Marine Atlas: Maximizing Benefits for Fiji
FISH FROM THE FARM: AQUACULTURE
Aquaculture has faced many challenges in Fiji over the years. Although successful fish farms do exist, Fiji’s aqua- culture is declining and needs to be carefully assessed and supported to add true value.
The farming of seafood, known as aquaculture, can be practised in either fresh water or saltwater, the latter of which is also known as mariculture (see map). Farmed fish is growing in popularity in Fiji, with the local consumer increasingly preferring tilapia and prawns. However, various species have been grown in Fijian aquaculture, including carp (grass and silver), milkfish, seaweed, pearl oysters, clams, trochus and sea cucumbers. Research is currently being done to determine whether other fish species found in Fiji’s waters can also be farmed. Furthermore, there Fiji has an aquarium trade market, for which corals and other ornamental species are grown in aquaculture. With 70 times more ocean than land, the question arises as to why Fiji needs to farm fish. As is the case with all global fisheries, wild fish stocks are declining in Fiji’s waters, while the demand for fish protein continues to grow. Given the inevitable effects of climate change and other human factors on fisheries, aquaculture has been identified as a means to enhance Fiji’s economy and help achieve food security. Aquaculture was first introduced to Fiji in 1953, with tilapia grown as a source of protein for pig farms. Production was later expanded by the Department of Fisheries in 1967. Aside from food, Fiji is known for its unique pearls, which is the country’s most lucrative aquaculture product and contributes significantly to its economy. In addition, seaweed production is found in some coastal areas. However, aquaculture has not always been as successful as hoped. There are many reports of failed aquaculture ventures of different species and at different scales of operation. A common thread in unsuccessful aquaculture ventures is the lack of technical support. In many cases, projects are started at community levels with little or no follow-up from the establishing bodies, resulting in a growing list of short-lived schemes. Farm operators are often not adequately trained to make informed farm management decisions.
Total quantity (tonnes) of shrimp and seaweed production
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Total value (FJ $ 000) of shrimp and seaweed production
Production costs are another factor commonly seen to reduce the success of aquaculture in Fiji. For example, feed can make up to 30 per cent of total production costs on tilapia farms. In attempts to reduce cost, farmers may compromise the quality of their product, resulting in farm failure. Regardless of the reason for failure, aquaculture production has been declining over the past dec- ade (see graphic). Aquaculture can have negative impacts on Fiji’s marine ecosystem, including pressure on wild fish used for fish feed, escape of introduced aquacul- ture species, interbreeding of farmed fish with wild fish, pollution and habitat loss. For example, man- groves are cut to develop shrimp farms, resulting
in loss of this key coastal habitat (see also chapter “Home, sweet home”). There is therefore a need for clear priorities when expanding aquaculture to minimize any adverse environmental impacts. The current distribution of most of the fresh and saltwater aquaculture activities throughout Fiji is shown on this map. Pearl and mabe (half pearl) farms are mostly found in the coastal regions of Fiji’s Northern Division. The production of oyster spat is currently widespread, though most spat farms are experimental in order to determine whether regular production can be established in these locations. Viable spat farms will then supply larger pearl farms. Other mariculture activities in- cluded on the map are seaweed and crab produc- tion on Viti Levu. The Fiji Crab Company operates two commercial farms, producing mud crabs and marine prawns. Throughout the country, there are also several small-scale freshwater farms for tilapia and freshwater prawns. There is potential to expand mariculture and fresh- water aquaculture in parts of Fiji with abundant freshwater. However, careful assessments and strategic technical and financial support is required to increase the benefits for Fiji and successfully supply farmed fish.
MAXIMIZING BENEFITS FOR FIJI
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