The objective of this project component is to establish effective management and monitoring arrangements in countries that have an existing marine aquarium trade. The component will also work with two or three countries to promote the development of the trade where it does not exist at present. The marine aquarium trade provides a sustainable source of income for coastal communities, which does not compete with fisheries supplying fish for food.
The marine aquarium trade in the Pacific Islands is a story of successful private sector development. There are currently 12 countries involved, with at least two others wishing to enter the trade. The business is estimated to be worth USD $40–60 million a year to Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) and accounts for 10–15% of the global supply. It is estimated to provide some level of income (ranging from full-time employment to occasional sales and royalty payments) to over 5,000 Pacific Island households.
The companies operating in the Pacific Islands have generally sought to establish an environmentally sustainable business, driven by the demands of their customers, and have avoided the bad practice which is prevalent in major suppliers like Indonesia and the Philippines. This can be best supported by transparent and soundly based management plans, put in place by PICT Governments, with the backing of appropriate legislation. Assisting with this is the main activity of this component.
The countries are at different stages of developing and/or managing their aquarium fishery. In Samoa and Nauru there is no fishery, but surveys have found a suitable resource and the airline links would seem to offer opportunities. In these countries this project component will assess the financial viability, and encourage linkages between the Government and suitable private sector partners. In FSM and Solomon Islands, there are active fisheries but no management arrangements, and these needs to be developed through a consultative process. Marshall Islands and Kiribati have management guidelines in place, which need to be developed into formal management plans. Palau has a management plan, but it is outdated and needs to be reviewed in the light of changes in the industry. Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu (which account for the bulk of the trade) have well defined management plans in place, and need assistance mainly with monitoring of export volumes. Papua New Guinea has pursued a rather different approach from other PICTs, and has been subsidizing the start-up of a supposedly commercial operator. There are reports that this is not going well, and this project component may be able to assist with putting in place more commercially sound arrangements (to be discussed during the SPC joint country strategy mission in 2010).
The second cluster of activities is associated with the private sector: financial assessment of potential new operations and promoting opportunities to the private sector. This project component can also provide capacity building for local fish collectors in the areas of catching and handling. This leads to better quality and higher survival rates of fish at capture and export, giving increased financial returns and reducing waste of the resource.
This component will also take into consideration any existing efforts from other groups and will consult and develop working relationships with those groups that are relevant to learn from their experiences and to avoid duplication of work. Some of these groups include the Marine Aquarium Council on certification for this industry, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries with their experience in managing this industry, and other projects such as the Coral Triangle Initiative with their experience with Asian based marine aquarium operators and CRISP for the application of post larval capture in the marine aquarium industry.
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