Case Study: Development of Chicoa Fish Farm in Mozambique (on-going)

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“As the business grows, each iteration becomes less risky. There’s more work to do, but it’s easier. The chance of failure is much less as you move forward and you start building a team.”

– Gerry McCollum, CEO of Chicoa Fish Farm


A highly experienced management team launched a new project in Cahora Bassa Lake, Mozambique, in 2012 to establish a large-scale, cage-based tilapia farm. The promoters had been involved in setting up the Lake Harvest Fish Farm in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, in previous decades, a project that has been the inspiration behind many similar projects in the region.

Chicoa Fish Farm has taken many years to get off the ground as, despite their extensive experience, the promoters found it difficult to find finance for the project and acquire the various permissions. They were eventually supported by the Dutch venture capital organisation Aqua-Spark, and are now in production with 36 cages, a hatchery and associated buildings. They intend to add a feed mill and processing plant, building a vertically integrated fish farm that can also supply inputs, training and possibly finance for other fish farmers in the region.

The project demonstrates the important role that experience plays in setting up a new venture but also the challenges involved in setting the first fish farm of its type in a relatively remote area. Despite these challenges, the project is making good progress thanks to the persistence and vision of the promoters.

The issue

Africa imports around 40 per cent of the fish it consumes and, with increasing pressure on fish stocks, capture fisheries cannot meet the demand. According to the 2018 United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report, per capita fish consumption in Africa is expected to decrease by 0.2 per cent per year up to 2030, declining from 9.8 kg in 2016 to 9.6 kg in 2030, as a result of population growth outpacing supply. The decline will be even more significant in sub-Saharan Africa.

Chicoa fish farm is in a sheltered bay in Cahora Bassa Lake

According to a Mozambique fisheries fact file released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC),  more than half of the country’s population of 27 million people are surviving beneath the poverty line, and per capita fish consumption is at 9 kg per person. Meanwhile, the aquaculture sector is badly underdeveloped, mainly producing prawns, along with some tilapia and seaweed.

Chicoa Fish Farm was established by experienced aquaculture developers Gerry McCollum and Damien Legros to create a blueprint of a vertically integrated fish farm that other farmers can emulate in the region to supply much-needed fish and improve the prospects for people in an under-developed region of Southern Africa.

The response

Gerry McCollum and Damien Legros worked together to establish the Lake Harvest Fish Farm in Kariba, Zimbabwe, in the late 1990s. Lake Harvest was the first large-scale cage-based fish farm in Southern Africa. The initial aim was to produce 3,000 tons per year of tilapia for export to Europe in a project supported by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). However, as the economic situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated and priorities changed within CDC, the farm was sold to its management team of McCollum, Legros and Patrick Blow, who managed to keep it operating by focusing on European markets. Major new investment came in 2009 through a UK-based venture capital fund, African Century, and the business concentrated on developing regional markets within Africa. Lake Harvest has expanded since then and has been the inspiration behind rapid expansion of cage-based tilapia aquaculture and supporting industries such as aquaculture feed production across sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, McCollum and Legros moved on from Lake Harvest and in 2012 decided to focus on commercial aquaculture in Mozambique. Chicoa Fish Farm is situated on Cahora Bassa Lake, downstream from Kariba on the Zambezi River. It has good access to Tete’s urban centre and other markets across the region, including Blantyre, Lilongwe, Harare, Maputo and Beira.

The site is in deep water, close to land, which makes it easier and more cost-effective to supervise the cages in a protected bay. It farms Nile tilapia, a fish introduced to the Zambezi catchment in the 1980s that grows rapidly, is easy to breed and can be fed using largely plant-based diets.

The company plans to expand production to around 5,000 tons per year and will build a larger hatchery and feed plant than it needs for its own production with the aim of selling inputs to other farmers in the region. The aim is to supply new farmers with everything they need, from fingerlings, to feed, training and equipment and possibly even financial solutions.

A small settlement called Emboque lies next to the farm. The area is remote and the people are poor. Many do not have schooling and eke out their living as subsistence farmers or fishers. For these people and others across the region, an aquaculture model like Chicoa’s might well offer the chance for a more secure and prosperous life.

Partnerships and support

Chicoa found it difficult to raise finance but was eventually supported by Aqua-Spark, a Netherlandsbased investment fund that focuses exclusively on sustainable aquaculture. However, there was initial hesitation owing to the fund’s internal policy to invest in on-going concerns rather than start-ups. Chicoa used this investment to install the first cages in November 2015.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The project trains and employs local staff (Image credit: Jon Pilch, Chicoa Fish Farm)

Chicoa now has 36 production cages, with a production capacity of 1,200–1,400 tons, in Cahora Bassa Lake, as well as a breeding set-up on the lake, nursery tanks on
land, offices, a feed store and workshops.

The company is now raising funds to increase its capacity to 3,000 MT per year and intend to build a processing facility. It has a new CFO, Jayson Coomer, and a joint venture partner in Malawi handling sales.

It sells whole tilapia on ice in Mozambique but also exports to Zambia, Malawi and countries in Southern Africa.

The company has over 100 employees on the payroll and will also be training and assisting other entrepreneurs to become out-growers or third-party farmers. Chicoa is training and employing people from the local community and offers internships for Mozambican agricultural students from technical colleges.


Chicoa’s first few years were particularly difficult as it was a virgin site and the initial investment time was high. It took two years to secure the land and licences for the farm.

Chicoa also had to deal with poor infrastructure, lowskilled labour, bureaucracy and a lack of supporting industry or institutional framework.

Key lessons learnt

In a relatively remote location, where there are no other similar businesses, vertical integration of a fish farm is essential. It is not possible to depend on others for fingerlings or markets and Chicoa intends to build its own feed mill and processing plant.

The expertise of the Chicoa team has been an important factor in project success.

Chicoa can become a catalyst for growth of the aquaculture industry through supplying high-quality fingerlings, feed and expertise, thus diversifying revenue streams and enabling a positive impact on local communities.


Antoni, M.L. (2019) ‘Model Tilapia Venture Shows Mettle in Mozambique’. Global Aquaculture Advocate:

Lead contact

Damien Legros, Director of Aquaculture, Chicoa Fish Farm, Mozambique

Email: [email protected]

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Best Management Practice Training for Egyptian Fish Farmers Managed by WorldFish Under the IEIDEAS and STREAMS Projects

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“What I have learned from the training is very useful: how to prepare the land, how to handle fingerlings, how to calculate the required amount of food and how to measure water quality. I have noticed better weight of fish and increased survival. These results will help to give my family a better livelihood,” says Abdel-Wahab, Egyptian fish farmer


The Egyptian aquaculture sector has grown rapidly since the 1980s into a strategically important source of nutrition for the country’s population. The fish farming system had not changed much since the initial establishment of pond-based fish farming zones except that there was increasing dependence on feeds. The 2011 Arab Spring revolution resulted in a downturn in the Egyptian economy that threatened the profitability of fish farms. Selling prices for fish were static or declining while costs continued to increase.

A study commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) in 2011 identified opportunities to improve the situation through best management practice (BMP) training and the release of a faster-growing strain of tilapia developed by WorldFish at its Abbassa research centre over the previous decade. This resulted in WorldFish implementing a three-year SDC-funded project, Improving Employment and Income through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector, from early 2012.

The project trained over 2,400 fish farmers in BMP in a field-based programme delivered by private sector, locally based trainers. This resulted in high adoption rates and significantly improved feed efficiency that generated average increased profits of US$16,000 per farm and total value added by the project of US$27 million. Increased feed efficiency also resulted in environmental benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced discharge of nutrients to ecosystems.

The issue

Egyptian aquaculture is based on small- to medium-scale pond-based fish farms covering around 120,000 hectares in designated aquaculture zones, mainly on the southern edge of shallow lakes along the north coast of the Nile Delta. The current system was established in the early 1980s when aquaculture was prioritised as an important sector for development. A management and regulatory organisation, the General Authority for Fisheries Resources Development (GAFRD), was established that leased aquaculture land to the fish farmers in small blocks. Government-owned feed mills and hatcheries were built and, because aquaculture was profitable, the sector expanded rapidly through private sector investment. Aquaculture production rose to almost 1 million tons per year by 2010, almost all consumed locally, making it a strategically important source of nutrition and resulting in Egypt becoming the largest aquaculture producing country in Africa and the Near East. However, this success was threatened by the Arab Spring revolution in 2011, which slowed the economy, making it difficult for fish farmers to pass on rising input costs. Many fish farmers were unable to make profits using the tilapia and mullet farming systems they had developed since the 1980s, and it seemed unlikely that aquaculture production could continue to thrive.

The response

The international research organisation, WorldFish (formerly the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management and WorldFish Center) has had an office and research centre in Egypt since 1997. Meanwhile, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) indicated that it would be keen to support a project focused on increasing employment following the Arab Spring. SDC supported a 2011 scoping study that identified a need to improve management practices in the aquaculture sector as well as releasing an improved strain of tilapia to Egyptian fish farmers and providing support for women fish retailers.

The new three-year US$6 million project, Improving Employment and Income through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector (IEIDEAS), began in 2012. One of the first actions was to set up a best management practices (BMP) training programme by involving key stakeholders in its design and implementation. Representatives from across the main aquaculture zones were brought together to develop BMP guidelines, based on blending current Egyptian aquaculture practices, which varied in different aquaculture zones, and international best practice programmes such as GlobalGAP and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification schemes. The local experts then helped develop BMP training modules: short, field-based training sessions on the key topics, each containing a practical demonstration and delivered using simple materials such as posters, flipcharts and readily available tools. This was followed by training of trainers, again involving the local experts, as well as additional private sector trainers, who delivered the training to fish farmers in their own fish farming areas. Trainers were paid a small fee for delivery of each training module to a small group of up to 20 fish farmers. Around 10 training modules might be delivered at the appropriate time of year in 3 or 4 sessions, each session covering 2–4 training modules.

Partnerships and support

The IEIDEAS project was funded by SDC and implemented by WorldFish as part of its Egypt research programme and its global aquaculture programme. It involved staff from the Egyptian Government, particularly from GAFRD and the Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research (CLAR), which seconds several staff to WorldFish. On-the-ground support also came from the Fish Farming Associations and the apex organisation, the Aquatic Union of Fisheries Cooperatives, as well as some of the main private sector fish feed companies, including Skretting and Aller Aqua.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Over a three-year period, the IEIDEAS project provided BMP training to around 2,400 fish farmers and the fastergrowing strain of Nile tilapia (Abbassa improved strain) reached around 500 fish farms.

The quantitative results were assessed in 2015, through field-based surveys including a BMP adoption survey, to determine whether fish farmers had applied the recommended practices, and a fish farm and farmer impact assessment survey.

The project resulted in greatly increased profitability for fish farms equivalent to around US$16,000 in extra profit generated per farm and US$27 million total value added by the project. Increased profitability was mainly achieved by cost savings through more efficient feed management rather than increased production. Average Food Conversion Ratios (FCR = amount of food fed divided by fish weight gain) fell from around 1.8:1 for control farmers to below 1.5:1 for farms that received BMP training. Reduced FCRs will have resulted in reduced environmental impacts (greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient discharges).

The BMP training continued through a follow-up threeyear project, Sustainable Transformation of Egypt’s Aquaculture Market System (STREAMS), also funded by SDC, with the aim of reaching 6,000 fish farmers. Challenges Although profitability of fish farms improved, the directly attributable employment increase from farmers who received assistance from the project was only 28 fulltime equivalent (FTE), well short of the project target of 10,000 new jobs.

The pre-project study had established that there were 14 FTE jobs along the aquaculture value chain for each 100 tons per year of production, and total employment in the value chain of around 100,000. If fish farmers increased their production by around 10 per cent as a result of the project, employment should increase by around 10,000 FTE. SDC saw increased employment as a critical objective of its economic strategy in Egypt after the Arab Spring.

The IEIDEAS project included not only BMP training but also the release of a faster-growing tilapia strain and expansion of aquaculture into a region of Upper Egypt. However, the dissemination process for the improved strain of tilapia meant that it was only in the final year of the project that it reached significant numbers of farmers, and aquaculture production in Upper Egypt effectively started from zero, so these interventions did not contribute toward production increases during the project’s lifetime. Meanwhile, faced with increased input costs and a stagnating market, the fish farmers behaved logically by using the BMP training to greatly increase their efficiency, reducing their feed use but maintaining production levels and increasing their profitability rather than increasing risk by producing more fish.

Official statistics show that aquaculture production increased rapidly across the country over this period but there is a question of attribution. Official statistics are based on productivity estimates for the main fish farming areas rather than farm-by-farm data collection, whereas the project inception and completion reports were based on field surveys covering statistically representative numbers of fish farmers. It was clear that fish farmers were applying the new practices and benefiting from this immediately in terms of profitability. However, it was proposed that the target was still likely to be met in the longer term as a result of project interventions as the use of the faster-growing tilapia strain expanded and farmers invested their profits from improved practices in production intensification.

The Egyptian aquaculture industry also faced a new fish health challenge over this period, called Summer Mortality of Tilapia, leading to many farmers losing a significant proportion of their fish during the hottest part of the year. WorldFish research found a potential link between Summer Mortality and the spread of Tilapia Lake Virus; however, this has not been confirmed.

This is a good example of a project being driven by donor priorities – in this case employment. An apparently logical strategy was constructed around the link between production and employment. However, for fish farmers, the central issue was their economic survival in very challenging circumstances. This emphasises the importance of understanding the priorities of key stakeholders during project design and setting achievable targets.

Key lessons learnt

Filed-based BMP training can have very significant impacts on the financial performance of small- to medium-scale fish farmers.

The BMP training allowed farmers to significantly improve the efficiency of feed use, producing similar amounts of fish compared with before the BMP training but using less feed.

The main messages from BMP training were adopted immediately and applied by the majority of fish farmers. The training was delivered mainly by locally based fellow fish farmers rather than extension staff, which probably increased the rate of adoption.

The parallel intervention of releasing an improved strain of tilapia took much longer to implement and achieve impacts than the BMP training.

Lead contact

Dr Harrison Karisa, Country Director, WorldFish Egypt


Dickson, M., Nasr-Allah, A.M., Kenawy, D., Fathi, M., ElNaggar, G. and Ibrahim, N. (2016) ‘Improving Employment and Income through Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector (IEIDEAS) Project’. Programme Report 2016-14. Penang: WorldFish. http://pubs.iclarm. net/resource_centre/2016-14.pdf Dickson, M., Nasr-Allah, A., Kenawy, D. and Kruissen, F. (2016) ‘Increasing Fish Farm Profitability through Best Management Practice Training in Egypt’. Aquaculture 465: 172–178. aquaculture.2016.09.015

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Development of an Aquaculture Industry in Seychelles (on-going)

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Fishing plays an important role in the Seychelles economy, with a fishing industry worth around US$400 million and per capita fish consumption levels more than twice the global average. Despite this, aquaculture has been slow to develop. However, there is a renewed focus on building a sustainable mariculture sector through the Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap, launched in 2018.

The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) is coordinating efforts to develop marine finfish and marine invertebrate farms in line with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture. Background work has been ongoing for the past 10 years, including the publication of a Mariculture Master Plan and developing a regulatory framework, zoning and feasibility studies followed by an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in 2016.

The implementation plan focuses on production of high-value finfish and invertebrates including snappers, groupers, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Zoning has identified areas suitable for aquaculture production including artisanal systems, commercial systems (covered by the ESIA) and commercial zones requiring separate impact assessments. A legal framework has been established and mandatory aquaculture standards developed while market research has been carried out.

Key infrastructure has been developed, including a broodstock acclimation and quarantine facility in Providence, Mahe. This is important as Seychelles will focus on indigenous species to reduce the risk of disease transfers and escapes of exotic species. A sea urchin research facility has also been established in Providence, and a pilot-scale cage aquaculture site. A research and development centre is planned for La Digue Island and an integrated aquaculture hub at Grand Anse, Mahe.

Aquaculture regulations are currently being drafted into legal texts for gazetting, which will allow the official launch of the sector later in 2020. SFA has been involved in a public education and awareness campaign, and local and international investors have shown an interest.

The Blue Economy initiative has provided an opportunity to prioritise sustainable aquaculture as a means to diversify ocean-based activities. In the future, aquaculture has the potential to become a new pillar of the economy.

The issue

Fish and fish-related activities play an important role in the economy of Seychelles, making up 7.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, worth US$400 million and employing around 5,000 people. Per capita consumption of fish is the highest in Africa at 57.4 kg/ person/year (FAO, 2014). In order to focus on sustainable investment in an ocean-based economy, Seychelles launched a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap after approval by the Government on 31 January 2018. A Blue Economy Department has been established within the portfolio of the Office of the Vice President to oversee implementation of the Framework and Roadmap.

The goals in developing the national Blue Economy Roadmap include economic diversification and resilience to reduce economic vulnerability and reliance on a small number of sectors and to increase the share of GDP derived from marine sectors; shared prosperity through creation of high-value jobs and local investment opportunities; improved food security and well-being; increased integrity of habitats and ecosystem services; sustainable use; and climate resilience.

The two main pillars of the economy are tourism and the capture fisheries industry. Tourism is volatile and largely dependent on the global economy whereas capture fisheries are overexploited and some species are declining. The 2008 global economic crisis hit Seychelles hard economically, and the aftermath led the Government to decide that the country needed to diversify its economy.

One of the key opportunities was the exploration and feasibility of new and emerging maritime sectors, including marine-based aquaculture. Previously, Seychelles had a commercial prawn farm, which was state-owned, with production peaking at over 1,000 tons in 2003/04. The farm grew black tiger prawns (Penaeus monodon), with the seedlings and broodstock coming from hatcheries in Madagascar and Mozambique. The prawn farm had to shut down in December 2008, for economic and operational reasons. The only remaining aquaculture facility is one on the second largest island of the Seychelles Archipelago: Praslin. The Black Pearl Farm is privately owned and has been in operation since the 1980s, when it started with both black pearl (Pinctada margaritifera) and giant clam (Tridacna maxima) production. Giant clam production had to cease in the early 2000s because of high mortality during transportation to markets in Europe and the USA. Aquaculture in general had not been a significant economic activity in Seychelles at that point, and skills, key infrastructure, institutional and legal frameworks were lacking.

The response

The Seychelles aquaculture sector is being developed according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 2010 Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture – a strategy for the integration of the activity within the wider ecosystem such that it promotes sustainable development, equity and resilience of interlinked social-ecological systems.

The process started with a 2007 Rapid Assessment Study to gauge opinion on whether it was desirable to develop marine aquaculture, followed by a 2009 Comprehensive Scoping Study to assess opportunities and constraints and the publication of a Mariculture Master Plan (MMP) in 2011. Work continued on developing the regulatory framework, the identification of Aquaculture Development Zones (ADZs), feasibility studies and environmental baseline studies over the period until 2016.

In 2016 an independent consultancy firm, Golder International, carried out an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). The consultants’ task was to determine the potential positive and negative impacts of the proposed MMP on both the biophysical and socio-cultural environments as a consequence of the creation of such an industry. The ESIA evaluated impacts and recommended mitigation measures to either avoid or reduce negative impacts and enhance positive impacts of the MMP. The conclusion and opinion of the consultants was that:

“Subject to compliance with the recommended mitigation measures, which are detailed in the ESMP [Environmental and Social Management Plan], the proposed new aquaculture sector has significant positive aspects and acceptably low negative biophysical and socio-cultural impacts which can be managed by suitable monitoring and management interventions. It is the opinion of the EAP that it should be approved on the basis that overall the positive impacts outweigh the negative impacts.”

With environmental approval, the Aquaculture Department was ready to transition from a planning phase to an implementation phase.

Seychelles’ emerging aquaculture industry seeks to incorporate a diversity of candidate species and production technologies with the aim of providing a premium-quality basket of seafood products to both local and export markets. There is an opportunity to develop a high-quality mariculture industry based on production of marine finfish and marine invertebrates. Candidate species for production have been identified and research is continuing into diversification of the range of key species.

There is a five-year implementation plan, as follows:

  • Focus on high-value species, e.g. snappers, groupers and other finfish;
  • Total coastal area identified for production: 52 km2 ;
  • Estimated average potential production for 5.2 km2 = up to 50,000 MT (capacity);
  • Job creation = approximately 2,000;
  • New export markets (Japan and Southeast Asia);
  • Potential for investment – fish feed production;
  • Potential for collaboration in e.g. research and development (R&D). Partnerships and support The various partners involved in the development of aquaculture in Seychelles are:
  • The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MFAg) is the lead ministry in developing aquaculture and provides policy guidelines to this sector through the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA).
  • The Blue Economy Department coordinates development in the Blue Economy sphere and ensures cohesiveness on subjects such as food security and economic development.
  • The Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SEYCCAT) is a local trust fund set up as part of the debt swap agreement for Seychelles, to assist small local entrepreneurs to develop and start activities in the Blue Economy of Seychelles, which includes aquaculture.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEECC) assists SFA in assessing and approving aquaculture projects and ensuring adherence to Seychelles’ environmental laws.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning (MFTEP) assists in the national development of aquaculture with a particular focus on finance and trade policies.
  • The National Institution for Science, Technology and Innovation (NISTI) is charged with assisting with any potential innovation coming out of aquaculture development in Seychelles.
  • The Ministry of Employment helps the aquaculture sector develop while keeping in line and up to date with the various employment policies to ensure the socio-economic impact of the sector is kept on a positive side.
  • The Guy Morel Institute (TGMI) is a leading educational institute partnering with SFA to train skilled labour for the sector with a particular focus also on entrepreneurship.
  • The Seychelles Investment Board (SIB) is the point of contact for any businesses wishing to invest within or from outside Seychelles and is assisting SFA to market aquaculture.
  • The Department of Investment assists SFA with investment-driven policies to ensure the sustainability of the sector in years to come as the global investment climate changes.
  • Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation is a unit within TGMI and the University of Seychelles is the dedicated government-owned tertiary education institute, both partnering with SFA to conduct scientific research.

Development and implementation of the MMP was assisted by an experienced team of consultants (Advance Africa), including an Emeritus professor of ichthyology and an agricultural/resource economist, who various scientific and socio-economic surveys and modelling of the sector’s impact on Seychelles.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Aquaculture development and activities in Seychelles are now governed by the 2014 Fisheries Act, the Regulations for Aquaculture in the Seychelles (pending Official Gazetting) and the Seychelles Aquaculture Standards. The Standards are designed to provide detail to the Aquaculture Regulations and are mandatory. They cover the following issues:

  • Aquaculture in Sustainable Use Areas;
  • Responsible Finfish Cage Culture;
  • Responsible Effluent and Waste Management;
  • Aquaculture Biosecurity and Fish Health Management in Land- and Sea-based Facilities;
  • Responsible Prawn Farming in Ponds; • Responsible Pearl Oyster Farming;
  • Responsible Sea Cucumber Farming, Ranching and Stock Enhancement.
  • ADZs have been established to fit with the recommendations of the 2016 ESIA. The ESIA covered some land-based sites and specific ADZs, but did not include inshore and offshore zones.
  • Market research was carried out in 2015–2019, including study visits to Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Norway, with the aim of ground-truthing market assumptions and identifying potential development partners.

A multi-species broodstock acclimation and quarantine facility (BAQF) has been established in Providence, Mahe, to provide scientific and institutional support to aquaculture operators by developing hatchery techniques and producing fingerlings to supply fish farms. Seychelles is taking an approach of using only indigenous species in this new sector, so as to negate the risk of importing diseases and other biosecurity issues. With this approach, and with limited land and human resources, among others, the Government will house and manage the main finfish hatchery on the island. This will benefit start-up businesses, as they can purchase good quality fingerlings at a subsidised rate.

Also in Providence, a sea urchin research facility (SURF) has been set up to develop production protocols for collector sea urchins (Tripneustes gratilla) and investigate markets and distribution networks for Uni, a product derived from the gonads (roe) that is in high demand in Japan. The research facility is located at the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA), a post-secondary school. SFA has been able to sign a memorandum of understanding with the school so that the students can occasionally participate in the research, thus building their capacity for the world of work.

A sea cage site has been identified off the coast of Providence and close to the BAQF to hold fingerlings and carry out pilot-scale grow-out of marine finfish. Two “Polarcirkel” sea cages have been installed with the help of a Norwegian company. This will be used to prove the business case for marine finfish farming in Seychelles as well as studying environmental impacts of cage farming on the seabed.

Plans are at an advanced stage for an R&D centre on La Digue Island. This will be a multi-species centre for fisheries and aquaculture focused on new species, aquaculture production techniques and nutrition research. It will also include coral reef conservation, climate change, restocking research and a public aquarium.

An integrated aquaculture hub will be developed at Grand Anse, Mahe, with the aim of carrying out research on integrated systems using a number of different fish and invertebrate species and including marine ornamental fish hatchery and production.

At present, this is a Government-led strategy. As Seychelles is a small island developing state, most people do not have the necessary resources to start aquaculture on their own. The Government thus needs to assist by providing services such as centralised infrastructure, fingerlings, expertise, etc.

This approach is similar to that in the fisheries sector, whereby the Government spearheads the initiative and supports development, providing a mechanism to start the ball rolling. Once the sector is fully fledged, then some components, such as the government hatcheries (BAQF Phase 2), will be considered for private–public partnership (PPP) or privately run. On the other hand, the broodstock component (BAQF Phase1) will remain Government-owned as it will house the country’s genetic bank of important flagship species, to ensure small operators are not compromised in their access to inputs as the sector grows.


MFAg has reviewed the Aquaculture Sector Plan and published a Fisheries Sector Plan in late 2019 that synergises with this. Additionally, now the Fisheries Policy and Strategy 2019 now aligns well with the Aquaculture Policy 2018 Aquaculture Regulations are currently being drafted into legal texts before being published in the Official Gazette to allow for the launch of the industry.

Human resources development is on-going through various local and international training. SFA has funded and facilitated the training of both government and private sector staff. Training in subjects such as fish health management has benefited veterinarians, giving them the competence to deal with fish-related diseases or health issues. Sea urchin production training has enabled SFA staff to be able to run the sea urchin experiments at SURF. SFA has embarked on an education and awareness campaign since 2017, whereby it gives talks to various classes at the different schools on the main three islands and also the general public. Lots of educational materials such as posters and videos have been developed for this campaign. The different ministries in Seychelles organize several fairs throughout the year, in which SFA participates to educate the wider population on aquaculture and the opportunities it brings, but also to openly discuss the negative sides of aquaculture. The SFA office also has an open door policy whereby people can drop by for a discussion at any point during normal working hours.

There has been investment interest by several local and foreign investors but for the time being no investment has taken place, since the Aquaculture Regulations have not yet been promulgated.

Seychelles now has a BAQF but no hatchery, thus, if the finfish starts spawning, there will no hatchery for the larval stage. The lack of a hatchery will affect the ability to start producing larvae and fingerlings for the industry and slow the anticipated pace. This will also affect the plan for implementation and usage of the two sea cages.

Previous mariculture failures, such as the prawn farm, have taught the country a great deal in terms of simple factors such as proper site selection, surveys, market analysis and alignment with global development. Preparation of the legislative framework has been an important step in avoiding repeating the same mistakes at a time when there was a lack of proper regulations and standards in place to ensure operators were implementing best management practices and conforming with regulations. However, existing farms, such as the pearl oyster farm, have had to wait until the legislative framework is complete before they can carry out any new developments, as they will need to reregister and adhere to new standards.

This has been a long process, taking around a decade so far. Many baseline studies have had to be conducted, regulations and standards have had to be drafted and there was scarce funding in the implementation phase (from 2015) when expensive infrastructure-based activities were implemented. Also, legislation was outdated and sometimes conflicting with what was needed for the aquaculture sector. Identification of suitable sites was also difficult. On the other hand, the delays also helped in some ways. For example, some assumptions at the beginning over target candidate species changed over time as production increased in other countries, leading to falling market prices, making these species no longer attractive for Seychelles.

New feed developments have also been important, with lower feed conversion ratios and replacement of fishbased raw materials by plant-based alternatives. This has allowed the focus to change and enabled the adoption of new and more modern methods targeting economically more appealing and high-value species. Also, it has provided more confidence in the way aquaculture operates while addressing environmental concerns that were more of an issue 10 years ago.

The biggest advantage has been that no new aquaculture licenses have been issued over this period, meaning that, when the sector is opened up, all new and existing applicants will have to abide by the new regulations. This is in contrast with the Seychelles fisheries sector, which is struggling to get fishers to register their activities as proper businesses, use electronic reporting and adopt best management practices from fisheries management plans (only one has been recently approved over thirty years).

In summary, the delay has not been negative. On the contrary, lessons have been learnt and strategies are in place to ensure optimal results will be achieved when the Aquaculture Regulations are launched.

Key lessons learnt

Seychelles depends heavily on the ocean for food security and economic development so there has been strong support to developing sustainable aquaculture as a means to diversify the economy.

The Blue Economy initiative has placed emphasis on economic diversification, providing an opportunity to prioritise aquaculture development alongside other ocean-based initiatives.

The research commissioned by the initiative has shown that aquaculture has the potential to become a new pillar of the economy. However, this is a long-term objective.

Lead contact

Aubrey Lesperance, Principal Aquaculture Officer, Seychelles Fishing Authority Email: [email protected]


Alphonse-Uzice, V. (2020) ‘Seychelles Aquaculture’. Presentation at Commonwealth Secretariat Sustainable Aquaculture Action Group, Cyprus, February. FAO (2010) ‘Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture’. Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 5, Suppl. 4. Rome: FAO. FAO (2014) ‘Seychelles Country Review’. Rome: FAO.

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Case study: Development of an Aquaculture Industry in Seychelles

Fishing plays an important role in the Seychelles economy, with a fishing industry worth around US$400 million and per capita fish consumption levels more than twice the global average. Despite this, aquaculture has been slow to develop. However, there is a renewed focus on building a sustainable mariculture sector through the Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap, launched in 2018.

Addressing and Assessing the Environmental Performance of Marine Offshore Aquaculture in Cyprus (on-going)

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Legislative framework: A well-built foundation provides for a solid long-term sustainable development

Environmental performance: The well-being of an organism greatly depends on the condition of the environment it lives in


Aquaculture started in Cyprus at the end of 1960s with the establishment of a freshwater aquaculture research station and the subsequent development of private freshwater fish farms. In the 1970s, a Marine Aquaculture Research Station was set up, which led to the development of land-based marine aquaculture farms at the end of 1980s and the first marine offshore aquaculture farm at the beginning of the 1990s.

Initial aquaculture developments were partially covered by fisheries legislation, but by the 1990s increasing private sector interest in marine aquaculture required the development of specific aquaculture policy as well as the development and establishment of a relevant legislative framework.

This led to the establishment of specific aquaculture legislation and relevant regulations in 2000 and 2002 that set the framework for the establishment, development and operation of aquaculture units in Cyprus.

This legislative framework has provided a foundation to promote and support the development of financially viable, environmentally compatible and socially acceptable aquaculture in Cyprus.

The environmental footprint and impacts of marine offshore aquaculture operations have been a critical factor in establishing a strategic roadmap for the development of the marine aquaculture sector, and this is reflected in the national aquaculture legislation.

Today in Cyprus, there are nine licensed marine offshore aquaculture units. Current annual production is estimated at approximately 8,000 tons of fish (mainly European seabass and gilthead sea bream) at a value of approximately €40 million.

Marine aquaculture produce is the third most important export product of the primary agricultural production sector, with an annual value of around €27 million.

Marine offshore aquaculture has been the fastestgrowing food-producing sector in Cyprus for the past 15 years, with an annual growth rate of 5-7 per cent.

The contribution of aquaculture to the national fisheries production represents around 80 per cent in terms of both value and volume.

The issue

In the mid-1990s, there was increasing interest from potential investors in marine offshore aquaculture in Cyprus. However, there was limited knowledge and expertise on the environmental footprint and impacts of marine offshore aquaculture operations, as this farming system was new to the country. This created a need to establish a regulatory framework for its development and operation.

During implementation of the aquaculture development policy, many questions were raised and objections were encountered from organisations including the Department of Environment and environmental nongovernmental organisations (NGO) as well as the general public.

This slowed its development, making it very important that aquaculture legislation address environmental performance and the sustainability of offshore marine aquaculture systems.

The response

The Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) of the Republic of Cyprus proposed the establishment of aquaculture-specific legislation in 1999, which the National Parliament adopted in 2000.

The legislation requires initial environmental approval by the competent authority (Department of Environment) of all marine aquaculture offshore farms and the submission of a twice-yearly (winter and summer) environmental monitoring report based on a protocol issued by the DFMR. These reports have to be conducted and compiled by independent expert scientists approved by the DFMR, with the expenses covered by the marine offshore aquaculture companies.

The objective was and still is to have an appropriate legislative framework that provides for a secure investment environment while at the same time ensuring that the development and operation of marine offshore aquaculture activities is implemented in a sustainable way.

Another main objective was to address the issue of the environmental footprint and impacts of offshore marine aquaculture to ensure an environmentally compatible approach and at the same time to constantly monitor and assess the situation in the marine environment in a way that allowed for corrective measures where needed.

All environmental monitoring reports are submitted to both the DFMR and the Department of Environment and are public documents, accessible by any interested person on request.

The fact that the reports are compiled by independent scientists and are accessible to all has provided, and still does provide, transparency as regards the environmental performance of the marine offshore aquaculture sector, which was another objective set by the DFMR. The environmental monitoring reports provide the necessary data to be able to monitor and assess the real-time and long-term effects of marine offshore aquaculture operations on the environment, at the lowest possible cost.

Partnerships and support

While the development process for aquaculture legislation was conducted primarily by the DFMR there were public consultations and discussions with other relevant authorities and key stakeholders during its formulation. The DFMR drafted the legislation with the guidance of the legal service. Once the draft was ready, the proposed legislation was presented to all stakeholders and a consultation process took place, during which all involved were able to submit their comments.

Key stakeholders include other relevant government services and departments such as the Department of Environment, the Veterinary Services, Port Authorities, the Department of Merchant Shipping, Town Planning Authorities and various organisations, including the Association of Fish Farmers, different capture fisheries associations, NGOs, agricultural organisations and other representatives of society.

Once the consultation concluded, the final proposal was presented for approval to the Council of Ministers; once approved, it was forwarded to Parliament for examination. During the examination in Parliament, the relevant committee representatives of all stakeholders to participate and express their opinions.

During examination, Parliament is able to make any amendments it deems necessary and then, if content, move on to adoption. The DRMR compiled and revised the protocol for environmental monitoring reports as the competent authority with the relevant expertise and knowledge of the marine environment.


One of the major challenges was to establish an appropriate legislative framework that would foster the sustainable development of aquaculture in a financially viable, environmentally compatible and socially acceptable way. In order to achieve this, case studies of legislation from other countries were examined. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization provided assistance, to complement the in-house expertise of the DFMR.

Another challenge was to convince the aquaculture companies that the costs of environmental monitoring reports would be an investment for the future. This was accomplished through several rounds of discussions and by explaining the benefits in terms of improving the image of responsible aquaculture as well the prospects for further future expansion.

It was also a challenge to develop an environmental monitoring protocol that would provide the necessary data to be able to monitor and assess the real-time and long-term effects of marine offshore aquaculture operation on the environment at the lowest possible cost. The DFMR developed the protocol based on its expertise and knowledge of the marine environment. It should be noted that the DFMR can modify the protocol if needed in order to make it more efficient and cost-effective.

It was also a major challenge to properly inform the public as well as other government departments and environmental NGOs of the scientifically based results in terms of the real impacts of marine offshore aquaculture. This was achieved through several meetings, publications and radio and television programmes as well as the DFMR website and the publication of relevant informative leaflets. This is a constant effort and many actions are still being carried out today.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The establishment of an aquaculture-specific legislative framework helped provide a secure investment environment for the development of aquaculture in a financially viable, environmentally compatible and socially acceptable way.

The establishment of a mandatory environmental monitoring programme provides for real-time and longterm monitoring and assessment of the environmental footprint and impacts of aquaculture operations. It is a useful management tool for revising development policy as well as for taking immediate corrective measures where needed.

It has provided the opportunity to implement a “precautionary approach” where the regulatory authority allows phased increases in production, giving them time to evaluate the environmental impacts as production progresses. This allows for early response and the implementation of specific measures if required.

It has also led to the following changes in policy and practices:

  • Over the past 10 years, most open sea aquaculture units have been moved further offshore.
  • Any new units established will be at depth of more than 40 m.
  • Any expansion of production will be on the deeper side of the unit, or, in some cases, the whole unit will have to move to deeper waters (this is a case-bycase examination)

That these reports are public documents, and are conducted by independent scientists and not the aquaculture companies, has had significant positive impacts as regards the image of aquaculture as well as the public’s perception of aquaculture’s environmental performance.

There is now a long time series of results that allows the DFMR, as the competent authority, to understand the real impacts of marine offshore aquaculture operations. These impacts do not appear to extend beyond a distance of 200 m of the immediate vicinity of the cage units and it seems that those impacts can be reversed.

An additional outcome is the considerable amount of capacity and scientific knowledge built up in the DFMR throughout the many years of environmental monitoring of marine offshore aquaculture.

Besides the above, the DFMR has managed to influence the perceptions of the public, environmental NGOs and other government departments as regards the environmental performance of marine offshore aquaculture.

Key lessons learnt

The most important lesson is that, in order to develop aquaculture, it is very important to establish a relevant legislative framework.

Within this framework, provisions must relate to sustainability – that is, the financial viability, the environmental compatibility and the social acceptability of aquaculture development.

Inclusive processes as well as transparency can have a vital role as regards the environmental and social aspects of aquaculture development and operations, improving the image of the sector.

A proper real-time and long-term environmental monitoring and assessment programme is an important tool for the authorities to define policy, draw strategies and take measures when needed. At the same time, this provides science-based data and information about the real footprint and impacts of aquaculture activities. Informative campaigns can also be a useful tool in properly informing all stakeholders and consumers as well as the general public about the environmental performance of the sector.

Lead contact

Mr Vassilis Papadopoulos Senior Fisheries and Marine Research Officer Head of Aquaculture Division Department of Fisheries and Marine Research Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Republic of Cyprus e-mail : [email protected] Tel.: +357 22807809

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