In the late 1960s, an Australian family established a pearl oyster farm to cultivate Pinctada margaritifera and P. maxima pearl oysters. P. maxima were collected from the wild using hookah gear and then placed in net cages which were deployed on the ocean floor. These two pearl oyster species are native and commonly found in the Pacific where they are cultured for the collection of their high value pearls. The original family run farm was established on the Island of Waghena (in Choiseul Province) but only ran until mid 1970s because of the low price of pearls at that time.
The Fisheries Department under the auspices of the Ministry of Natural Resources was established in 1972 following a request from Japanese fishing companies, in particular distant water pole and line fishing vessels which travel long distances to catch skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis ). These vessels normally operate using tanks of circulating seawater containing live bait used to catch skipjack and it was not economic for the vessels to travel back to Japan when their supply of bait ran out. Consequently, they were interested in establishing a base in the Solomon Islands only if live bait could be fished in the lagoons surrounding the Islands. A survey was actually carried out before the establishment of the Fisheries Department which was then established to administer the fishing activities in the country including that of aquaculture.
Aquaculture as an important activity for the Solomon Islands emerged in the early 1980s when a private prawn farm owned by an Australian farmer was established in 1983 on west Guadalcanal about 25 km from the main capital, Honiara. Three trial earth ponds were built and the prawn larvae, which were imported from Australia, were cultured in the ponds. Following the success of this farm, a second prawn farm was established at Rua Niu west of Honiara; this time local Chinese businessmen were involved in the venture. Because of a lack of knowledge of aquaculture, the fisheries department administered the activities by issuing operational licenses similar to those issued to the pole and line vessels. At that time the data collected on aquaculture was limited as the department concentrated on tuna, nevertheless, more than 37 000 kg of prawns was recorded as being exported in 1998.
In 1984, the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management (ICLARM)'s Coastal Aquaculture Centre was established at Aruligo, West of Honiara. ICLARM is a non-profit organisation with a head office in the Philippines . The main objectives of ICLARM are (ICLARM, 1997) to:
Eucheuma sp was grown using the Indonesian method (also known as off-bottom or the fixed-depth method). High growth rates were achieved in many cases but grazing by herbivorous fish destroyed the trial results (Smith, 1991). Additional trials were conducted elsewhere in Rarumana where there was no grazing except for the first three months of the year (Smith, 1991), however, due to low seaweed prices the project failed to progress at that time.
Since that time the aquaculture section of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources (DF and MR) has assisted aquaculture projects such as the Seaweed Project and with funds made available from the European Union (EU), this project has been able to expand seaweed farming in other provinces of the islands and by 2003 more than 20 tonnes of dried seaweed ready for export was produced.
In 2003 the Aquaculture Section implemented its 2003 Work Program on seaweed and to date, two communities have benefited from the project, the Rarumana community (population of more than 2 000) was the first followed by the Waghena community (population of more than 3 000). The Aquaculture Section employs five staff (three full-time staff and two part-time contracted students) as well as five others who are indirectly involved with the project.
Seaweed farming is the only system currently used in the Solomon Islands with the Indonesian style used on most farms in Rarumana, Waghena and Malaita.
Fig. 1. Distribution and characteristics of the main aquaculture production sites by administrative units (National data, 2002-2003)
Eucheuma sp is the species of red seaweed farmed and was introduced into the country in 1988. Giant clams were cultured prior to this but was halted during the ethnic tensions of 1999, Tridacna maxima , T. derasa , T. crocea , T. gigas , T. squamosa , and Hippopus hippopus were cultured and involved about 50 farmers, these species are endemic to the country.
During 2003 effort was focused on the production of seaweed, staff from the aquaculture department were involved extensively in training farmers and distributing seaweed seed to the different provinces. This work was began in 2001 in Rarumana and production in 2003 reached over 20 tonnes of dried seaweed worth approximately US$ 104 000. The Government has setup purchasing centres in the villages where farms have been established. A local exporter has been granted a licence to buy dried seaweed from the seaweed project since there are no local markets for the product.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Solomon Islands according to FAO statistics:
Currently the only aquaculture product produced is dried seaweed from farmers in Rarumana and Waghena, the dried product is bought from farmers at SBD$ 2.00/kg by the seaweed project and a local exporter buys this product at the same price from the seaweed project. The local exporter is searching for a market for the product, under the current Fisheries Regulations, commodities cannot be exported prior to certification.
Aquaculture is not a traditional activity in the Solomon Islands, however, when the Aquaculture Section was established in 2001, its aim was to develop activities which could generate alternative income sources for coastal communities who rely totally on inshore resources for their income. As a result of this reliance most inshore resources (sea cucumber, giant clam and top shells) are fully if not over exploited. Some communities currently benefit from the harvesting of seaweed. The current establishment of seaweed farms in some communities has enabled some families to afford basic needs such clothes and education.
Under its development plan, the Aquaculture Section has formulated the following objectives to:
The establishment of the Aquaculture Section in 2001 has provided a framework in which the Department of Fisheries has taken responsibility for the sector, the functions of the section is basically to promote aquaculture in the country and involve local participation in aquaculture projects, other main responsibilities include to:
Currently there are no aquaculture regulations, however, a draft Aquaculture Regulations 2002 has been drafted by the Aquaculture section in liaison with a government fisheries legal advisor. The draft has been circulated for comments, it is important that regulations are formulated relating to aquaculture activities so that guidelines and rules can be implemented in future. The current draft of the new regulation is now in the hands of the Legal Chamber and when consultation is concluded, the Minister of DF and MR should then proceed so that the Aquaculture Regulations 2002 is gazetted.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Republic of Solomon Islands please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Solomon Islands
The Aquaculture Section in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), University of the South Pacific (USP) and ICLARM are working together on building capacity within aquaculture, currently, however, there are no technical schools offering training in aquaculture in the Solomon Islands.
The DF and MR has an agreement with the World Fish Centre (ICLARM) based in the Solomon Islands to continue research on inshore resources. The successful research during the 1980s resulted in the culture of giant clams and the export of juveniles by some 50 clam farmers.
During those years, thousands of juvenile clams were produced and sold annually to one aquarium dealer in Honiara who exported mainly to the west coast of the United States of America and to Europe. Small amounts of shells and handicrafts are also sold both domestically and overseas, efforts are also being made to identify possible markets for larger cultured T. derasa clams for human consumption, including as frozen meat in Okinawa and as live clams in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing with small trial shipments having already been sent. Between 1997 and 2000 about 50 619 cultured clams were exported and the amount of revenue gained totalled SB$ 455 606. The giant clam farms ceased production when ICLARM's hatchery was destroyed in 1999 during a period of ethnic tension.
As mentioned, aquaculture is not a traditional activity for Solomon islanders and most aquaculture activities were carried out by foreign investors, recently, however, the island's government has recognised the importance of aquaculture in generating income and has therefore formulated a policy statement on a National Fisheries Development Plan:
Fisheries Policy Statement : The sea is one of the Solomon Islands' main sources of livelihood and the government will embark on a comprehensive programme aimed at maximising national income through the harvesting of marine resources. Emphasis will be placed on effective management and rational sustainable use of marine living resources (SIG, 1995).
The Solomon Islands fisheries is subsistence oriented and well over 80 percent of the population derives their protein intake from marine resources, the country also derives its second highest foreign exchange earnings from the utilisation of marine resources.
Aquaculture Policy Statement : The Government encourages aquaculture farming and facilitates local participation; potentially suitable areas will be surveyed. (SIG, 1995).
The implementation of the Aquaculture Policy came about in 2001 when the newly created Aquaculture Section was set-up within the DF and MR. The development of this section gradually improved in association with the development of the current seaweed program co-ordinated by the policy and planning department of the Aquaculture Section.
Within the framework of its strategic plans the section has selected and prioritised commodities for aquaculture development under the criteria that these developments are environmentally friendly, easy to run and require low capital cost. The development of the seaweed farms has clearly shown the interaction of aquaculture with the environment, communities and the business sector and is assisting the progressive achievement of the objective of the section.
Most previous attempts at aquaculture activity, such as prawn and giant clam farming, were stopped due to the ethnic tension and most aquaculture facilities were destroyed during this time. As a consequence, most aid donors were reluctant to support aquaculture development and most foreign investors departed the country, new foreign investors are still hesitant to invest. The Aquaculture Section is actively looking for solutions to these issues and identify ways to develop sustainable aquaculture activities.
A lack of know-how and expertise are issues which need to be addressed as far as aquaculture development is concerned, the training of aquaculture staff is one important area for the building of the capacity within the section.
Land and reef disputes have always been associated with any development in the Solomon Islands, most lands are owned according to local customs and the government recognises that the island's reefs are also owned according to local custom. The land tenure system in the Solomon Islands can be categorised into local custom owned and registered. About 87 percent of the land is local custom owned, where a clan, tribe or line owns the land whereas registered land has its owner and boundaries registered.
CBSI. 2002 . Central Bank of Solomon Islands Annual Report 2002. 107p
ICLARM. 1997 . ICLARM 1997 operational plan. International Center for Living Aquatic Resources management, Manila, Philippines.
SIG. 1995 . Development Plan 1995 - 2000. Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Smith, M.T. 1991 . Seaweed Farming Trials 1988-1991.
SPC. 1998 . Pocket Statistical Summary. Statistics Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
FAO . 2005 . Aquaculture production, 2003. Yearbook of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.