Avatar photo

Tom Crawley

Southeast Asia Science and Innovation Team

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

20th November 2013 Singapore

Developing sustainable aquaculture

Guest post from Ching Heong-Lee, Science and Innovation Officer at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. 

A great deal of the fish we consume in Europe comes from Southeast Asia, meaning that aquaculture – the farming of aquatic organisms – is big business. This presents a lot of research questions, in terms of how to cultivate, feed and ensure the safety of farmed fish and other marine species. An epidemic disease called Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) which kills young shrimp, has had a dramatic impact on Thailand’s aquaculture industry, highlighting the pressing need for research into this and other conditions.

This is also an area in which the UK has a lot of expertise. A group of UK aquaculture experts attended a conference organised by our Science and Innovation colleagues in New Zealand, but on the way we persuaded them to stop off for a couple of days in Malaysia.

The group included Dr Mark James from the Marine Alliance for S&T for Scotland; John Bostock from the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling; Craig Burton of Edinburgh’s Sea Fish Industry; Martyn Haines, representing Scotland’s Rural College and Dr Neil Auchterlonie, from the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

Despite their short sojourn of only a day and half, we managed to fit in a day trip to Kuala Terengganu located on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia, and met with researchers from the Institute of Tropical Aquaculture based the University Terengganu Malaysia. The university, mandated to build capacity for the industry and encourage interest in this field of study has a strong research focus on crustacean aquaculture with special interest on portunid crab, marine shrimp, spiny lobster and giant freshwater prawns.

The institute led by Prof. Emer. Dr. Mohd Azmi Ambak is keen to expand its postgraduate programme and expressed interest to partner with UK universities on course development and student exchange. Unsurprisingly, fish was served during lunch, following which we were given a tour of the institute’s advance hatchery and research facility, which is fully equipped to conduct research on hatchery technology, genetic improvement of fish species, reproduction biology and algae stock production.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, we also visited the national agro-biotechnology institute who had arranged a meeting to include a number of its key collaborators. An unexpected outcome arising from the meeting was a consensus by both parties to jointly produce a concept paper for a UK-Malaysia workshop to develop joint research proposals for some of the key areas identified during this meeting, something we hope to take forward early next year.

The final meeting that took place before the group’s departure involved the Crops for the Future Research Centre, the research arm of Crops for the Future, an international organisation dedicated to global research on underutilised crops for food and non-food uses.

Partnering with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, postgraduate scholarships are being made available to support its research programme including a FishPLUS project that is dedicated to developing alternative plant-based products that better feed and protect aquaculture fish stocks against disease.

The activities at CFFRC are aimed at driving innovation at the interface of fish-plant research and provide opportunities for collaborative partnerships.

Max Herriman, the programme leader of FishPLUS, highlighted the many challenges currently faced by the fisheries sector in SEA. The issues raised are complex and wide-ranging from problems related to mismanagement of many large-scale fishing operations leading to destruction of fish habitat and overfishing; fish health and nutritional content; sea pollutants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) which enters the food chain raising issues on food safety and the destructive impact on the marine environmental caused by trawling and use of dynamite explosives.

We’ll continue to encourage research collaboration in this important area. Aquaculture provides an alternative to wild fish, can help to mitigate the pressure of a growing world population on food security and provide a source of income and jobs for economically challenged areas.

About Tom Crawley

Tom joined the Southeast Asia Science and Innovation team at the British High Commission in Singapore in late 2012. Within the team, Tom is responsible for the SEA-EU-NET project, the…

Tom joined the Southeast Asia Science and Innovation team at the British High Commission in Singapore in late 2012. Within the team, Tom is responsible for the SEA-EU-NET project, the UK-Southeast Asia Knowledge Partnership, and activities around innovation, broadly defined.

Before coming to Singapore, Tom spent six years helping to build an innovation consultancy in Finland, and has also worked at Aalto University and the University of Warwick. He has an M.Sc in Industrial Engineering and Management from Aalto University, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Birmingham. Tom is married.