Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Living under the State and Storms: The History of Blood Cockle Aquaculture in Bandon Bay, Thailand

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Living under the State and Storms: The History of Blood Cockle Aquaculture in Bandon Bay, Thailand

Article excerpt

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Coastal aquaculture around Bandon Bay, in Surat Thani Province of Southern Thailand, developed in the context of state development projects implemented as part of the government's anti-Communism policies. The government further promoted intensive aquaculture when neighboring countries declared a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone off their coasts at the end of the 1970s.11 Since then, the Bay has become the main aquaculture area of Thailand and, according to 2000-04 aquaculture production statistics, one of the most concentrated aquaculture areas in Southeast Asia (Campbell 2011, 31). The main products of the Bay can be divided into two groups according to the method and area of cultivation. The first is intensive cultivation of marine shrimp, or prawns, in ponds constructed on land along the riversides and coast. Production depends on these controlled and artificial settings in order to ensure a stable supply for the export market. The second is extensive aquaculture in natural marine settings that relies not only on the local climate and water quality but also on natural food organisms (ibid., 6). In Bandon Bay, this extensive aquaculture includes the cultivation of blood cockles (hoi kraeng, Anadara nodifera, Anadaragranosa), oysters (hoi takrom, hoi nangrom), and green mussels (hoi maeng phu).

Pond cultivation of shrimp accounted for more than half of the total aquaculture area in Bandon Bay during 2000-10 (Fig. 1). Blood cockle production was ranked second after shrimp.2) Unlike shrimp cultivation, which is an export-oriented industry, blood cockles are produced mainly for the domestic market. Although Surat Thani has a significant share of the domestic market, blood cockles are not a major product for the province,3 and the government does not consider it significant because it is not an export product. As cockle cultivation relies heavily on local climate and water quality, cockle farmers have to adapt farm management to minimize the risks from climate variability and pollu tion. They have expanded their farms 3 kilometers out from the shore into areas outside the zone legally approved by the government. This expansion has challenged the marine usage rights of poor local fishermen, as rich local fishermen are able to illegally convert common marine areas into their own private assets thanks to their political influence. As a result, conflicts between artisanal fishermen and blood cockle farmers over the use of resources have repeatedly erupted in recent years, not only in Bandon Bay but also in the Bay of Pattani and Phetchaburi Province.

Studies on the development of coastal aquaculture in Thailand focus primarily on conflicts over coastal resource management. Thai academicians pay attention to the ways in which sociocultural norms of local communities can enhance the roles of local actors in dealing with resource conflicts. This analysis framework gained popularity as a tool in case studies of water and forest resource management in Northern Thailand. As for studies on coastal resources, most emphasize case studies of local fishery communities in the lower southern parts of Thailand, including the east (Gulf of Thailand) and west (Andaman Sea) sides. Such communities are found in Songkhla, Pattani, and Phagnga (Anan 2000; Chalita 2000; Watthana 2001; Lertchai et al. 2003; Lertchai and Narit 2009).

Among studies on coastal aquaculture, studies on coastal shrimp farming are extraordinarily ubiquitous. That is because shrimp is the most commonly farmed seafood in coastal Thailand, and shrimp has been the export item that triggered the most widespread attention on the standardization of food safety when compared with other kinds of coastal aquaculture. Notably, most studies on coastal shrimp farming emphasize sustainability. Since the origination of shrimp farming in the early 1970s and throughout the next four decades, shrimp farmers have employed various cultivation strategies and technical innovations to expand farms and products. …

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