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Title: Causes and consequences of spatial links between sea cage aquaculture and coral reefs in Vietnam
Authors: Hedberg, N.
Stenson, I.
Kautsky, N.
Hellström, M.
Tedengren, M.
Keywords: Sea cage aquaculture
Coral reef
Coral reef fish
Issue Date: 8-Sep-2017
Series/Report no.: Aquaculture;page 1-34
Abstract: A majority of the sea cage farms in South East Asia are located close to coral reefs. This causes a conflict between conservation and food production since sea cage aquaculture has a number of negative impacts on coral reefs. The aim of this investigation was to assess the drivers causing the sea cage farmers to place their farms close to reefs and to examine some potential farming effects in detail i.e. usage of coral reef fish for grow out farming and feed. For some 3500 Vietnamese fish and lobster farms, we measured; the distance to the closest coastal city (proxy for infrastructure access), satellite derived Chl a (proxy for water quality), wind fetch, and the adjacent coastal slope and elevation. We also performed 159 semi-structured interviews with fish and lobster cage farmers from three regions in Vietnam. The interviews revealed that the choice of farming site is mainly determined by access to infrastructure, wind and wave shelter, and water quality. Although the farmers used coral reef services, e.g. coral reef derived seedlings, they were in general not aware of coral reef presence or did not find it important for selection of site. Both coral reefs and sea cage farms were found close to steep rocky coasts, which are favorable for corals, and provide sufficient depth for sea cages. Sea cages were always found on the leeward side of the coast where the wind fetch is low enough for the floating farms and their inhabitants. Most of the farms were located within 20 km from a coastal city confirming the importance of access to infrastructure. With few exceptions, sea cage farms were located in areas with good water quality, where also coral reefs are present. The study showed that several of the coral associated species groups farmed were dependent on wild caught seedlings and that 22% of the feed used at farms was “trashfish” of coral reef associated species. We consider the spatial correlation between sea cage farms and coral reefs as circumstantial and suggest that shared environmental preferences explain the farm distribution pattern, rather than access to ecosystem services provided by the nearby reef itself. We found no evidence that it is necessary for sea cage farms to be located near coral reefs and strongly recommend that sea cages are moved further away from coral reefs, but to areas still providing clear water, shelter and access to infrastructure
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