna
 
AquaFish Innovation Lab
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
susannah.bodman@oregonstate.edu

Fisheries of the Lower Mekong Basin provide the means to create food security and nutrition for 60 million people in Cambodia and Vietnam. While aquaculture of snakehead (Channa striata) in Vietnam has been gaining in popularity because of its high market value, snakehead farming was banned in neighboring Cambodia in 2005 in an effort to alleviate pressure on wild populations of small, low-value, freshwater fish that were harvested for snakehead feed. Unsustainable snakehead seed collection practices also were of concern.

AquaFish Innovation Lab researchers - at the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute in Cambodia; Can Tho University in Vietnam; and the University of Connecticut-Avery Point, University of Rhode Island, and Oregon State University, all in the US - have been working in the region since the ban to develop technologies and strategies to create a sustainable snakehead aquaculture program, including successful hatchery technology and formulation of commercial feeds that reduce fish content without decreasing growth performance and marketability.  

Research conducted in Vietnam first developed a pelleted snakehead feed that contained 40% plant protein, a far more sustainable ingredient than that of typical fish meal. Once the feed was successfully implemented in Vietnam, AquaFish researchers compared the weaning and grow-out performance of wild, indigenous snakehead in Cambodia to that of domesticated snakehead from Vietnamese hatcheries on formulated or pelleted diets. The Vietnamese hatchery fish showed a higher growth rate than that of wild Cambodian snakehead.

This AquaFish-supported research played a substantial role in lifting the snakehead farming ban in Cambodia in 2016 by informing the design and implementation of a successful and sustainable snakehead aquaculture program. Cambodia's Fisheries Administration sought information from AquaFish researchers regarding their investigations of snakehead domestication and breeding, weaning, and grow-out. A key tipping point in lifting the ban, besides the need to increase income opportunities for farmers, was the development of processed fish feeds, which AquaFish researchers helped to develop.

This success in helping to end the ban not only opens the door for improved economic impacts and opportunities for Cambodians but also aims to alleviate the environmental impacts of overfishing.

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