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1.1 Nutritional benefits of fish and shellfish
1.2 Characteristics of consumption in the region
1.3 Annual consumption of fish and shellfish
1.4 Gross market data
1.5 Specific market data
1.6 Information for the trade
1.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector

1.1 Nutritional benefits of fish and shellfish

Fish and shellfish are important sources of dietary protein throughout the Pacific. Fish are high in protein (17-20%) and supply important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Fish are especially important within the region among populations inhabiting small oceanic islands where long-standing traditions of reliance on marine resources have developed and where other sources of animal protein are scarce. In other countries within the region, fish consumption is increasing in light of the knowledge that the lipid fraction of fish contains largely polyunsaturated fatty acids, a dietary factor which aids in reducing blood cholesterol levels.

1.2 Characteristics of consumption in the region

As a result of the intimate associations between the populations of Oceania and the sea, the per caput consumption of fish and shellfish is high within the region, and a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates is consumed. These include species from pelagic, nearshore, benthic, coral reef, lagoon, mangrove, seagrass, and freshwater habitats.

High-value species, such as lobsters, shrimp, abalone, and oysters, are relatively more important in Australia and New Zealand, while nearshore coral reef species of fish and invertebrates are predominant in the diets of the peoples inhabiting the smaller islands of Oceania. Freshwater fisheries in the Pacific Islands are moderately developed only in Papua New Guinea, for tilapia, and in Fiji, for freshwater clams.

Food production through commercial aquaculture has been developed in only a few nations and is generally associated with the level of economic development rather than with per caput consumption.

1.3 Annual consumption of fish and shellfish

The percentage of the daily protein consumption is affected by a number of factors, the principal one being the availability of fish. Fish is often more important in the diets of coastal populations than for inland populations. In Vanuatu, for example, fish and shellfish constitute 51% of the dietary protein of coastal populations but only 27% of the protein consumed by inland populations. In essentially non-monied economies, availability of fish may be a major determinant of the level of consumption. In monied economies the price of fish relative to other protein sources and the flexibility of the consumer's available finances also contribute to determining the levels of fish consumption.

The available data (Table 1) demonstrate that, on average, the people of the Pacific islands have access to a substantial amount, 10 to 50 kg per caput per year, of fish available for consumption. A recent village household survey conducted in Yap state of the Federated States of Micronesia showed that about 75% of animal protein consumed is fish, and that approximately 90% of the fish consumed comes from the artisanal sector.

In the island nations with low population densities there is generally little economic incentive for the development of aquaculture for local markets. However, in Western Samoa, the population has grown rapidly and over 50% of the fish consumed is imported; this has stimulated interest in commercial aquaculture.

In spite of the relatively high average availability of fish in the Pacific islands in general, there are populations in inland areas with limited access either to coasts or to large rivers. For example, about 85% of the population of Papua New Guinea lives inland, and some villages suffer from protein deficiencies. In such areas, nutritional deficiencies could be alleviated in part through the development of subsistence fish culture. Aquaculture development to address such problems has been initiated for carp in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and for tilapia in parts of Fiji.

In Australia and New Zealand fish and shellfish comprise a relatively small proportion of the food consumed. It is estimated that in Australia about 2% of household expenditures is spent on seafood, and fish is eaten in restaurants more often than in the home. However, even in these areas the per caput consumption of fish, much of which is imported, has been increasing in recent years. Per caput consumption of seafood in Australia is estimated to be 7.5 kg per year. With large domestic markets and significant imports there is considerable economic incentive in the development of aquaculture in these countries, and the farming of aquatic organisms is considered to be among the promising "sunrise" industries.

1.4 Gross market data

The characteristics of the major markets for fisheries products in general vary greatly within the region. In part this reflects the sizes of the domestic markets as indicated by population estimates. The country with the largest number of people within the region is Australia, which has a population of nearly 16 million. This is several times greater than the populations of the next largest countries, Papua New Guinea or New Zealand, which have populations of between 3 and 4 million each. The other countries and territories within the region have populations ranging from 18 000 in the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands to just over 700 000 in Fiji (Table 2).

Markets depend not only on the size of the population but also on the purchasing ability of the consumers. This is reflected somewhat in a country's GNP. Within the region Australia has the greatest GNP of over US$ 171 thousand million. Although New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have populations of similar size, the GNP of New Zealand (over US$ 24 thousand million) is approximately 12 times that of Papua New Guinea (US$ 2.5 thousand million), and vastly greater than such countries as Tonga (US$ 70 million) or Kiribati (US$ 30 million) (Table 2).

Simple national statistics belie the reality of the size of the countries, and the population distribution. The 23 countries, territories, and commonwealths included in this survey are made up of over 1 000 islands and atolls, many only inhabited temporarily, or not at all. They range in size from Australia, with its continental land mass of 7 682 300 km2, down to the island nation of Nauru of 21 km2 (Table 3). Fiji is made up of over 400 islands; Tonga of more than 170. The nation of Kiribati, with its 33 islands, is dispersed over an area of 5 million km2 - or two-thirds the area of Australia. Consequently national statistics, which are averaged data, at time misrepresent the conditions and markets of people in remote and poorly linked communities.

The domestic markets are greater in Australia and New Zealand than for any of the other countries and territories within the region. Also, major exports of aquaculture products for human consumption occur only in Australia and New Zealand. For areas such as Guam, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia, with smaller domestic markets but with economies supported by tourism and other external sources, the aquaculture enterprises are addressing moderately to highly priced products to supply domestic needs and to reduce reliance on imports.

In other less-developed areas such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji, fish production is primarily aimed at family and village markets through subsistence and artisanal aquaculture, although the development of commercial aquaculture for prawns and shrimp continues.

In addition to the production of fish and shellfish for human consumption, there is interest within the region in producing a number of non-food marine products. Markets for non-food exports are being addressed by the development of pearl culture and the production of seaweeds for use in the phycocolloid industry. These activities are particularly attractive in areas where fish for nutrition is abundant and cheap, and where opportunities for generating income are limited. For example, the culture of pearls has been successful in Australia and in a number of atolls of the Tuamotu and Gambier islands of French Polynesia, and in the Cook Islands. Also, cultivated seaweeds for use in the phycocolloid industry have been marketed from Kiribati and Fiji. Both pearl culture and seaweed culture are being explored at a number of other locations within the region. In addition, Australia has a substantial market for ornamental fish; about 5 million goldfish are marketed annually, of which two-thirds are imported from Southeast Asia.

1.5 Specific market data

In Australia and New Zealand the markets targeted are those for relatively high-priced commodities both for domestic consumption and for export. The major markets for New Zealand's fishery exports are Australia, Japan, and the United States of America (USA).

Australia's fishery imports are primarily from New Zealand (fresh and chilled products), South Africa (smoked fish), and North America (canned fish). Australia exports primarily to Japan but also to Taiwan PC (Province of China), the Federal Republic of Germany, Saudi Arabia, and others.

Guam and New Caledonia are the only other two countries within the region with significant industrial production of fish and shellfish for domestic consumption. Guam's production of finfishes (Asian catfish, milkfish, and tilapia) with the exception of limited exports to Nauru and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, is marketed locally either live or chilled.

In New Caledonia penaeid shrimp are the major items of production. These high-value products farmed through aquaculture are currently marketed locally and appear on the menus of the hotels and restaurants. Expansion of production in this area is targeted for the international market.

Throughout the island nations one of the most favoured marine fish caught naturally, but also considered suitable for culture in coastal ponds, is the milkfish. The price differentials between islands has created a trade, but also furthered the interest in farming practices. For example, milkfish are abundant in the Cook Islands, but the prices range from NZ$ 5/kg in outer island retail markets to NZ$ 6.5/kg on the main islands. In the Federated States of Micronesia the ex-vessel prices are US$ 1.30-2.20/kg for local fish, but imports have been known to resell for as much as US$ 6/kg. In Hawaii (USA) the current market prices of milkfish, both natural and pond stocks, are about US$ 3.60/kg (ex-vessel US$ 2.05/kg). In Palau the price is US$ 2.53/kg retail, and in the Solomon Islands, where it is not so popular or available, it is -only about US$ 0.75/kg.

Milkfish juveniles (8-12 g size) are also used as baitfish by the tuna industry.

1.6 Information for the trade

There are few regional publications dealing with aquaculture products. Aquaculture marketing and trade information is covered to some degree in Australia in "Austrasian Aquaculture", published by the Australian Aquaculture Association, and the "Fishing Industry News Service (FINS)", published by the Fisheries Department of Western Australia. In New Zealand there is "Catch", "Freshwater Catch", and "Shellfish Newsletter", all published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Pacific region benefits from its proximity to the large aquaculture sector in Asia, and the innumerable marketing information sources available. However, the data are not always relevant to interest and species of the Pacific.

The principal marketing information service in Asia (and the Pacific) is INFOFISH, although it does not differentiate aquaculture products as yet. INFOFISH assists the fishing industry and governments in the region by establishing contacts between buyers and sellers of fish products, and providing technical information and advice on post-harvest aspects of fisheries, such as handling, processing, equipment selection, and quality assurance. INFOFISH is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its working language is English.

INFOFISH is one of four regional services (Africa, Arab Countries, Latin America, in addition). The network of services produces a fortnightly news bulletin called "Trade News", in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. This deals with prices, cold storage holdings, short-term market trends, and business opportunities. The network also publishes a two-monthly magazine called "INFOFISH International", (incorporating Marketing Digest) in English, which contains articles on market analysis, new products, processing, packaging equipment, and other aspects of fisheries, including aquaculture, with summaries in the other three languages. Again, as yet, little information is relevant to aquaculture in the Pacific region.

A fifth member of the service is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' computerized system of fish marketing called "GLOBEFISH". This database stores original information collected by INFOFISH and the other regional services on such things as production and trade statistics, price series, the supply and demand situation, information on aquaculture, investment, joint ventures, and general economic data relevant to fisheries. Specific searches are made on request. FAO also produces "Globefish Highlights", which is a quarterly analysis of medium trends. It is based on the information in the databank and is distributed as a supplement to the "Trade News" (above) in four languages.

Annual fishery statistics are also stored in an FAO database called FISHDAB. As yet, aquaculture statistics are not separated.

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC), which is based in Thailand, produces a Newsletter. This often carries feature articles on marketing of aquaculture products in the Asia and Pacific region, and processing and post-harvest technology. It also produces articles for the consumer on fish and fisheries products.

1.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector

In the Pacific region as described by the survey there are no consumer-related, technical assistance projects. Most of the countries and territories within the region which usually receive bilateral or international aid have little aquaculture production. A small project focusing on marketing of giant clams has been identified as a priority by the governing board of the Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture in Hawaii (USA), but is not yet funded. In addition the FAO/Government of Japan's South Pacific Aquaculture Development Programme recently sponsored a cultural anthropologist from the University of Guam to look at the socio-economic factors which might affect the success of a planned milkfish culture project on Mitiaro in the Cook Islands.

The most important technical assistance project in the sub-sector for the Pacific region is in the proximal region of Asia. This is INFOFISH, a marketing information and advisory service specializing in Asian and Pacific fisheries. INFOFISH is part of a network of marketing services established by FAO in four regions (see 1.6). It was financed at its inception by the Government of Norway for a three year period. It is now partly financed by the Government of Norway, by income from its services and publications, and by contributions from its member countries. Malaysia, the host country, provides office facilities and support staff. Although aquaculture information is not separated as yet INFOFISH serves the sector directly, and its publications contain many useful articles on marketing aquaculture products which are also relevant to aquaculture development in the Pacific.

Other externally-funded regional projects which indirectly serve the aquaculture sub-sector in the Pacific include the Regional Fish Market Studies conducted jointly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/FAO South China Sea Programme on important fishery commodities, such as shrimp and tuna; and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Post-Harvest Technology Project, assisted by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

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