Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands

Tonga assessing biosecurity risks of aquaculture

10 Oct 2012 -- FAO helping officials and stakeholders acquire tools to manage aquaculture industry that holds both economic promise and threats to the environment

Nuku'alofa, Tonga, 10 October 2012 – With the Kingdom of Tonga’s  aquaculture industry presenting new challenges to its environment, government officials and other stakeholders are gathering in Nuku'alofa this week to acquire the latest tools to conduct aquatic biosecurity risk assessments at a workshop organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Because the industry is young, however, the capacity of local officials is relatively limited in areas such as assessing aquaculture’s risks and threats to the environment and biosecurity. Those threats are numerous and varied and require a range of skills and tools to manage them effectively.

The seven major risks associated with aquaculture are pathogens, food safety and public health, ecological (pests and invasives), genetic, environmental, financial and social. All seven are inter-related, and present serious threats if not managed responsibly.

As part of a series of aquaculture sector management capacity building workshops in the Pacific region, FAO is organizing a four-day workshop, for Tongan officials and stakeholders. The workshop started on the 9 October and will continue to the 12October. Its purpose will be to provide training on the application of risk analysis.

Risk analysis is a process that allows stakeholders to understand a risk, measure it, and weigh its consequences. It lies at the heart of modern approaches to biosecurity, and has become an essential tool in the protection of human, animal and plant health and biodiversity. It is also required by many international agreements.

International trade is one of the key drivers ofTonga’s aquaculture industry.Tongais emerging as a producer of giant clams, pearls, sea cucumber, seaweed, rocks and coral. The kingdom exports between 300 and 500 tons of seaweed each year.

The National Workshop on Risk Assessment in Aquaculture Development is being organized by the FAO through the FAO Sub-Regional Office for thePacificIslandsinSamoaand the Aquaculture Service of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome at the request of the Government of theKingdomofTongathrough the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests, and Fisheries.

Those attending the workshop include officials of the Fishery Division, Quarantine and Quality Management Division, Marine and Ports Division, other government authorities concerned and members of the private sector, and FAO staff and consultant.