Tilapia is one of the largest aquaculture sectors in the United States. Given their sensitivity to temperatures, most US tilapia are farmed using recirculating aquaculture systems or aquaponics systems, while some are also grown in ponds. Tilapia are considered to be fast growing and resilient – making them an ideal aquaculture species.
While there is no national oversight agency for aquaculture in the US, management of US-based farms is considered to be strong and there are extensive regulations in place regarding predator controls, therapeutant use, and disease management. Permitting varies by state with numerous federal agencies providing some degree of oversight. These include:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – which is responsible for coordinating national aquaculture policy and providing industry with research, information, and extension services;
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which regulates waste discharge from aquaculture facilities. The EPA authorizes state governments to regulate aquaculture discharges in accordance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. These permits help control and monitor discharge levels of solids and other pollutants. Discharge from aquaculture facilities is also subject to additional regulations under individual state laws and agencies;
- The Fisheries and Wildlife Service (FWS) – which regulates the introduction and transport of fish; and,
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine is responsible for approving and monitoring the use of drugs and medicated feeds used in the aquaculture industry.
China is the world’s largest producer of farmed tilapia. The major production areas are located in south China which due to its warm climate, accounts for roughly 90 percent of total Chinese production. Guangdong, Hainan, and Guangxi provinces supply the majority of Chinese tilapia as the warm temperatures allow for year-round farming. Chinese tilapia are generally farmed using net pens or in ponds (with or without other species). Production systems in China are classified into two categories: integrated systems and specialized systems. Integrated systems are small to medium size and use on-farm wastes to fertilize ponds. These farms cannot obtain the Chinese Inspector Quarantine (CIQ) certification and therefore cannot export. Specialized systems have CIQ certification and are subject to more rigorous controls and inspections. Tilapia in China are also farmed in reservoirs originally built for rice farms.
Despite its importance in China and the US market, there is lack of publicly available information on environmental monitoring and subsequently, the environmental impacts of Chinese tilapia farming. Additionally, information on feeds, effluent management, and escapes is dispersed and considered difficult to access. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for issuing licenses for aquaculture operations; however, it has been difficult for the Ministry to inspect and license the thousands of small farms currently operating. The amount of small-scale facilities operating without a license is unknown and without proper inspection and enforcement, it is impossible to know if they are meeting current Chinese regulations.
There is no specific legislation regarding aquaculture siting in China, but the use of aquatic and terrestrial environments are regulated under different laws, including: the Fisheries Law, the Regulation Law for Sea Area Usage, and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Law. As all land and water areas are state-owned, siting must meet local zoning schemes required by the Land Administration Law. This particular law also prohibits the use of basic farmland for aquaculture use. Wastewater discharge is regulated under national regulations as well as local governments, though enforcement appears to be almost nonexistent. The national government also establishes laws prohibiting the use of certain chemicals – such as nitrofurans and malachite green – as well as certain antibiotics in aquaculture production.
Tilapia is Indonesia’s most-produced aquaculture product. Production primarily occurs on the islands of Sumatra and Java, which account for about 81 percent of total national tilapia production. Indonesian tilapia are primarily farmed using freshwater ponds (accounting for 75 percent of total production) and marine net pens (which make up the remaining 25 percent). The majority of Indonesian production is consumed domestically. The US and Europe account for the majority of Indonesian exports; however, that amount is relatively small when compared to Chinese tilapia exports. In 2015, Indonesian tilapia accounted for only 4.6 percent of the total US tilapia imports.
The General Directorate of Aquaculture production and Development, a dependent of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, is responsible for farm siting and cumulative aquaculture impacts in Indonesia. The Indonesian Fisheries Act No 31 regulates the environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry. Provincial governments are responsible for the management, use, conservation, and spatial planning of aquatic environments under the Law on Regional Administration while the central government maintains control of issuing licenses for foreign companies. The effectiveness of regulations in Indonesia is hindered by a lack of coordination between the different management agencies. Enforcement of national and regional regulations is also difficult and their success is not fully known. English language information about the overall tilapia aquaculture industry and management in Indonesia is relatively scarce and while production statistics are available, there is a lack of information regarding the ecological impacts of tilapia farming in Indonesia. The environmental impacts of effluents (which are notably lacking in data), land use change, predator control, and chemical use in Indonesia is poorly understood.