University of Florida
Diego Valderrama

Diego Valderrama

E-mail | Web Site


1121 MCCB
P.O. Box 110240 IFAS
Gainesville, FL 32611-0240

Diego Valderrama’s research and teaching interests are mostly centered on the economic analysis of coastal resource issues. Work in this area began in 1998 with an economic analysis of the shrimp farming industry in Honduras. This research helped Honduran farmers identify optimal production plans, i.e., the selection of stocking densities, growout cycle lengths and water management strategies allowing producers to maximize farm income. This research proved to be valuable because it was conducted during the onset of a number of shrimp viral epizootics (Taura Syndrome Virus and White Spot Syndrome Virus) in Central America, which forced shrimp farmers to adjust production strategies in view of the increased mortality rates in shrimp ponds. These economic models were subsequently expanded to conduct an analysis of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the shrimp farming industries in Honduras and Nicaragua. This analysis emphasized the efficient use of inputs (e.g., reduced water exchange in ponds and the use of feed trays) so as to reduce the environmental impact of culture practices.

In addition to the research programs in Central America, support was provided to the catfish farming industry in the Southeastern U.S. States. A number of studies were conducted between 1998 and 2001 aimed at identifying optimal strategies for the fingerling production phase. In addition, a comprehensive analysis of settling basins was conducted to evaluate their effectiveness as an effluent management strategy.

During 2004-2008, a number of problems in marine resource economics were examined as part of the dissertation research:
1) Bio-economic models developed for the U.S. Atlantic sea scallop fisheries highlighted the benefits of rotational management as opposed to traditional regimes of continuous fishing targeting specific fishery mortality rates. This research provided strong economic evidence in favor of “Marine Protected Areas”.
2) An analysis of market interactions between the global salmon aquaculture industry and the traditional Alaskan salmon fisheries provided a strong economic rationale in favor of rights-based fishery management in Alaska.
3) A formal analysis of the 2004 shrimp antidumping case demonstrated once more the futility of targeted tariffs in the international shrimp market.

During 2008-2010, Diego Valderrama joined the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as an aquaculture economist. This position focused primarily on the promotion of sustainable, commercially-oriented aquaculture as a tool for economic development in African and Latin American countries. Most of the technical cooperation projects led by FAO revolve around the concept of cluster farming, whereby key players in the private sector are identified to act as suppliers of seed, feed and technical knowledge to groups of nearby farmers. The physical proximity and cooperation between production units allow farmers to reach economies of scale with greater ease; the synergies emerging from production in clusters improves the overall economic performance of the farms. The concept has successfully been applied by tilapia producers in Honduras and it is now being tried in Sub-Sahara Africa (Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, etc.). An outstanding feature of the concept is that it places emphasis on private sector empowerment, requiring governments to perform only a facilitating role. This is a drastic departure from previous approaches to aquaculture development in Africa, which assigned entrepreneurial functions (e.g., provision of seed and feed) to the public sector, generating a culture of paternalism that contributed little to the development of private-sector aquaculture in the continent.

Diego Valderrama joined the Food and Resource Economics Department at UF in November 2010. He is planning to expand his research program on marine resource economics, placing especial emphasis on the promotion of sustainable aquaculture as a catalyst for economic development in Africa and Latin America. He is also planning to work on issues of specific interest to the people of Florida, particularly in regard to the sustainable utilization of the marine resources of the State.


Dr. Valderrama is a natural resource economist with a major interest on marine resource economics (both fisheries and aquaculture). The potential of aquaculture as a catalyst for economic development in Latin American and African countries is a particular area of interest.


  • Ph.D., Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
  • M.Sc., Aquaculture and Fisheries, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, AR
  • B.Sc., Marine Biology, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Bogota, Colombia

Professional Experience

  • 2011-Present
    Assistant Professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, University of Florida
  • 2008-2010
    Aquaculture Officer (Economics), Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • 2002-2008
    Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island
  • 2000-2001
    Research Associate, Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • 1998-2000
    Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Awards and Honors

  • Greg J. Lessne Award for Excellence in the Study of Natural Resource Markets and Economics. University of Rhode Island, 2008.
  • Graduate Student Travel Award, IAAEM, 2007.
  • URI Graduate Fellowship, 2004-2005.
  • Best Paper, North American Journal of Aquaculture, 2001.
  • Honorable Mention, Best Student Paper Award Competition, IIFET 2000.
  • Best Graduate Student Presentation, Thirteenth Annual Research Forum at UAPB, 2000.
  • Best Student Abstract, Aquaculture America 2000.
  • Walter Landry Memorial Award, U.S. Striped Bass Growers Association, 1998.
  • Jorge Tadeo Lozano Award, Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Colombia, 1994.

Other Professional Activities

  • International Association of Aquaculture Economics and Management
  • International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade
  • North American Association of Fisheries Economists
  • World Aquaculture Society