Adams, T., Bell, J. and Labrosse, P. 2001. Current status of aquaculture in the Pacific Islands. In R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery & J.R. Arthur, eds. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. pp. 295-305. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome.
ABSTRACT: Compared with fishing, aquaculture is currently of little commercial significance to the Pacific Islands, with one important exception, black pearl farming, which is virtually confined to eastern Polynesia. Elsewhere in the Pacific, considerable development is needed before aquaculture can be considered economically sustainable. Shrimp (Penaeus spp.) farming has been a focus of commercial development in several islands with varying degrees of success; tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) aquaculture has entered the subsistence economy in some areas, and seaweed (Kappaphycus spp.) is a future commercial export prospect. The culture of other marine and freshwater species is, however, generally still at the experimental or backyard stage. The expansion of aquaculture in the Pacific will depend on providing better production methods for species currently being farmed, and techniques for propagating and growing the new species described above. These methods and techniques should be simple and flexible so that they can be adapted to the context of the Pacific Islands environment and to the market constraints (local and export markets). This approach should favour systems integrating fisheries and mariculture with low investment and operating costs and simple technical production processes. This should be done in association with pilot commercial-scale operations to test and demonstrate the economic viability of the methods proposed. This will require research combined with assistance, training and education programmes.
Pacific Island nations have many attributes that favour development of aquaculture and stock enhancement in the coastal zone. These are as follows: a great diversity of coral reef species which are in high demand, proximity to major aquaculture and seafood markets in Asia, availability of suitable growout sites in pristine habitats, geographic conditions which favour restocking and stock enhancement, a relatively inexpensive labour force, and a tradition of working with marine resources. Although these confer many advantages on the region in terms of aquaculture development and stock enhancement, there are still several constraints for such enterprises in the Pacific, which include limited domestic markets, high added-value export markets targeted, transport problems, socio-economic factors, fragile habitats, limited fresh water, and cyclones. Some of the best opportunities for aquaculture development in the Pacific are in the aquarium trade (coral reef fish, hard corals, soft corals), the live seafood markets (e.g. groupers, spiny lobsters, abalone, crabs) and the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. algae, sponges, soft corals). In all cases, the products are of high value and can be grown in small areas with relatively simple technology.
KEY WORDS: Aquaculture, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fish Farming, Aquaculture Development
This review covers the insular Pacific as defined by the work-area of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)2.
Compared to fishing, aquaculture is currently of little commercial significance in the insular Pacific, with one important exception black pearl farming - and this is virtually confined to eastern Polynesia. Elsewhere in the Pacific, considerable development is needed before aquaculture can be considered economically sustainable. Shrimp (Penaeus spp.) farming has been a focus of commercial development in several islands over the past 30 years, with varying degrees of success; tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) aquaculture has entered the subsistence economy in some areas, and seaweed (Kappaphyceus spp.) is considered a future commercial export prospect by the region. The culture of other marine and freshwater species is generally, however, still at the experimental or backyard stage.
Aquaculture is a relatively new development in the region, and in most Pacific Islands where it has been attempted; its history goes back less than 30 years. There is no fund of traditional knowledge for culturing fish and shellfish, just catching them, except in very specialized instances and areas. There is thus no great resource of aquacultural skill or infrastructure. This steep development path has perhaps not been taken into account in some development projects, which have often had unrealistic short-term aims and lacked follow-up.
Despite the comparatively minor penetration of aquaculture into Pacific Island economies, and despite the loss of interest by most of the international development community after many short-term project failures, several Pacific Island governments have accepted the challenge. They recognize that expansion in capture fisheries is limited, and have made substantial investments in freshwater aquaculture and mariculture, often in concert with external sources of development assistance.
Pacific Islanders cannot turn away from the sea. It is the greatest resource they have.
The potential importance of aquaculture to pacific islands
A major problem facing most of the island nations in the Pacific is that they have relatively few opportunities to generate income (Adams, 1998). The economies of most Pacific countries are limited due to small landmasses, few terrestrial resources and low numbers of inhabitants. To ensure further development, island nations must make the most of the one important resource they all have - the sea. Through the joint efforts of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the SPC Oceanic Fisheries Programme, island nations are deriving major inputs to their economies by fishing for tuna, or by selling access rights to tuna, within the large maritime zones under their control. However, valuable, sustainable harvests are also possible from inshore waters and coral reefs.
The potential for increased well-being of coastal communities from the responsibleuse of their inshore marine resources arises because the inshore habitats surrounding Pacific nations support a great diversity of economically important species (Wright and Hill, 1993; Dalzell et al., 1996; Bell and Gervis, 1999). Traditionally, these animals were harvested at subsistence levels. More recently, however, development of export markets has provided coastal communities with opportunities to earn income from the inshore fisheries species. Unfortunately, the transition from a subsistence to a market economy has usually been far from ideal: chronic overfishing has occurred in some areas. In such places, there are now too few of the prized animals to sustain reasonable harvests. Destructive fishing methods have compounded the problem by degrading some habitats to the point where they cannot support the valuable species (McManus, 1997). Pacific Island countries now recognize that aquaculture provides one of the few long-term, sustainable, ways of deriving benefits from inshore fisheries resources (Williams, 1996). This view of aquaculture as a priority area for continued sustainable development was reinforced as part of a consensus member country statement arising from the 2nd SPC Fisheries Management Workshop in 1998:
Regional fisheries managers have focussed on establishing regimes to sustain inshore fisheries. This is supported by a strategy to divert demand and fishing pressure to alternative activities, mostly to offshore fishing and into aquaculture.
|Development of fisheries management varies
from country to country reflecting the differing stages of economic development
and levels of need. In some countries the need is to encourage economic
activities and to generate income for rural villages; in other countries
the need is to restrict or limit fishing. Yet in other countries the need
to involve all stakeholders in the management system has evolved into community-based
decision-making and control. There is now broad acceptance that marine resources
cannot be managed in isolation from other users, or by one government agency
so that an integrated and co-ordinated approach should be taken. In many
circumstances, because of the smallness of the islands, an island system-management
approach is the desirable option.
Aquaculture, as an alternative activity, is still at a preliminary stage of economic development in most PIC3, but is of enormous future significance. For aquaculture to realise its full potential to the economies of PIC in a sustainable way will require a considerable degree of international support. PIC have endorsed a strategy to harness and prioritise such support at the regional institutional level. Several PIC already devote significant national resources to this subsector and this trend will continue as benefits are realised
Current status of aquaculture in the pacific islands
Profitable aquaculture of penaeid shrimps and blacklip pearl oysters has now been established in some areas of the Pacific by commercial interests. Stand-alone enterprises producing penaeid shrimps for export markets are firmly established in New Caledonia and Fiji and were so in Solomon Islands until recently. These enterprises are applying technology developed originally in Japan, Taiwan Province of China and France, and now common place throughout the tropics.
A large, sustainable, industry for culturing pearls using the blacklip pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) has been established in the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia, and on a couple of atolls in the Cook Islands (Fassler, 1995). In French Polynesia, the value of cultured pearls exceeds US$150 million per year. In Cook Islands, the industry is currently worth US$5 million and is the second largest source of revenue for the country after tourism.
Black pearl farming in French Polynesia and Cook Islands, and shrimp aquaculture in New Caledonia represented more than 98 percent of the total value of aquaculture production estimated in 1996 (Table 1).
Blacklip pearl oysters
Small-scale culture of pearl oysters is under way in Fiji, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tonga. In some places, e.g. Kiribati, development is based on spat produced in hatcheries, whereas in others, e.g. Solomon Islands, development is geared towards finding ways that coastal villagers can catch and grow wild spat (Friedman et al., 1998). Current research is concentrating on assessing the economic viability of pearl farming in Solomon Islands, Fiji and Kiribati, and comparing growth, survival and pearl quality of oysters derived from wild and hatchery-reared spat.
Small-scale enterprises in Solomon Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Tonga and American Samoa supply five species of giant clams (Tridacna crocea, T. derasa, T. gigas, T. maxima and T. squamosa) to the marine aquarium trade (Foyle et al., 1997; Hart et al., 1998). Production of giant clams for enhancement of wild stocks is also under way in Solomon Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands and Western Samoa (Bell et al., 1997a; Bell, 1999b). Several of these countries also have the capacity to produce giant clams for the sashimi market in Okinawa, and as a live product for markets in China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan Province of China (Bell et al., 1997b).
| ICLARM is currently conducting large-scale growout trials
to test and develop these markets for T. derasa.
Research has commenced to assess the viability of producing sea cucumbers in hatcheries for enhancement of wild stocks. There are three steps in this process: developing methods for cost-effective mass production of juveniles, learning to release the cultured juveniles in ways that maximize their survival, and evaluating the economic impact of releasing cultured juveniles into existing fisheries. Currently, the focus is on development of methods for the mass rearing of Holothuria scabra, H. fuscogilva and Actinopyga mauritiana, three of the most valuable sea cucumbers in the region. To date, ICLARM has demonstrated that H. scabra is relatively easy and cheap to rear (Battaglene and Bell, 1999), and that A. mauritiana grows relatively rapidly at high densities (Ramofafia et al., 1997). Initial research on H. scabra indicates that this species has much potential for stock enhancement.
Technology for propagating and releasing cultured juveniles of green snail and trochus has been transferred to the Pacific through projects in Tonga (JICA) and Vanuatu (Austrailian Centre for International Agricultural Research, ACIAR). The Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation (OFCF) is also implementing a stock enhancement programme for both species in Solomon Islands. Production of the marine alga Kappaphycus is well established by coastal villagers in Kiribati and Fiji, and sponges are being cultured in the Federated States of Micronesia. Milkfish are being cultured as live bait for the tuna industry in Guam, and there is considerable interest in this activity by several other countries.
Policy and institutional framework
The independent Pacific Islands (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu) generally lack any specific provision for aquaculture in the legislation, but many include a statement about aquaculture in national development plans.
Whilst prospects for inland aquaculture are limited by geography, the custom of communal tenure of coastal marine areas may be
| incongruous with private-sector farm ownership in many areas,
unless the development is carefully managed. Tonga is currently developing
a comprehensive legislative basis for future aquaculture development, whilst
the Cook Islands has adapted traditional systems into a legal basis for
pearl farm management. Other countries are taking a more ad hoc approach
and trying to adapt land-based systems of state leases for mariculture development,
or encouraging development only by traditional reef custodians.
Status by island
Production statistics for aquaculture, as might be expected from what is currently a minor, semi-subsistence activity, are almost nonexistent for the Pacific Islands. The exceptions are for black pearl farming in eastern Polynesia, and shrimp aquaculture in New Caledonia and a few other islands. The following summary is mainly non-quantitative.
Aquaculture is currently focused on giant clams (Tridacna derasa, T. maxima, and Hippopus hippopus). In 1996, 30 subsistence-level farmers participated in a programme of growing-out 500 clams each provided by a public sector-supported hatchery (Clarke, 1997, personal communication).
There are few freshwater bodies, but small lakes on three islands contain introduced eels and tilapia (not cultured though). Blacklip pearl culture started in the early 1970s at Manihiki; there were 50 farms in 1988 and over 90 in 1998. The first full-scale commercial harvest occurred in 1990 and was valued at US$0.8 million. This had risen to $4 million by 1995 to become Cook Islands most valuable visible export. Farming has now expanded to Tongareva and a government hatchery is there. A government hatchery for giant clam and trochus has existed on Aitutaki for 10 years, but is not currently commercially sustainable (G. Matutu, 1999, unpublished data).
Federated States of Micronesia
In spite of numerous trials and projects conducted since the 1930s, there are no sustained commercial or subsistence aquaculture operations at present (Itimai, 1999). Sponge culture exists on a small scale.
Aquaculture was first started in 1953, when tilapia were introduced as a protein source for pig farming. The first directed efforts occurred after the United States Peace Corps and a JICA project assisted the Fiji government in developing freshwater aquaculture methods in the 1980s. Varied success was achieved with shrimp, Kappaphycus, oyster, mussel, Macrobrachium, carp and tilapia, but now major investment is promoted by the government through a Commodity Development Fund. Currently, there are three shrimp farms and hatchery; 20 milkfish ponds for longline bait; and one industrial, seven commercial and 215 subsistence farms and six hatcheries that produced 243 mt of tilapia in 1998. Eucheuma cottonii is cultured by a total of 182 farms, producing an estimated 1 500 mt in 1999. Experimental pearl farming is conducted, and there is one commercial farm that has been operating for two decades. There is also a giant clam hatchery, the Naduruloulou Government Freshwater Aquaculture Research Station, the Makogai Government Mariculture Research Station, and the University of the South Pacific (USP) Aquaculture Teaching - School Teaching Ponds (E. Ledua, 1999, unpublished data).
There was an increasing trend in annual aquaculture production between 1990 and 1995 (Clarke, 1997). In 1995, aquaculture production was 205 mt valued at US$1.6, derived mainly from the farming of tilapia, marine shrimps, Chinese catfish and milkfish. The potential for the development of other species (giant clams, top shell, striped mullet and groupers) is being explored by Guam-based research facilities.
Eighty hectares of mikfish ponds, originally set up to provide livebait
for tuna pole-and-lining, have been operating for several decades. Kappaphycus
alvarezii has been cultured in the Phoenix, Line and Gilbert groups for
15 years. There is an OFCF project on sea cucumber rearing and an ACIAR
project on pearl farming (T. Tekinaiti, 1999, unpublished data).
There is farming of giant clams, seaweed and pearl oysters (Te, 1999).
There is currently no aquaculture, but investigations have been conducted on the feasibility of a giant clam and trochus hatchery.
Milkfish been farmed for at least one century, but competition from introduced tilapia (O. mossambicus) occurred in Buada Lagoon and culture lapsed. It has recently been revived, with O. niloticus and milkfish being raised in 11 ponds (F. Alefaio, 1999, unpublished data).
Aquaculture is limited to raising penaeid shrimp and tilapia (Clarke, 1997). Annual production is estimated at 1 250 kg for marine shrimp, 200 kg for freshwater prawns and 4 200 kg for tilapia. There are fewer than three commercial farms. The total value of products was estimated as US$25 000 in 1996.
Shrimp production achieved 1 500 mt for the first time in 1998 (Labrosse et al., in press), after disease problems which occurred in the early 1990s. The value of marine shrimp production is about US$10 million. About 45 mt of oysters (Crassostrea gigas) are produced for the local market. Experimental culture of local oyster and giant clam is also in progress (Etaix-Bonnin, 1999).
The Micronesian Mariculture Demonstration Centre pioneered giant clam culture, as well as trochus and soft corals.
Papua New Guinea
Aquaculture started 40 years ago, with several aquaculture stations along the coast and highlands to encourage subsistence culture, mainly of Cyprinus carpio. There are 300 carp farms in operation. Trout were introduced in the 1940s, and the Kotuni Trout Farm was in operation from 1973-1984. There are three newer farms, but only two are currently operating, with a production of 15 mt. A hatchery was started in 1996.
| Culture of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) has been started
in Madang on the site of a failed 9 ha pond originally used for redclaw
(Cherax quadricarinatus), but production has not yet been established (J.
Wani, 1999, unpublished data).
Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno
There is no aquaculture on these islands.
Pinctada margaritifera farming for black pearls is major industry. In the past, culture systems for mussel, shrimp, barramundi and oyster have been developed.
Farming trials were conducted on tilapia in 1954 by the SPC and on Macrobrachium in 1971 by the FAO, but were not successful. Seaweed, giant clam, green mussel and redclaw farming were also tried. A new national economic strategy promotes aquaculture, and this is being actively developed by the current AusAID village fisheries extension project using tilapia, mullet and giant clam (A. Mulipola, 1999, unpublished data).
There are two shrimp farms and several village-based enterprises rearing giant clams and hard corals for the aquarium trade and a demonstration black pearl farm in the Western Province. The ICLARM Coastal Aquaculture Centre has also developed methods for the propagation of sandfish (Holothuria scabra) and the capture and culture of wild postlarval coral reef fish for the aquarium trade. Between 1996 and 1999 there was an OFCF project on green snail & trochus (E. Oreihaka, 1999, unpublished data), but the future of the aquaculture-oriented Institute of Marine Resources of the University of the South Pacific is uncertain.
There is no aquaculture on Tokelau.
Aquaculture was first attempted in 1968 with the polyculture of tilapia and milkfish. From 1973-1979, various trials were conducted on shellfish (oyster, mussel, pearl oyster); these lapsed but Pteria penguin was established in the wild and may form the basis for later pearl culture.
|A Japanese mariculture project with the Ministry of Fisheries
on Tongatapu recently finished. Currently, there is a government hatchery
for giant clam, green snail (introduced) and trochus (introduced); and trials
are planned for extensive Cladosiphon farming (U. Faanunu, 1999, unpublished
data) and hatchery production of blacklip pearl oyster.
There is interest in trials on tilapia culture in borrow-pits at Funafuti.
Crassostrea gigas was introduced in the 1920s. There was a short-lived Macrobrachium rosenbergii farm at Santo from 1978-1983, and tilapia from New Caledonia were cultured during the early 1980s at Efate. Also at Efate, a trochus hatchery was established in 1985, started up by ORSTOM continued to the present by SPADP and ACIAR. Giant clam spawning has just started. There is no commercial aquaculture (K. Pakoa, 1999, unpublished data).
Wallis et Futuna
There is no aquaculture on Wallis et Futuna.
| The proceedings of the workshop entitled Present and Future
of Aquaculture in the Pacific organized jointly by the South Pacific Aquaculture
Development Project (SPADP) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency
(JICA) in Tonga in November, 1995 (Anon., 1996) presented the status of
aquaculture in the region.
The continued expansion of aquaculture in the Pacific will depend on providing better methods of production for species currently under cultivation, and techniques for propagating and growing the new species described above (Bell, 1999c). These methods and techniques should be simple and flexible enough to be easily adapted to the context of the Pacific Islands environment and to the constraints of local and export markets. This approach should promote systems integrating fisheries and mariculture, with low cost methods of production). This should be associated with pilot commercial scale operations to test and demonstrate the economic viability of the methods proposed. This will need research coupled with assistance, training and education programmes.
In recognition of these needs, three organizations (SPC, ICLARM and USP) have recently joined forces to produce a Regional Strategy for the Development of Aquaculture. Under this strategy, SPC will be the regional focal point for aquaculture and willconvene regular meetings of island nations to identify needs, determine priorities and put organisations and individuals in touch with each other. ICLARM will undertake long-term research to devise and test economically and environmentally sustainable methods for restocking, stock enhancement and farming; and USP will developdegree and diploma course components and aquaculture vocational training, and contribute to research through higher degree programmes. The other functions necessary for the expansion of sustainable aquaculture in the region, e.g. marketing, legislation, environmental protection and quarantine, will be integrated progressively through association with the Strategy.
This Pacific Islands Regional Aquaculture Strategy represents an opportunity to reinforce inter-regional cooperation based on research, training and information exchanges (including cooperation through NACA with Southeast Asian countries). It may promote more investment from Asia and better conditions for access to Asian markets.
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2 The countries and territories included in this review are: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Pitcairn Island, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
3 Pacific Island Countries