Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands

Countries meet to gauge aquaculture’s impact on Pacific Ocean

Framework sought to prevent unregulated fish farming damaging biodiversity in an ecosystem crucial to the health of the planet

Apia, Samoa, , 28 Sep 2012 -- With aquaculture emerging as an important component of global food security, ensuring that the rapid growth of the fish-farming industry does not damage the biodiversity of the Pacific Ocean will be the goal of representatives from 21 countries and territories meeting in Fiji this coming week at a workshop organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Aquaculture has been the fastest-growing sector in food production during the past two decades, amounting to nearly 50 percent of the USD 100 billion global seafood industry. In recent years, the industry has greatly expanded in Pacific Island Countries, providing an important foundation for economic advancement and contributing to improved health and nutrition among local communities.

However, despite the vastness of thePacific Ocean, the unregulated introduction of various fish species for aquaculture is threatening to upset the delicate balance of an ecosystem that supports larger communities and is crucial to the health of the planet.

 Some of the negative ecological effects already being seen include the introduction of predator species, genetic mixing and alterations among native species, the appearance and spread of diseases, and changes in habitat that threaten the survival of some species.

 “Aquatic biosecurity in the Pacific Island region has become a main item on the agenda of aquaculture development in recent years,’’ said Dr. Vili Fuavao, the FAO Sub- Regional Representative for the Pacific. “Despite discussions concerning aquatic animal movements at the regional level, appropriate national policies have not been in place in countries of the Pacific region.’’

 Representatives from 21 Pacific Island Countries and Territories will use the six-day meeting to lay the groundwork for a framework and programme to allow countries to manage biosecurity threats associated with the aquaculture industry, promote responsible use and introduction of non-native species, and agree on methods to implement a strategy for better data collection, reporting and analysis.

“The geographical isolation of countries, the limited availability of specialist expertise and resources, and narrow prospects for developing specialist capacity are some of the challenges facing Pacific Island Countries,’’ Fuavao said. “Previous efforts to improve capabilities need to be reinforced, up-scaled and strengthened.”

The workshop, convened by FAO and SPC, will evaluate regional needs and enhance capacities of countries in priority programme areas such as aquatic animal health, species introductions and aquaculture statistics and data, as specified under the Pacific Aquaculture Regional Cooperative Programme developed in 2011.