To support the development of inland aquaculture in PICTs, particularly in Melanesia, by providing technical advice for planning and to overcome constraints to production.
Aquaculture presents many opportunities for economic and social development, with new activities being pursued throughout the region. Part 1 of the ‘Fisheries for Food Security’ project targeted the development of mariculture (seawater aquaculture); this component focuses on opportunities for aquaculture in inland areas, encompassing freshwater and brackish-water aquaculture. Clearly the greatest opportunities exist in the large Melanesian islands with abundant land and freshwater resources. These are also the islands with large inland populations that lack access to coastal fisheries resources; and which will see most of the population growth and urbanization. With coastal fisheries resources facing over-exploitation in many areas, causing rising fish prices, aquaculture provides these countries with a real prospect of putting more fish on the table. They thus have both the need and the opportunity for development, which will build on progress already made.
The project will address constraints to sustainable development of aquaculture in four main areas, which have been identified from various regional consultations and country visits:
- Support for strategic policy development and planning for aquaculture at the national level, including management of biosecurity risks;
- Development of technical solutions to aquaculture production constraints in the key areas of ‘feed and seed’;
- Development of more skilled Pacific Islander aquaculture specialists through training and supervised research;
- Establishment of a regional aquatic animal health programme that makes best use of limited resources across the region and beyond.
A clear plan is seen as important to guide development of the sector, to establish the roles of Government and private sector and the priorities for assistance. Papua New Guinea is the most recent member to request SPC’s help in designing a strategic development plan for aquaculture (in August 2011). Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji have plans that were developed with SPC assistance, but periodic review and updating and assistance with implementation will be needed as well as assistance to other countries.
Feed and seed are the universal requirements for aquaculture development. Many farmers rely on imported feed which is more costly and can be difficult to obtain. Most or all of the necessary ingredients for producing suitable feeds, particularly for tilapia, can be obtained in the target countries. The materials available vary from one location to another and there is a need to develop appropriate formulations and feed-making capacity at a district level. Because demand is still at fairly low levels, commercial animal feed producers (where they exist) have sometimes been reluctant to set up production at this time. Smaller-scale manufacturing thus still requires technical assistance. Meeting the growing demand for ‘seed’ – the juveniles for stocking ponds - requires the development of hatchery facilities at different levels. Generally a government-run hatchery would maintain the genetic lines of broodstock and serve as a quarantine facility for necessary importation. Multiplier hatcheries to supply farmers can be managed by local entrepreneurs – particularly for tilapia which use low-tech systems. SPC currently has requests to support development of both types of hatchery, through assistance with the design and training of staff in operations. Developing the skills needed to support aquaculture development: a key output will be at the MSc. level, by supporting supervised research. SPC has also been requested to help with curriculum develop for farmer training and extension workers, however, and will support the development of these programmes through the National Fisheries College in PNG, and elsewhere as needed. Finally the ability to address problems of disease will be important in ensuring the increased production is not derailed by this problem. This is discussed further in the section on ‘risks’.
While the concept of ‘subsistence aquaculture’ to provide food security for poor rural communities is attractive, global experience analysed at a meeting in late 2009 has shown that this approach is not successful without ongoing subsidies, which are unlikely to be sustained in PICs. This project recognises that private enterprise, at all scales, will drive aquaculture development – providing food but also employment and income to meet the cost of inputs needed to sustain viable production levels. The project will therefore work with member governments to promote private sector development of small and medium-scale aquaculture ventures supplying local and urban markets as a sustainable means of meeting the growing demand for fish. For freshwater fisheries development the project will focus particularly on Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu as countries with potential; but it is expected that activities will also assist Samoa and other high island countries. The aquatic animal health network will provide a service more widely and will involve some Pacific Island Territories in the role of service providers to their neighbours.
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