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Responsible Aquaculture in the Pacific Islands: the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its Application to the Pacific Islands

Ben Ponia[92]


Guidance for responsible aquaculture can be found within the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. This Code alongside other international conventions has established global values for states to incorporate into their national framework for development. This document is primarily concerned with the Pacific region covering the 22 member countries of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. It reviews the status of aquaculture (and inland fisheries) in the region and reveals that substantial activity is occurring in these sectors. This document aims to demonstrate the relevance of the Code to the aquaculture sector in the Pacific Island states by highlighting practical examples of its application. Countries are encouraged to apply the principles of the Code in order for sustainable aquaculture to prevail in the region.


Aquaculture may be viewed as an innovative means to prevail over the limited resources and scarce market opportunities that typically occur in the Pacific. For a region that is mostly comprised of coastal populations whom inhabit approximately 500 islands, there are numerous opportunities for mariculture (farming in the sea). Freshwater aquaculture is also applicable to the large Melanesian countries with inland populations. Aquaculture can target either foreign export markets or food security requirements. Its prospects are not necessarily diminished by the fact that three-quarters of the Pacific population live in rural and often remote locations.

The challenge of aquaculture is tremendous and diverse. Aquaculture tests the traditional hunter ("fisherman") instincts prevalent among the Pacific Islands and requires a gatherer's ("farmer") approach. Aquaculture straddles both the sea i.e. fisheries, and the land, i.e. agriculture, and can be applied in marine, brackish and freshwater systems. For example the geographic extent for aquaculture in the Pacific may involve farming in deep-sea oceanic conditions or fresh water farming in the mountainous highlands of Melanesia.

According to FAO statistics (2003) on a global scale aquaculture is responsible for about one third (27.3 per cent) of the world's supply of fish, crustaceans and molluscs. It is the fastest growing food production sector increasing at a rate of 9.2 per cent per annum since 1970 compared to only 1.4 per cent for capture fisheries and 2.8 per cent for terrestrial farmed meat. In 2000, the reported production was 45.7 million tonnes worth US56.5 billion dollars.


The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) was developed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in conformity with accepted international conventions. The Code covers six thematic areas, fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture development, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade, and fisheries research. The Code is voluntary however it is based on rules of international law.

This document is primarily concerned with the application of the Code with regards to aquaculture and associated culture based fisheries. In addition the scope of this treatise covers inland fisheries amongst the countries in the region with significant freshwater systems.

The goal of this report is to encourage responsible aquaculture development. The purpose is to demonstrate to national managers the applicability of the Code's principles in the context of Pacific region.

1.1. Definitions

Aquaculture: The definition of aquaculture used in this document is that provided by the FAO: "Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. For statistical purposes, aquatic organisms which are harvested by an individual or corporate body which has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture while aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, with or without appropriate licences, are the harvest of fisheries."

Status of aquaculture in the Pacific

Many of the current forms of modern aquaculture in the Pacific can trace their early interventions back to the 1950's when a wave of experts from international and regional organisations began to advise newly independent states on how to manage their fisheries resources. A high proportion of the aquaculture projects initiated in this era did not bear successful fruition and a stigma was attached to the reputation of aquaculture that continues to linger today.

Some of the early failures of aquaculture developments could be accounted by a poor understanding of the socio-economic and ecological characteristics of the region (Uwate et al, 1984). Projects that had been a technical success in regions elsewhere, for e.g. in southeast Asia, could not simply be transposed directly to the Pacific. This is because key factors such as markets, social values, labour costs and appropriate sites are unique to the region.

However the seeds sown had captured the interest of the Pacific Islands. Some significant sub-regional and bilateral programs came into existence for e.g., CTSA support to the U.S. affiliated states, IFREMER programs in the French territories, several large bilateral projects funded by JICA and in the early 1990's the ACIAR giant clam project set up clam hatcheries among the South Pacific.

The FAO funded SPADP project in mid 90's was the beginning of a rejuvenated effort from international and regional organisations to be involved in aquaculture. In the early 2000 the SPC took up the vacuum left by termination of the SPADP project and developed a regional program to encompass all 22 of its Pacific Island member countries. Among the key regional organisations in the Pacific (CROP) the SPC was mandated as the regional focal point for aquaculture.

Updated information on the status of aquaculture in the Pacific is available from the SPC aquaculture portal

2.1. Commercial aquaculture

Commercial scale aquaculture is relatively new to the Pacific region although its research and development stages can stretch back several decades.

The actual value of commercial production is hard to estimate because of the poor quality of statistics available. However, the amount is estimated to be somewhere in the range of USD130-180 million dollars per annum. This figure is quite a substantial amount and in comparison to per annum value of the fisheries sector during the late 1990's it is roughly equivalent to the revenue generated by the regions massive tuna resource[93] and twice the monetary value of the coastal fisheries harvested[94].

There are two dominant aquaculture industries in the Pacific region which account for about 90 per cent of the value of production. These are black-pearl culture and marine prawn farming.

Cultured black pearls from the black-lip pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) are almost entirely produced from French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. There are thirty five atolls in French Polynesia where farming occurs or is under development. The industry reached a peak in production in 2000 with production valued at USD160 million dollars (11.4 tonnes). In the Cook Islands, cultured black pearls are mostly produced from one atoll and in 2000 a peak export of USD9 million dollars was achieved. In both countries, the pearl industry is ranked as the most significant economic sector after tourism. It provides employment to approximately 4,500 people.

Small pearl farms have been established in the Fiji Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea. Pearl farms are also being established or proposed in Tonga, Tokelau and Tuvalu.

New Caledonia is the largest producer of marine prawns in the region. In 2002 the country produced USD22 million dollars (1,800 tonnes) of the western blue prawn (Litopenaeus stylirostris). With the new farms under development the amount of production is expected to double by 2007 to 4,000 tonnes. Prawn farming employs approximately 900 persons.

The Fiji Islands also has a high interest in marine prawns and freshwater shrimp farming. The demand from the domestic industry is in the order of 600 tonnes per annum. The farming of the giant freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) and the giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is currently being pursued.

Seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii) is viewed as one of the ideal aquaculture commodities for the Pacific because it requires low costs to set-up, is easily cultivated in shallow waters and can be farmed by remote, rural communities. Seaweed has proven to be a substitute for the ailing copra industry. The combined production from the Pacific at its peak has been around 1,500 tonnes per annum, but it is thought that 10,000 tonnes is required to enable a sufficient scale of economy to occur.

The line atolls in Kiribati were until recently the main producers of seaweed. In 1996 about 1,100 households were engaged in seaweed farming and this activity was considered a major contribution to rural household income. In 1999 there was 1,000 tonnes exported from the Kiribati worth USD360,000 dollars.

In 1998, Fiji Islands also rejuvenated its seaweed farming effort with 182 farms established and commercial production soon after. Some production is occurring in the Solomon Islands whilst Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea efforts are currently under development.

Giant clam aquaculture for the marine ornamental market is widespread throughout the Pacific. The commonly targeted species are Tridacna maxima and T. derasa. Commercial hatchery production occurs in Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and American Samoa. In 2000, Vanuatu exported 120,000 pieces of giant clam, many collected from the wild. A moratorium was put in place after concerns over the sustainability of the harvesting. The volume of trade is not known but in view of demand and current hatchery production amongst countries, it probably exceeds 50,000 pieces per annum.

In addition to giant clam, some culture of "live rock" and corals (hard and soft species) is conducted for the live aquarium trade.

Several species of seawater, brackish and freshwater fishes are farmed for commercial purposes. A successful barramundi farm has been established in Papua New Guinea. Whilst in French Polynesia most of the five barramundi (Lates calcarifer) fish farms (15 tonnes in 2001) have ceased their operations and instead there is interest in farming the local fish species moi. In Fiji more then 100 tonnes per annum of tilapia is sold on the local markets and demand is said to exceed supply. On Guam the volume of tilapia has steadily decreased from 150 tonnes in 1993 with the aquaculturists shifting their interest into marine prawn farming. On Kiribati a milkfish (Chanos chanos) farm located in Tarawa with 80 hectare area is producing live juveniles for the tuna baitfish industry and plans to market adult smoked fish to overseas markets.

Various other aquaculture commodities are being farmed. Mozuku seaweed (Cladosiphon sp) is farmed in Tonga, between 50 to 100 tonnes is cultured from the 250-350 tonnes harvested. The price of the dried product is USD3 dollars per 20 grams or USD150 dollars per kilogram. The freshwater crayfish, red claw (Cherax quadricarinatus) is farmed in New Caledonia with 6 tonnes produced in 2001 and production expected to rise to meet the domestic demand of 50 tonnes. Some small scale farming of mud crab (Scylla spp) also occurs.

2.2. Artisanal and subsistence aquaculture

It is a common misnomer that the Pacific Islands are teeming with reef fish and that every family has fresh fish from the wild at their whim. However as any cursory trip to the market will show, fresh fish is often expensive and scarce and canned fish is often the cheaper option and commonly consumed in households. Depleted fish stocks, increasing human population, and the transition to a cash-led society are some of the reasons why the wild fisheries are no longer in a healthy state.

Traditionally aquaculture was not a common practice in the Pacific. One of the exceptions is milkfish farming whereby the practice of stocking of fry trapped from the wild into coastal ponds was a widespread throughout Polynesia and Micronesia. The farmed milkfish had a high social value and the harvest was often reserved for special occasions.

In comparison to the neighbouring south east Asian countries, subsistence or artisanal aquaculture in the Pacific is not that well developed. However fish and shrimp farming is becoming of high interest, especially amongst inland rural communities with freshwater systems that do not have abundant sources of indigenous fish protein. Recently there has been a lot of development of this nature among the large Melanesian countries such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea which have substantial inland populations.

In Fiji, the tilapia is an important crop. Approximately 400 tonnes per annum is harvested, some for commercial purposes. Although the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) is the most common variety the species currently being promoted is GIFT tilapia, a strain of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) with superior growth rates. Farming programs are supported by government which provides technical support and seed stock. Integrated farming systems with poultry and pigs are practised. Polyculture with other species such as macrobrachium shrimp have also been implemented.

In Papua New Guinea, inland pond aquaculture is growing at a rapid pace. A recent assessment by ACIAR in 2003 found that there are 10,000 fish farmers in the country. About 5-10 per cent of the farms are relatively well-developed operations, with more then 1,000 fish, and focused on selling to restaurants or exports. Common carp was farmed in 90 per cent of the farms and home consumption accounted for 40 per cent of the fish, an important source of protein.

Two types of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are farmed in Papua New Guinea. The Golden and Cantonese varieties. The carp is reared in both the high and lowland areas. The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is also farmed in the cooler upper highland areas where the water temperatures are suitable.

One commodity of growing interest in the region is the Pacific shrimp (Macrobrachium lar). This species is indigenous throughout the Pacific region from eastern Polynesia to west Melanesia. It can easily be collected as fry, attains a large size and is reputed to survive under high stocking densities. With these features in mind the Pacific shrimp is a likely candidate for aquaculture. Already in Vanuatu there are reports of villagers whom have successfully harvested Pacific shrimp farmed in an integrated system with the taro swamps. Such type of farming could be widely applied throughout the Pacific and may be an important future source of artisanal activity and subsistence protein.

2.3. Inland fisheries

Inland fisheries are significant in only a few of the Pacific Islands, particularly Papua New Guinea and Fiji Islands.

In Papua New Guinea the two major inland river systems are the Sepik River on the east coast and the Fly River on the west. The barramundi fishery in the Fly River and Lake Murray is one of the most important inland fisheries.

The commercial fishery involving freezer boats began in the mid-1960's, peaked in the 1980's and ceased by 1993. Now days only land based freezers are in operation. Record landings in 1999 were about 170 tonnes valued at approximately USD200 thousand dollars or 15 per cent of the countries fisheries catch value (National Fisheries Authority, 2003). Mozambique tilapia, originally introduced to the highlands, spread into the lowland and coastal Sepik River areas and became an important artisanal fishery.

In Fiji there are a diverse range of molluscs, crustaceans and fishes that are valuable inland fisheries. These include shellfish, Mozambique tilapia, eels (Anguilla spp), Tor (Puntius spp), Pacific shrimp (Macrobrachium lar) and Palaemon shrimp.

According to the records of the Government of Fiji, Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry, the sales at municipal markets for freshwater Pacific shrimp is between 170-200 tonnes per annum and Palameon shrimp up to 25 tonnes.

Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

3.1. Relevant international conventions

In addition to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries there are international guidelines that help determine global values for aquaculture.

At the upper echelon of global politics are broad international conventions that set strategic directions for aquaculture development.

World leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro adopted the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which aims to conserve biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. Within the convention are principles inherent for sustainable aquaculture development.

Ten years later the agenda was revisited at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, 2003. The Summit put special emphasis on five areas: water and sanitation; energy; health; agricultural productivity; and biodiversity and ecosystem management. Commitments referring to both fisheries and agriculture make reference to supporting sustainable aquaculture, including small-scale developments - acknowledging the growing importance of aquaculture sector for food security and economic development.

Other important conventions affecting aquaculture include CITES and UNCLOS.

At a more sectoral level there have been various expert forums, which have produced guidelines directly applicable to aquaculture.

The Bangkok Declaration and Strategy was derived from the FAO/NACA Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok, 2000. The Bangkok Strategy is a strategic platform with a list of key elements which states are encouraged to incorporate into their aquaculture development as the third millennium begins.

The International Aquatic Animal Health Code (2000) produced by the animal world health organization OIE is designed to facilitate international trade in aquatic animal products and aims to provide detailed guidelines of minimum health guarantees required of trading partners to avoid the risk of spreading diseases. The OIE standards are of particular importance to commodities being exported internationally because of their relationship with the WTO policies.

Recognizing the specific concerns of the Asia region the FAO and NACA have produced the Manual of Procedures for the Implementation of the Asia Regional Technical Guidelines on Health Management for the Responsible Movement of Live Aquatic Animals. These guidelines are especially oriented towards the needs of developing countries and applicable to the Pacific region also.

The ICES Code of Practice on the Introductions and Transfer of Marine Organisms (2003) puts forth recommended procedures and practices to diminish the detrimental effects from the intentional introduction and transfer of marine and brackish water organisms. This code was initially designed with ICES member countries concerned with the north Atlantic but all countries across the globe are encouraged to implement its code of practice.

3.2. Status of aquaculture policy and legislation in the Pacific Islands

A recent review of twenty one Pacific Island countries conducted for the SPC by Evans et al, (2003) provided a useful benchmark of the status of aquaculture policy and legislation in the region.

The Evans review found that there was a general absence of aquaculture policies both at regional and national levels. Similarly the majority of countries do not have specific legislation dealing with aquaculture, often relying on provisions in other statutes, particularly fisheries legislation. Regarding the trend among countries to draft Bills dedicated to aquaculture it was suggested that the first option may be to consider legal requirements for aquaculture being better integrated into the existing statutes. An imbalance was noted with some Pacific Island countries with relatively little aquaculture developments having more elaborate legislation or prescriptive regulations compared to those countries with substantial industries.

Although the circumstances for each country are distinct the review found some common issues that should be prescribed in policy and legislation. These minimum conditions include (1) provision of effective means for allocation of space (2) provision of statutory rights for sale of aquaculture fish and collection of broodstock and spat (3) renewable licensing for environmental effects (4) devolution of monitoring and enforcement of controls and (5) seafood safety controls.

A regional approach to certain components of the regulatory framework may be the most efficient method and advantageous in terms of scales of economy and gains in equity. This would cover issues such as: translocations of live aquatic organisms; customary, private and investor rights and responsibilities; transfer of technology; information collection and record keeping; and conduct of responsible aquaculture research or trials.

Efforts are being made to promote regional standards in the absence of national policy or legislation. For example at the 3rd SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting (Noumea, August 2003) a set of motherhood principles were adopted regarding translocation and introduction of aquatic organisms[95]. These principles are appended. With the current climate conducive to regional approaches for aquaculture development it is anticipated that further policy guidelines will be adopted for the region.

At a more strategic level the country's leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji, August 2002, have adopted a Pacific Islands oceans policy[96]. This policy sets out five guiding principles: (1) improving the understanding of the ocean; (2) sustainably developing and managing the use of ocean resources; (3) maintaining the health of the ocean; (4) promoting the peaceful use of the ocean; and (5) creating partnerships and promoting co-operation. Principle 2 has explicit implications for aquaculture.

It should be noted that the policy and legislation efforts within the Pacific region are complimentary to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The Code and regional policies set global values that can be incorporated into regional and national policies. It may be adopted as an interim measure in those sovereign countries that have a lack of national aquaculture policy or legislation.

CCRF articles relating to aquaculture

The Code of Conduct promotes the three pillars of sustainable development - economic development, social development and environmental protection. This is the context and scope under which aquaculture is considered.

The General Principle of the Code puts aquaculture into perspective: "States should consider aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, as a means to promote diversification of income and diet. In so doing, States should ensure that resources are used responsibly and adverse impacts on the environment and on local communities are minimized." Article 6.19

The FAO has produced a series of Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries which a more detailed analysis of the Code and its articles and its practical implementation are discussed. Relevant publications addressing aquaculture and inland fisheries include, Guideline No. 5 - Aquaculture Development and supplement guideline No. 5.1 Good Aquaculture Feed Manufacturing Practice; Guideline No. 6 - Inland Fisheries; No. 3 - Integration of Fisheries into Coastal Area Management; and No. 7 - Responsible Fish Utilization.

Article No. 9 of the Code - Aquaculture Development, contains the principles most directly concerned with aquaculture and will be discussed in more detail.

4.1. Article 9.1: Responsible development within national jurisdiction

9.1 Responsible development of aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, in areas under national jurisdiction

9.1.1 States should establish, maintain and develop an appropriate legal and administrative framework which facilitates the development of responsible aquaculture.

9.1.2 States should promote responsible development and management of aquaculture, including an advance evaluation of the effects of aquaculture development on genetic diversity and ecosystem integrity, based on the best available scientific information.

9.1.3 States should produce and regularly update aquaculture development strategies and plans, as required, to ensure that aquaculture development is ecologically sustainable and to allow the rational use of resources shared by aquaculture and other activities.

9.1.4 States should ensure that the livelihoods of local communities, and their access to fishing grounds, are not negatively affected by aquaculture developments.

9.1.5 States should establish effective procedures specific to aquaculture to undertake appropriate environmental assessment and monitoring with the aim of minimizing adverse ecological changes and related economic and social consequences resulting from water extraction, land use, discharge of effluents, use of drugs and chemicals, and other aquaculture activities

It is imperative that national authorities establish a strategic framework within which policies, legislation and administration can be collated and coordinated. As noted in the region, typically the policy and legislation regime has not been well developed. The detrimental impact of this situation is that the process for planning, approval and monitoring of aquaculture is poorly coordinated.

In terms of legislation the Evans et al (2003) report has pointed out that in some countries where low level of aquaculture activity occurs there is are over-prescriptive legislation and regulations, whilst in other countries the reverse is true. A balance has to be found to encourage and yet limit development whereby controls cannot be too administrative on the (often) limited management and scientific resources of the country. Therefore efforts to devolve control (include community management systems) may have merit.

In most cases, fisheries departments have been deemed the national focal point for the aquaculture sector. This is logical because of the extension of aquaculture to fisheries resources, (although there are instances where an autonomous administration has been formed, as is the case of the Ministry for Pearl Culture in French Polynesia). It is the responsibility of focal points to clearly identify their role to other aquaculture stakeholders and potentially conflicting resource users in order to negotiate a balanced input of development.

Transparent and accountable roles are also important to resolving conflict amongst users. Prior informed consent between parties is fundamental. On the one hand local communities should be consulted to ensure that proposed aquaculture does not affect traditional livelihoods or impinge on social values. On the other hand, investors need security of their property rights and tenure.

Not all countries possess sufficient capacity to infuse scientific probability into their management of aquaculture, particularly where it concerns environment matters. The precautionary principle approach is always a fall back option. But wherever possible States should also encourage the training of their professionals so that they may collect and analyze the data themselves. Utilizing past lessons learnt may also provide a guide to appropriate decisions to be made. In addition, Pacific Island countries should be aware that the region has expert agencies with a high level of specialization that may be able to assist.

For example the Cook Islands pearl culture industry has been the recipient from SOPAC of detailed underwater digital mapping of its atoll lagoons where pearl farming occurs in order to determine the proper allocation of space for pearl farms. SOPAC is also assisting in establishing a water quality monitoring buoy as an early warning system of pearl disease conditions. The buoy can remotely monitor and transmit data to the headquarters on the capital island.

4.2. Article 9.2: Responsible development within trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems

9.2 Responsible development of aquaculture including culture-based fisheries within trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems

9.2.1 States should protect trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems by supporting responsible aquaculture practices within their national jurisdiction and by cooperation in the promotion of sustainable aquaculture practices.

9.2.2 States should, with due respect to their neighbouring States, and in accordance with international law, ensure responsible choice of species, sitting and management of aquaculture activities which could affect trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems.

9.2.3 States should consult with their neighbouring States, as appropriate, before introducing non-indigenous species into trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems.

9.2.4 States should establish appropriate mechanisms, such as databases and information networks to collect, share and disseminate data related to their aquaculture activities to facilitate cooperation on planning for aquaculture development at the national, subregional, regional and global level.

9.2.5 States should cooperate in the development of appropriate mechanisms, when required, to monitor the impacts of inputs used in aquaculture.

Trans-boundary aquatic ecosystems are not a common feature of the region. With the exception of Papua New Guinea and Western Papua the Pacific Islands do not share common rivers, basins or watersheds of this nature. The introduced pests from the West Papua rivers are a threat to Papua New Guinea and the "koi" disease currently affecting carp fishes in Indonesia could well spread through the area in the same manner. Among the countries of the region, the most likely corridor where trans-boundary ecosystem may overlap would be Bouganville Island which straddles the borders of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

The greatly improved interconnectivity and short trans-shipment times offered by air transportation links is a trans-boundary issue that poses a major threat to the island ecosystems. Non indigenous species are often trans-shipped live between countries by airfreight in a haphazard manner without proper quarantine procedures. The risks of unwanted introductions are being exacerbated by the low capacity of quarantine and custom officials for proper protocols to deal with aquatic organisms. Typically these officials are more focused on threats to the agricultural sector.

From an ecological point of view the trans-boundary issues are not necessarily compatible with the political boundaries that define national sovereignty. Hence states themselves should also deal seriously with the issue of local trans-boundary ecosystems within their country borders. Especially in localities of high natural or cultural bio-diversity or where endemic/rare populations occur.

Regional cooperation amongst countries can minimize the threats caused by trans-boundary impacts and states should endeavour to share information about activities that may pose a threat to the ecosystem of its neighbouring countries. Regional networking and information clearing house mechanisms are important tools, which can improve coordination. Presently, such services are being implemented by the SPC in its role as the regional focal point for aquaculture.

4.3. Article 9.3: Use of genetic resources

9.3 Use of aquatic genetic resources for the purposes of aquaculture including culture-based fisheries

9.3.1 States should conserve genetic diversity and maintain integrity of aquatic communities and ecosystems by appropriate management. In particular, efforts should be undertaken to minimize the harmful effects of introducing non-native species or genetically altered stocks used for aquaculture including culture-based fisheries into waters, especially where there is a significant potential for the spread of such non-native species or genetically altered stocks into waters under the jurisdiction of other States as well as waters under the jurisdiction of the State of origin. States should, whenever possible, promote steps to minimize adverse genetic, disease and other effects of escaped farmed fish on wild stocks.

9.3.2 States should cooperate in the elaboration, adoption and implementation of international codes of practice and procedures for introductions and transfers of aquatic organisms.

9.3.3 States should, in order to minimize risks of disease transfer and other adverse effects on wild and cultured stocks, encourage adoption of appropriate practices in the genetic improvement of broodstocks, the introduction of non-native species, and in the production, sale and transport of eggs, larvae or fry, broodstock or other live materials. States should facilitate the preparation and implementation of appropriate national codes of practice and procedures to this effect.

9.3.4 States should promote the use of appropriate procedures for the selection of broodstock and the production of eggs, larvae and fry.

9.3.5 States should, where appropriate, promote research and, when feasible, the development of culture techniques for endangered species to protect, rehabilitate and enhance their stocks, taking into account the critical need to conserve genetic diversity of endangered species.

Article 9.3 deals with fundamental issues that concern most government agencies today - that of introducing new genetic material into the natural system. The past few decades have been a period of high levels of introductions throughout the region. According to the records of Eldredge (1994, 2000) of the 100 species introduced, 51 per cent were for aquaculture purposes and 21 per cent was for culture based fisheries. Commonly transferred aquatic animals were the giant clam, trochus, green snail, penaeid prawn, macrobrachium shrimp and Mozambique tilapia. Introduced species may have a severe impact at a species or ecosystems level. In turn this can impact on rural livelihoods, food security, poverty alleviation, public health and international trade. The impacts of such introductions can be caused not only the target species that are intentionally introduced but also unintended 'hitch-hikers'. Macro-organisms (e.g. snails, worms, larvae) and micro-organisms (parasites, bacteria and viruses) are both of concern.

In the past many introductions were made without proper risks assessment. The Mozambique tilapia originally from Africa was widely introduced in the 1950's for mosquito control and/or aquaculture and is now regarded as a pest and competitor to the native fauna. In Fiji, the Japanese pond snail (Viviparus japonicus) was unknowingly released as larvae in the water used to transport imported grass carp. This gastropod has become a dominant benthic fauna of prawn and fishponds which has greatly reduced productivity.

There are numerous hatcheries in the region. These facilities are able to artificially breed a variety of aquatic species for e.g. prawn, shrimp, giant clam, pearl oyster, tilapia and trout. The domestication of species for aquaculture usually aims to modify genetic traits such as growth rates or morphology (i.e. colour). It is the responsibility of states to ensure that such artificially propagated stocks do not significantly modify the existing wild gene pool.

Aquaculture may also help to rejuvenate over-fished or threatened species (such as pearl oyster). Stocks propagated through hatchery production or culture based systems may directly increase population numbers. Aquaculture may also benefit the ecosystem by indirectly support species rejuvenation by providing alternatives to destructive fishing practices or by assisting in conservation efforts of wild broodstock and their habitat.

4.4. Article 9.4: Responsible aquaculture at the production level

9.4 Responsible aquaculture at the production level

9.4.1 States should promote responsible aquaculture practices in support of rural communities, producer organizations and fish farmers.

9.4.2 States should promote active participation of fishfarmers and their communities in the development of responsible aquaculture management practices.

9.4.3 States should promote efforts which improve selection and use of appropriate feeds, feed additives and fertilizers, including manures.

9.4.4 States should promote effective farm and fish health management practices favouring hygienic measures and vaccines. Safe, effective and minimal use of therapeutants, hormones and drugs, antibiotics and other disease control chemicals should be ensured.

9.4.5 States should regulate the use of chemical inputs in aquaculture which are hazardous to human health and the environment.

9.4.6 States should require that the disposal of wastes such as offal, sludge, dead or diseased fish, excess veterinary drugs and other hazardous chemical inputs does not constitute a hazard to human health and the environment.

9.4.7 States should ensure the food safety of aquaculture products and promote efforts which maintain product quality and improve their value through particular care before and during harvesting and on-site processing and in storage and transport of the products.

It is generally accepted that aquaculture has potential to improve the income and food security among rural communities. In the Pacific, attention among rural areas is turning to systems that require low inputs (i.e. feed) and simple culture technology. If farming is for commercial purposes then a market driven product is very important and a past lesson learn is that the venture should be profitable. Aquaculture projects that were set up for "social engineering" or political purposes rather than a sound financial basis have almost always failed.

Farming at intensive levels above natural stocking densities may require a concentration of nutrients and chemical products. In the past, discharge water (for e.g from prawn farms) was implicated in eutrophication downstream. Today it is possible to achieve a zero discharge through recirculation of treatment systems. In New Caledonia the prawn farms are sited behind mangrove swamps which act as a natural treatment (biofilter) system.

Self-regulation by the industry producers particularly for a niche market product, if it can be achieved, can be a significant step towards sustainability. Two contrasting examples demonstrate this. Firstly the highly self-regulated prawn industry in New Caledonia which has managed to sustain its position as one of the highest quality products in a highly competitive world market. In the New Caledonia industry there is an accepted code of stringent standards in feed, pond discharge, stocking and food processing. The second example is the (once) poorly regulated pearl culture industry in French Polynesia where too many farmers and bad farming practises lead to an overproduction of poor quality pearls and threatened the viability of many pearl business.




Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research


Convention on Biological Diversity (UN)


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (UN)


Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific


Centre for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture


Food and Agriculture Organization (UN)


Heads of Fisheries meeting (SPC)


International Council for the Exploration of the Sea


Japan International Co-operation


Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific


International Office of Epizootics


South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission


South Pacific Aquaculture Development Program (FAO)


Secretariat of the Pacific Community


Conference on the Law of the Sea (UN)


World Summit on Sustainable Development (UN)


World Trade Organization


Dalzell, P., Adams, T. and N. Polunin. (1996). Coastal Fisheries in the Pacific Islands. UCL Press. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an annual review. Volume 34: pp395-531

Evan, N., Williams, D., and J. Raj. (2003). Review of Aquaculture Policy and Legislation in the Pacific Region. University of the South Pacific, Suva. Report (in prep) for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea. 151p

Eldredge, L.G. (1994). Perspectives in Aquatic exotic species management in the Pacific Islands. Volume 1. Introduction of Commercially Significant Aquatic Organisms to the Pacific Islands. Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Noumea. (

Eldredge, L.G. (2000). Non-indigenous freshwater fishes, amphibians and crustaceans of the Pacific and Hawaiian islands. in Invasive species in the Pacific: A technical review and draft regional strategy. SPREP. Samoa.

FAO (2002). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. FAO Fisheries Department, Rome. 150p

Gillett, R. (1997). The Importance of Tuna to Pacific Island Countries. Report prepared for the Forum Fisheries Agency. 33p

ICES (2003). ICES Code of Practice on the Introductions and Transfers of Marine Organisms, 1994. Copenhagen, Denmark, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

NACA, FAO. (2000). Aquaculture Development Beyond 2000: the Bangkok Declaration and Strategy. Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, 20-25 Feb 2000, Bangkok, Thailand. NACA and FAO, Rome. 27p

Uwate, R. K., Kunataba, P., Raobati, B. and C. Tenakanai. (1984). A Review of Aquaculture Activities in the Pacific Islands Region. Pacific Islands Development Program. Honolulu, Hawaii.

Annex 1

SPC-HoF Principles for Aquatic Organisms Introduction and Translocation for Aquaculture and Culture-Based Fisheries, 2003

Purpose, benefits and risks

1) The introduction and movement of aquatic organisms should have a clear economic, social, or environmental benefit.

2) It should also be shown why similar benefits cannot be attained by utilizing indigenous or local strain of species. The use of an indigenous species is preferable to introducing a new species.

3) Introduction and movements of aquatic organisms may lead to new and emerging pests, pathogens and diseases. Therefore, such activities may pose risks to the importing country. Risk arises from both the intended transfer species and also from pathogens, parasites and symbionts associated with this species.

Risk assessment

4) Proposals for introduction and movements must be assessed from a holistic perspective, taking into account a full review of the potential hazards and an assessment of the options for mitigation.

5) The impacts to existing aquaculture operations and culture fisheries and the habitat to which the movement will be made should be considered. In addition the risks to natural ecosystem, rural livelihoods, food security, public health and trade should be taken into account.

6) When there is considerable uncertainty about the biology of the proposed species or the possible risks associated with the translocation, the Precautionary Approach should be adopted.

7) The first movement (introduction) of a new species into a new area will require special considerations in light of the risk of introducing new pests, parasites, pathogens and genetic material.

Notification and engagement of stakeholders

8) Formulation of policy and legislation concerning introduction and movements should seek to engage all stakeholders in a participatory process. In addition, governments should establish advisory groups with links to independent and scientifically competent expert bodies.

9) Translocation into regions that are shared zone between two countries should be approved by relevant authorities in both territories concerned. Under such circumstances the proponent country should inform its neighbours of the intended translocation.

Quarantine and release strategies

10) When introducing a new organism attention should be focused on the prevention of the spread of diseases and pests that might accompany the import through the implementation of an effective quarantine measure.

11) Quarantine measures should be based on scientific principles and be practical, cost-effective and easy to implement by utilising readily available facilities. Individual countries may need to adopt, modify or vary guidelines to suit their own particular situations and resources.

12) Movements of aquatic organisms should be conducted within the provisions given in existing relevant national and international agreements and instruments such as the United Nations FAO fisheries code of conduct and convention for biological diversity.

13) All introductions must be treated as open water stocking even if made to aquaria or closed water bodies (dams or ponds). The possibility of the species establishment into the natural environments should not be disregarded.

Roles and responsibilities, capacity building and awareness raising

14) National governments have a key responsibility to manage the risks arising from the introduction and movement of aquatic organisms. This includes the responsibility to reject applications for introductions when the risks of the introduced species itself are deemed unacceptably high; and to terminate an introduction if the specimens are found to be carriers of unwanted organisms.

15) The varying capacity, special circumstances and requirements of developing countries to implement quarantine programs should be taken into account by development agencies and donor institutions.

16) Collaboration among the governments, public institutions, and the private sector, including all stakeholders, is important to achieve the full purpose of effective management of aquatic organism transfers.

17) Policy makers, enforcement agencies, stakeholders and the general public need to be made aware of issues related to, and the need for, policy on the introduction and movement of aquatic species and this should be high on national agendas.

[92] Aquaculture Adviser, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
[93] Note: Although the tuna caught in the Pacific region was worth approximately AUD2 billion, the Pacific only receives a small percentage of revenue from access fees of the foreign fishing fleets.
[94] Source of fisheries statistics: tuna revenue from Gillet (1997) and value of coastal fisheries in Dalzell et al (1996).
[95] SPC-HoF Guidelines for the Introduction and Translocation of Aquatic Organisms for Aquaculture and Culture-Based Fisheries.
[96] Pacific Islands Regional Oceans Policy.

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