17 Jun 2013

Call for more private sector support for Pacific aquaculture

5:14 pm on 17 June 2013

Aquaculture experts in the Pacific region are calling for more private sector support to help the industry grow.

They say there's big potential for the farming of marine resources like freshwater fish, seaweed and other crops but they're lacking resources.

Beverley Tse has more:

Papua New Guinea farmers who farm the freshwater fish tilapia are already exchanging ideas and getting technical help through a European-funded project at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. An aquaculture officer with the programme, Avinash Singh, says there are many benefits in getting farmers to network, like being able to better meet the demands of the local and international markets.

"AVINASH SINGH: Another area which we find is quite specific is feed, whereby because some of these farmers are in isolated areas, getting access to feed ingredients can be a problem. And if we can find areas of suppliers who are willing to give their money to give their money in large volumes, rather than smaller volumes, by working together they can buy larger volumes and so this helps them reduce their own costs."

Avinash Singh says more money needs to be pumped into aquaculture across the Pacific and private companies should be helping with development.

AVINASH SINGH: For that, having things like private hatcheries for example. So generally aquaculture in the Pacific and a lot of places around the world, two factors, the feed and the seed or the babies tends to be the limiting factor. If you can produce within country, it reduces the risk of disease coming in, biosecurity issues, also the time spent on obtaining the young animals is reduced.

Alex Meloti who works in aquaculture for the Solomon Islands government says the industry achieved a breakthrough last year with 1,300 metric tonnes of the cultured seaweed kappaphycus alverezii, also known as 'cottonii', exported overseas. He says the country was exporting less than 2 percent of that 10 years ago and it has surpassed Kiribati by becoming the top Pacific supplier of the seaweed. He says the government hopes to develop prawn and fish farming and it will review it's national plan for the industry next year. But Alex Meloti says there are several challenges facing the industry.

ALEX MELOTI: The remoteness and the scatteredness of islands... I try to work hard on trying to set up a network of farmers around the provinces, but it's not really easy. We slowly develop areas where logistic communications is accessible.

The Cook Islands has begun developing inland fish farming and growing hydroponic crops such as herbs and leafy greens. Its Secretary for Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says the government began working with a private company about a year ago and he says there is potential for the industry to grow.

BEN PONIA: We would like to have more resources to put into applied research and development and programmes such as this private/public partnership with the aquaculture facility, because I think this is the way to do business and to grow the industry.

Ben Ponia says his ministry is also hoping to revive black pearl farming, which has been in decline for a number of years.