Indonesia: Mapping Carrying Capacity

February 15, 2021    

Major supplying countries have been ramping up their production and working on full capacity in order to make up for the losses in 2020 and continue supplying to the demand of some growing markets. However, with increased production it is also important to understand its impact in the surrounding ecosystem. If carrying capacity has been exceeded, this will have a toll not only in the environment but also in the production itself due to a higher chance of disease outbreak.

Not too long ago, ShrimpTails already reported about Aquascape, a new tool that can monitor and map shrimp ponds and their environmental impact. AquaScape is a platform providing quantitative aquaculture sustainability metrics and analytics for regulators, farmers, and supply chains. The system is geared towards analyzing the impact of each shrimp pond by using a mapping tool in combination with tags that would allow the users to map and analyze certain attributes of the shrimp pond, from identifying the risks in water quality, water treatment, to frequency and intensity of diseases. At the moment, a total of 314,574 ponds in Indonesia covering a total of 4,274 square kilometers have already been mapped. The project is ongoing and is slated to finish by mid-2021. By providing each shrimp farm a tag (i.e. water quality, water treatment, certifications, diseases, etc.), Aquascape aims to consolidate information for various shrimp ponds all over the country to identify key risks and also build a historical data which can be used for further analysis and/or other future applications. “Currently, we have a list of 25 tags that covers the queries of the ministries. We are able to determine down to the region, pond or specie type level and make a graph out of it. It allows the central ministry to have an overview, but on the other side, it also allows the local government or agencies to report more efficiently to the central government in Jakarta either for statistical purposes or export purposes,” Rui Gomes of the Longline Environment (LLE) said. The full article published on ShrimpTails 8 follows:

Shrimp farming and the discharge of effluent that it often entails can have an effect on the surrounding ecosystem. The environmental impact of shrimp farming practices depends on the farming operation itself, but also on the “carrying capacity” of an ecosystem: the ability of an ecosystem to support the additional loading from several sources without environmental degradation. Ferreira and Anton Immink formerly from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) have joined forces to develop a “carrying capacity tool” that helps regulators and farmers with marine spatial planning and predictive analytics for sustainable shrimp farming.

The framework is built on a combination of available data, complex scientific calculation and surveys providing quantitative metrics and analytics for regulators, farmers and supply chain

In much of Europe and North America, coastal zone planning approaches use tools to monitor, evaluate and restrict the impacts of business on the surrounding environment and ecosystem, and enforce the regulations concerning this. But this is not the case in the majority of shrimp producing countries. Over 18 months of collaboration, SFP and LLE have integrated a beta carrying capacity framework for the shrimp sector on the north coast of Bali and in East Java. LLE is a UK-based technology firm that delivers value-added services to the aquaculture and fisheries sectors by applying the outcomes of scientific-based research to practical management applications. SFP is a marine conservation non-profit organization dedicated to helping the seafood supply chain be as environmentally friendly as possible. Through engaging industry stakeholders and informing them of the sustainability issues within the supply chain, it aims to encourage the industry to make positive changes.

Ferreira explains that the framework, available at, is built on a combination of available data, complex scientific calculations and field surveys. The framework integrates factors in space and time, and is designed to give a clear insight into the assimilative environmental carrying capacity, i.e. the amount of nutrient pollution ecosystems can process without causing damage. The framework integrates land and aquaculture assets, including agricultural stakeholders, such as rice farms and palm oil plantations, as well as the natural loads of organic matter that flow to the ocean in rivers and watershed basins. The platform provides the user with analytics on zonal carrying capacity for shrimp production and nutrient load apportionment for both land and ocean-based sources, supporting regulators with shrimp farm licencing and facilitating a multi-stakeholder discussion surrounding coastal water quality management.

AquaScape covers an area that includes more than 325,000 ponds, which have been defined using a geographical information system. Local partners, including the Shrimp Club of Indonesia (SCI), have helped to ground truth the data and parameterise the farm modelling components. Other land-use and production data, including agriculture and waste water, are incorporated. AquaScape digitises, aggregates and diffuses data sets, turning data into information for regulators, farmers and the supply chain.

Overview of mapping in Indonesia
AquaScape simplifies outputs to facilitate improved decision making from regulators for licensing and emissions enforcement. Additional features in the pipeline are set to map disease outbreaks over different regions and improve the baseline data collection to understand potential risks and impacts. Ferreira tells us that “significant challenges exist in all shrimp production countries, including pressure on the environment, under-regulated farms and the enforcement of legislation.” He explains that the framework helps governments (both national and local) to understand the scale of various industries that discharge nutrients into the environment and what the sustainable licencing recommendations are in specific areas. This allows regulators to decide the maximum limits of effluent and determine the boundaries that should be set for different industries. As the tool includes multiple inputs (e.g. shrimp ponds/farms, rice fields, plantations, urban development), decision-making related to setting legislation and issuing permits should lead to discussion among marine spatial planners beyond aquaculture (for example, urban, agriculture and tourism planners). The government can use this tool to understand the development scenarios within the carrying capacity of the system. During the development of AquaScape, it has become apparent in some areas that shrimp farming has little nutrient impact compared to other industries.

The framework helps the government to understand the scale of various industries that discharge nutrients into the environment

All shrimp ponds have a unique identifier and are modelled based on validated in-field measurements. This means that AquaScape is capable of modelling the expected production and outputs of each pond based on sound scientific data. AquaScape’s analytics can help governments or shrimp clubs to understand the key risks as aquaculture develops. Analytical metrics, such as the number of production ponds to water treatment pond ratios, provide an indication of environmental stewardship.

AquaScape has been of interest to numerous Indonesian government agencies, but how easy will it be to apply AquaScape to other countries? According to Immink, this is possible, and he gives the example of Ecuador, a country that is working hard to intensify the shrimp industry and increase its production. He tells us that AquaScape fits into the sustainability vision of the Ecuadorian government: the extent to which regulators are able to license additional production without compromising the environment or surpassing the carrying capacity of a certain ecosystem is of key importance.

Ferreira mentions that the current framework is a blueprint to understand the potential for AquaScape to be used by local governments that often lack the resources for scalable, low-cost marine spatial assessments. Ferreira goes further, detailing AquaScape’s synergies with market-related concerns felt by shrimp buyers and consumers, and the opportunity to bridge the information gap about product provenance and transparency. Enforcement is the primary challenge and AquaScape provides a low-cost framework for the enforcement of aquaculture licences, environmental footprints, and other challenges.

Once the base data (farm size, production, etc.) is in the AquaScape framework, it is possible to start working on the structural improvement of the industry, and also on improving the quality of the data within the supply chain. Furthermore, buyers might be able to assess the productivity, licencing and sustainability of a farm at a distance, reducing the requirements for field visits for those working in the supply chain.

The framework, developed with the support of the Walton Family Foundation and SEAPACT, is a comprehensive and scalable tool to promote improved decision-making, legislation and enforcement. AquaScape provides a working and accessible tool for authorities to understand and predict the scale of impact of various industries. Full-scale adoption of AquaScape by authorities takes time and the hope is that in the future it will be used to manage aquaculture from a jurisdictional approach, with value-added features such as disease risk maps, early warning systems, and the ability to offset some of the current and future risks associated with sustainable intensification.