I trust you are enjoying a good start to 2014 and that your farming activities are proving productive.
A word of thanks to everyone that attended the biofloc technology (BFT) course on Saturday. It is heartening to see that farmers are open to adapting their approaches to improve their production yields. As Chris Schnell stressed during his presentation, the best approach will be to pilot a system so that you can come to grips with the dynamics of this approach to tilapia aquaculture.
To those of you that have made the switch – please keep us posted on how things are going. As for the rest, who are considering making the move to BFT, you now have a pretty good idea of the pros and cons involved.
Department of Environmental Affairs
As you are all aware the publication of the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations last year caused some consternation. From our perspective the ability to farm with Oreochromis Niloticus, is one of the critical aspects in the sector and it initially appeared that the Department was not going to allow this.
After engagements by the TAASA Exco on behalf of its members with the Department, it has in principle, agreed to the use of Niloticus in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). However, and it is important to note this. The final conditions under which the category 2 (in terms of the regulations) utilisation of Niloticus will be allowed in RAS, still needs to be finalised.
For a variety of reasons and considering the number of stakeholders involved this is going to be a long process – in fact, it is currently anticipated that the process will take two to three years.
The Department is cognisant of the challenges that such a long period without clear guidelines can pose to the sector. As a result they are proposing that when the Minister signs the AIS regulations into effect (it’s is expected to happen around April of this year) those farmers that have their permits in place, will be able to operate with these permits for a predetermined period (currently it seems like two years).
After the Minister has signed the AIS Regulations into effect, any new applicants will need to apply directly to the national Department (they are currently drafting application forms) for a permit to farm with Niloticus.
Exactly what the requirements will be when applying to the Department for a permit, is not yet clear. It’s pretty safe to say that being able to prove you have a bio-secure facility that will not allow for fish to escape into nearby water systems is going to be high on the agenda.
Some members of the TAASA Exco concluded a two day meeting with officials from the Department last week. On both sides there is a sense of urgency aimed at getting clarity on the immediate challenges that need to be addressed.
I have no doubt that there will be developments in the next few weeks and I will keep you appraised.