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Mariculture is not easy and it's not cheap, said SPC director. (Photo: Secretariat of the Pacific Community)

New report urges Pacific nations to think twice before trying mariculture

FIJI
Thursday, March 15, 2012, 15:20 (GMT + 9)

A new report on mariculture advises Pacific nations to reconsider before they embark on sea-farming enterprises. The report, “Opportunities for the Development of the Pacific Islands Mariculture Sector,” determined that many marine aquaculture projects have been undertaken without proper economic studies, particularly on the costs involved and the potential markets for fish products.

The report includes on-ground assessments of mariculture activities in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands and Marshall Islands and counts with comments from fisheries staff, fish farmers, traders, processors and finance organisations in these countries.

Mike Batty, director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Marine Resources Division, said the Pacific has a 30-year history of failed mariculture attempts and that the lessons have not yet been assimilated.

“Mariculture is not easy and it’s not cheap. Pacific Island nations should think of it as one possible option, rather than something to be promoted at all costs,” he commented.

The report comments that some research and development groups and government fisheries agencies have time and again promoted development trials without carrying out “the most basic analysis” of production and marketing costs.

“Risks have not been assessed, and there has been a failure to compare objectively mariculture with existing and other potential income generating activities. As a result many small communities have served as guinea pigs for the testing of ambitious, technically driven and in many cases naïve projects,” it reads.

Potential difficulties of mariculture ventures include expensive feed, long cropping cycles, competitive markets, pricy transportation and products requiring high labour inputs. The report thus describes the activity as risky.

The report recommends more thorough market appraisals and estimates of production, distribution and marketing costs of any proposed new venture. Also helpful is the involvement of private industry at an early stage in research and development.

In general, all appraisal processes should include “more thorough and realistic estimates of production, distribution and marketing costs,” the report maintains.

The report does say that some products in certain countries show promise, but their potential must be rigorously assessed to see if they could become sustainable.

The Pacific Islands are best known for pearl culture, although this industry is now under strain. Farming seaweed, shrimp, coral, sponges and some types of fish are some mariculture activities which can work under the right conditions, the report notes.

Meanwhile, Batty said he has held discussions with officials of the Solomon Islands Ministry on possibly introducing the farming of "super tilapia,” a genetically improved species, Solomon Times reports.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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