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Floating Aquaculture Operations Guidebook

08 February 2016

This guidebook from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provides a general overview of farming and management techniques needed to operate high-density polyethylene (HDPE) floating fish-culture cages.

Global aquaculture production has been steadily growing in recent decades, increasingly contributing fish and other edible aquatic organisms of commercial importance entering national, regional and international markets.

The growing demand for such products has stimulated the development and expansion of aquaculture production systems both on land and in all waterbodies, covering technologies ranging from the production of seed material to ongrowing structures and other farming support facilities.

In recent decades, the aquaculture industry has also intensified its production output per unit area of space or volume, mainly to compensate, among other things, for the growing competition for land and water surfaces for other uses.

The expansion of fish farming in the sea, also referred to as “mariculture”, has happened as a result of several supporting factors. These include the acquisition of reproduction and ongrowing technologies for species of interest, and the development of physical structures to contain the cultured organisms.

Modern marine cages, whether floating or submersible, represent one such development. These have evolved significantly from basic and rudimental systems to sophisticated and carefully engineered structures. 

Many cage designs and models have been developed and are commercially available.

Among these, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cages are widely used, because of the versatility of the materials used, the relative simplicity in the performance of the various farming operations, and the comparatively limited investment capital required.

Technological improvements of HDPE cages are evolving with the availability of new materials and the various equipment items needed to service all farming operations.

This manual focuses on technical aspects of HDPE cages; however, the introductory chapter covers the importance of proper site selection in terms of site exposure and environmental parameters that affect the well-being of the culture fish and affect farm structures. Proper siting of a cage farm is of paramount importance with regard to the overall technical and economic success of the commercial operation, and for reducing as far as possible the environmental footprint of the farm.

Prior to describing the characteristics of HDPE cages and elements making up a culture unit, the handbook describes the grid and mooring systems that support the fish cages.

Information is provided on the components of the two systems, their technical specifications in relation to farm size as well as on-land assembling and sea installation procedures.

A chapter focuses on the floating collar of the cage, describing the components that make up this key farming structure. The technical specifications and design options are provided for the key elements of the collar readily enabling the construction of structures that meet the needs of the operator and are suitable for the environment in which they will be placed. Technical information is then provided on the ropes, netting and net cage design and on determining the appropriate size and shape. Based on procedures developed over years of field experience, practical information on collar and net installation, net changing, maintenance and inspections technique is provided.

The final sections of this publication covers practical procedures related to the stocking of cages with seed material, feeding and managing the fish stock, as well as practical information on pre-harvesting and harvesting methods, fish handling and transportation.

Some information is also provided on farm safety procedures, highlighting the potential risks when working on a cage farm either on the floating structures or underwater.

Further Reading

You can view the full Guidebook by clicking here.

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