Moving beyond the shrimp farm: Spaces of shared environmental risk?

Bottema, Mariska J.M.; Bush, Simon R.; Oosterveer, Peter


Key environmental challenges faced by the aquaculture sector demonstrate that aquaculture production is not isolated from the surrounding environment, and we see a policy shift towards area-based approaches. However, without an understanding of the farmer's perspective, there is a danger of misrepresenting how farm-level practices relate to area-based approaches and to environmental risk management. This paper empirically examines how individual aquaculture farmers interpret and manage environmental risks and the extent to which they operate beyond the boundaries of their farms. The analysis is based on a comparison between intensive aquaculture farmers in Kung Krabaen Bay, Thailand, representing an area of closed production systems; and a mixture of integrated mangrove shrimp and extensive shrimp farmers in Kien Vang Forest, Vietnam, representing an area of open production systems. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping. The spatial configuration of environmental risk management in both areas demonstrated a focus on the farm. Though farmers did recognise off-farm risks, this did not result in collectively practised risk management strategies at a broad landscape scale. These observations demonstrate the need to rethink the development of area-based approaches for both closed and open systems. Instead of the designation of aquaculture zones or all-encompassing integrated landscape models of area-based management, the findings suggest an alternative model. This third way of conceptualising spatial models of area-based aquaculture management is based on a nested set of areas within a landscape defined by the socio-spatial extent of farmer networks within which the interpretation of risk is homogeneous.