History of Aquaculture Development:
In 1971, the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii submitted a proposal to develop a total atoll production system (TAPS). The culture of mullet, oyster, prawn and ature (scad) was part of the project. The project was initiated but was not successful.
A turtle farming system was initiated by the SPC in 1974. The site, located in Aitutaki successfully hatched green turtle eggs. However, it had feed problems when the turtles became carnivorous. Starvation and high disease incidence occurred and the project was terminated as unfeasible.
Silver-lipped pearl oysters (Pinctada maxima) were introduced for culture in 1905 but soon afterwards a cyclone hit and the venture was discontinued.
Tilapia was introduced in 1955 to the main island of Rarotonga. It has since spread to islands from both the northern and southern group. Tilapia was intentionally introduced as a biological control mechanism for the mosquito larvae (population control). On some islands tilapia oreochromis mossambicus have been continually been used for household consumption as well as an alternative sources for pigs feed. This particular species is also regarded as pest in the Cook Islands. Pukapuka island authorities have requested assistance from MMR for the eradication of o.mossambicus
5 species of giant clams have been reared at the hatchery T.maxima and T.squamosa (native), T.gigas (largest and fastest growing) H.hippopus (a hardy intertidal species) (both species introduced from Australia), T.derasa (spawned from broodstock introduced as juveniles from Palau).
Historically the oysters (Pinctada margaritifera) were harvested for their mother of pearl shell, however since the 1986 the First pearl farms were established in Manihiki and in the early 1990 pearl farms and a hatchery were established on the island of Penrhyn. In the late 90 the neighbouring island, Rakahanga established community farm.
- Some 14 years later from the initial time of Pearl Farming, in 2000 and 2001, a disease caused large mortality in cultured pearl shell in Manihiki and Penrhyn
- In terms of local production, 95% were from Manihiki and the rest are from Penrhyn and Rakahanga
- On a Global production, Cooks along with the other pacific islands produce 10%, while the rest comes from French PolynesiaNational Aspirations:
- Ensure economically profitable aquaculture ventures are undertaken
- Effectively use the limited space available in the best manner possible
- Minimise negative impacts on the aquatic ecosystem
- Minimise the introduction of foreign organisms
- Provide jobs that are rewarding
- Strengthen lagoon monitoring and management programs
- Provide training in pearl seeding and pearl grading Main Features of the Industry :
The largest aquaculture industry in Cook Islands is black pearl culture. This industry accounts for more than 90% of the value of national exports. Almost all culture pearls are produced in Manihiki Atoll. Pearls are farmed are Penrhyn (Tongareva) Atoll and Rakahanga Atoll.
Hatchery production of giant clams has been ongoing since the early 1990s. However high predation rates by snails and labour intensive culture systems have discouraged farming. There is interest in production for the aquarium market.
Macrobrachium shrimp were introduced in the mid 1990s. Trials indicate that good growth rates were achieved but the costs of feed and labour were uneconomical. Cook Islands lacks significant fresh and brackish water for production. Further trials are planned.
Eucheuma seaweed was introduced in 1986 and 2001. The first trial was destroyed by a cyclone. The second trial showed good growth rates but high levels of predation. Low profit margins may be a disincentive to farmers.
Trochus were introduced in 1956. The average annual harvest over the past 10 years has been 16 mt. Trials of hatchery reared trochus for restocking were carried out but the cost of rearing juveniles in the nursery phase was high. Better management of the existing wild stock is the preferred option to maintaining the industry.