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Sustainable Fisheries for Enhanced Water Resources in Armenia (SFEWRA) project

The Ararat valley, Armenia’s biggest agricultural center and breadbasket is currently facing the serious issue of salinization of arable lands.

Extensive use of artesian water for fisheries in Ararat valley have caused a high level of salinization of lands. Currently, 25% of land in Armenia is under the threat of desertification.

Armenia, a country known for its high-quality groundwater resources, has already faced a shrinkage in the artesian zone of the Ararat Valley by approximately 67% for the last 20 years, explained by the fact that artesian aquifers are the main source of water supply for fish farms operating in the region. Considering water-conserving techniques of aquaculture, it affects the groundwater overexploitation, which is the main environmental impact on groundwater resources.

Since October 2015, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE) Foundation implemented the SFEWRA project under the Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) project, which is a sub-grant from National Academy of Sciences (NAS) funded by USAID.

The primary objective of the SFEWRA project is to address issues relating the depletion of groundwater resources in Ararat valley, Armenia. Within the scope of the project, key objective of the ICARE research team is to develop water-efficient and environmentally friendly fish farming practices for 15-targeted small and medium-scale fisheries operating in the Ararat Valley. By installing water-saving models, fish farms have an opportunity to reduce negative water-related environmental impacts and at the same time sustain fish production levels.

Within the scope of SFEWRA project, ICARE research team proposed the idea of implementing semi-closed Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) instead of the traditional flow-through system. The basic idea behind RAS is reducing the usage of fresh water while maintaining the necessary environment for sustainable fish production. Closely cooperating with fisheries operating in Ararat valley, ICARE researchers developed water-efficient fish farming models in the form of closed or semi-closed aquaculture systems, integrated aquaculture-agriculture systems and/or aquaponics.

The recent achievement of SFEWRA project was winning the grant for the installment of RAS system in one of selected fisheries. The success of the project is much explained by effective teamwork and enthusiasm of project partners to bring positive change to this important issue.

The project will last until September 2018 and considering ongoing achievements of the project team and successful collaboration with fishery operators for the last 2 years, the project will for sure expand its frames and have considerable impact on effective economic and environmental water exploitation in fish farms.

Photo Credits: (ICARE) Foundation