As mentioned in the background page, both space and water for agriculture are resources in short supply in the West Bank, thus for maximum agricultural output and sustainability these resources should be used as efficiently as possible. One method to enhance resource use efficiency in this case is to practice sustainable aquaculture in irrigation cisterns.
Unlike modern, high intensity aquaculture, sustainable aquaculture is not heavily reliant on technology, power, and fishmeal based fish food.
Instead, the aquaculture systems we advocate rely on fairly low stocking densities and enhancing natural pond productivity through fertilisation of the water with manures and/or supplemental feeding with domestic and agricultural vegetable and cereal wastes.
Obviously, systems such as these have a couple of limitations when compared to resource-intensive aquaculture: unless the pond is large enough to support a diverse fish ecology, only low trophic level (herbivorous or omnivorous) fish can be farmed (for example carps and tilapia – no trout or bass!); as the pond’s carrying capacity is not being increased through mechanical means (aeration and filtration), then maximum stocking densities are much lower than those achievable in hi-tech fish farms. However, these “limitations” are actually plus points to the sustainable fish farmer (and sustainably-farmed fish eater!):
- • Low stocking densities reduce the likelihood of poor water quality and fish stress, reducing the occurrence of disease and parasite outbreaks; unlike in hi-tech fish farms, there is no need to use feeds formulated to include antibiotics and other medicines to limit disease occurrence.
- • Fertilising the water not only costs nothing, but also promotes planktonic and microbial growth, leading to healthy and diverse pond ecosystems. This means that the fish live off an entirely natural diet of aquatic vegetation and pond organisms, rather than consuming relatively expensive fishmeal based feeds which, even if “sustainably sourced”, are still dependent on fossil-fuels for their processing, production and transport.
- • Unlike hi-tech aquaculture, sustainable pond systems do not require air pumps, water pumps and filters, and so do not consume power. This is not only cheaper and greener, but also much less to worry about – especially in a region with frequent power cuts!
- • Sustainable aquaculture systems are very low maintenance, and so can be integrated into already busy farms without adding much to the workload.
When integrated with extant irrigation infrastructure, sustainable aquaculture can offer additional benefits which are particularly relevant in the Palestinian context:
- • It allows for the production of an additional crop (food fish) from already existing resources.
- • Fresh fish is virtually unavailable inside the West Bank; imported frozen fish is very expensive.
- • Fertilisation of the water combined with wastes from fish mean that the water ends up with a high nutrient content; this can reduce the need for costly, imported chemical fertilisers on the irrigated crops, and reduce labour required to apply fertilisers as nutrition is delivered with the water.