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Regional and National Aquaculture Sector Overviews

The origin of SIPAM
The concepts and expectations on which it was conceived and developed.

SIPAM was first conceived in the early nineties. Then, in 1995, when the FAO-executed Mediterranean Regional Aquaculture Project (MEDRAP II) came to an end, it was observed that effective development of the aquaculture sector in the Mediterranean could not move forward as expected without the backing of an aquaculture information system in support of its promotion [1].

The initial approach selected for SIPAM was to develop “stand-alone” national information systems [2]with a similar structure, which would communicate through a regional centre. It was generally agreed that these information systems could serve as a tool for planning purposes within each member country and that they would also provide information and other services to the aquaculture industry.

The first release of the System was developed with a joint support of the MEDRAP II Project, the French Trust Fund (GCF/REM/055/FRA) and the Fishery Resources Division of FAO. The sharing of non-confidential national information through the SIPAM Regional Centre, provided by the Tunisian Government, was intended to allow participating countries to access information from other countries and thus to keep abreast of developments at a regional level. This would help each country to be better equipped to deal with and respond to changes, emerging challenges, and new technologies in the sector.

At the national level, the databases in the national systems were designed as user defined. It was considered crucial that the databases responded to a perceived need of the potential users and be realistic in their expectations. Therefore the system did not follow a top-down approach but privileged a participatory approach of the users in defining which databases had to be integrated in a national system also in terms of nature and contents, as well as the level of complexity of data to be stored.

At that time, the “informatics” level in the region was, in general, poor, and there was no way the aquaculture community could have supported an advanced system or, rather, an advanced information management system. Several other constraints dictated the design of SIPAM, starting from the scarcity of available structured data and information, data definitions and distribution rules. The reluctance of the national institutions to distribute/disseminate data unless through certain channels and under certain conditions was a further constraint. In such circumstances it was compulsory to develop a system with an open architecture (permitting development and management of modules) and, at the same time, a chained structure that enabled the National Coordinators to control the data structure (i.e., the contents), the inflow and outflow traffic and data distribution. In other words, it was the responsibility of each National Coordinator to decide in isolation what to develop and how to organise the treatment and dissemination of information. However, despite such constraints, SIPAM managed to establish a network in a period when the use of computers was still limited and restricted.

Considering the pioneering role that SIPAM has had in this area, particularly in the field of information technology, computer knowledge and usage, data manipulation, integration, data coherence, codification, dissemination, etc., the Network should be considered an achievement in view of its limited financial resources and institutional mandate.

[1]Coppola, S.R.  SIPAM - An Information System for the Promotion of Aquaculture in the Mediterranean Region - Conceptual Design - MEDRAP II - UNDP/FAO/RAB/89/005/12.  Rome, March 1992, pp. 33.
[2]Coppola, S.R.  SIPAM - Development Team - SIPAM for Windows. Release 2.1 - User Manual.  Rome, September 1998, pp. 82.

The evolution of the Network and the growing request for connectivity by the participating countries and by all contributors.

In more recent years, the demand for reliable data and information as well as for reporting on aquaculture developments, constraints and needs has greatly increased and been driven, not only by the need to formulate and monitor sound policies and development plans, but also by new information and reporting requirements of international agreements and initiatives and increasing public demand for transparency and accountability. In addition, all this must be associated with the established and increased interest for networking as an increasing number of aquaculture policies formulation and management strategies are based upon the analysis of reliable and timely information. Searching for national and international data is, nowadays, an integral part of a planning and decision-making process and the need for such responsive systems is impelling.

In order to strengthen the information support to enable decision making for management through a multifaceted and comprehensive approach, in 2000, SIPAM had a basic environmental change and was re-designed as a web-based application though maintaining the same hub structure. The new structure also called for a deeper national commitment to provide data; data users to get the information required for their work through appropriate data collection mechanisms and data management systems; and an organization to monitor the situations, evaluate changes and needs, and adjust objectives. The web-based SIPAM was designed around the concept of a Networking Community, whereby all the participants were, at the same time, and according to their role and function, both data providers and information recipients.

Main key players with their associate general functions and information were considered in the design: (i) the Aquaculture producers, (ii) Governmental institutions and agencies, (iii) Research and development community, (iv) Aquaculture industries (aquaculture producer, equipment and services suppliers) , (v) Investment agencies, (vi) NGOs, (vii) Regional and international organizations and , finally, (viii) the General public.

SIPAM -The GFCM Aquaculture Information System.

In a regional context, the aquaculture sector needs to coordinate an increasing variety of national and regional activities in a more complex and organizational manner. It thus requires an effective and efficient information system to support it which needs to be monitored from time to time to assess if it still responds to the requirements. To this end the SIPAM management and the General Fishery Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) board called (2002) for an evaluation of SIPAM to be made through a comprehensive scrutiny by international experts.

The external evaluation of the SIPAM Network proposed at the Third Session of the Committee on Aquaculture [3] and endorsed by the Commission at its Twenty-seventh Session clearly recognized that the Network was a valuable developmental tool for the Mediterranean aquaculture. Furthermore, the Commission during the Extraordinary Session (St Julians, Malta, 19-23 July 2004)[4]allocated funds for the strengthening of the Network. The importance given to SIPAM in providing adequate national and regional information to the Mediterranean aquaculture sector called, however, for an increased and committed input from all participating GFCM Member countries as well as a natural evolution of the Network towards a more appropriate way to collect, structure and disseminate data and information.

The strategy applied to reinforce and improve SIPAM to better respond to the new needs and requirements at national and regional levels has included (i) the structural changes in which important modifications of the database structure, data organization, treatment and dissemination are proposed, and (ii) the new SIPAM network working methodology where a new strategy was applied to adapt SIPAM to changing demands and different needs.

The leading objectives of SIPAM-2006 were (i) to improve the availability and circulation of high-quality aquaculture information and data at regional level in the Mediterranean (ii) to facilitate sustainable aquaculture policies planning, implementation and monitoring (iii) to increase mutual knowledge among aquaculture stakeholders in the different countries and (iv) promote initiatives for cooperation.

From an organizational point of view, SIPAM has been re-elaborated to become the official aquaculture information system of the GFCM. As the Commission is becoming a consistent “Fisheries Management Organization” endowed with an autonomous budget, the effective role of SIPAM as well as its relationship and obligations towards the Commission was also taken into account. It is envisaged that SIPAM-2006 will provide the GFCM Information Centre, once established, all relevant data and information concerning Mediterranean aquaculture.

SIPAM-2006 was then (i) constructed to be more multi-user oriented (reflect needs and expectations of the users in terms of functionalities) and be user friendly, (ii) re-designed on the basis of the most advanced Internet technology and tools, (iii) its “human network” of qualified users extended beyond the National Coordinators. In this respect the role of the National Coordinator was reconsidered and, information available through SIPAM should allow effective aquaculture diagnosis, analysis and planning both at national and regional level.

SIPAM has been conceived and designed, throughout all its development, by Salvatore R. Coppola of the FAO Fishery Department. It has been developed by several programmers and the active participation and effort of all National Coordinators, particularly the initial group, the Regional Centre staff in Tunis and was supported and facilitated by the FAO/GFCM Technical Secretaries for Aquaculture in those years and, lately, with the contribution of the SIPAM-2006 rehabilitation team[5]. Finally, it should also be mentioned that SIPAM was derived from a similar system (SIPAL) earlier developed in Latin America[6] .

In July 2008 SIPAM was handedover to the GFCM Secretariat for its institutional function.

[3]Report of the Third Session of the Committee. Zaragoza, Spain, 25–27 September 2002.
[4]Report of the Twenty-seventh Session of the Commission. Rome, Italy 19–22 November 2002 GFCM:CAQ/V/2006/Inf. Rome, June 2006
[5]Candeloro A. – Coppola S.R. – Cremona L. – Crosetti D. - SIPAM-2006: The development strategy. GFCM:CAQ/V/2006/Inf. Rome, June 2006
[6]Coppola, S.R.  SIPAL - Sistema Informatico para la Planificación de la Acuicultura en Latinoamerica y el Caribe - Documento de Campo No. 17. Programa Cooperativo Gubernamental FAO-Italia.  Proyecto Aquila II (GCP/RLA/102/ITA), Majo 1994
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