Aquaculture updates from Nauru (06/2007)
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00:00

By Ben Ponia


In May 2007, SPC's Aquaculture Adviser visited Nauru and was updated on the aquaculture situation of this small country. Farmed milkfish (Chanos chanos) has traditionally played a significant role in the diet and social customs of Nauruan people, but during the economic boom of the phosphate-based economy, much of the knowledge and many of the practices associated with milkfish farming were lost. Building capacity in aquaculture will hopefully contribute to rehabilitating the tradition of fish farming on Nauru.


There has been quite a revival of aquaculture activity occurring in Nauru. Faced with an economic crisis, Nauruans are becoming more self-sufficient in providing food, and aquaculture is one of the options that is stirring interest.


Aquaculture development is being supported by the Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority (NFMRA – in particular, Margo Dieye, divisional head, and aquaculture officers Ricky Starr and Lucky Buraman). Support has been provided by SPC's Aquaculture Section from small trials funded by an ACIAR mini-project, tilapia fish training workshops, and several staff attachments with Naduruloulou aquaculture station in Fiji in 2006. In addition, FAO provided a short-term adviser from China.


There are about 30 small ponds that staff have been restocking with Nile tilapia and milkfish.


Site 1: A backyard earthen pond (run by Junita, an elderly grandmother). This was the site where SPC ran the Mozambique tilapia eradication and pond rehabilitation mini-project in 2006. After the project ended, the fisheries staff assisted with several restockings of fish and one harvesting.However, much of the extension support reportedly ceased because of the lack of logistic support for fuel and transportation from the government. However, since the end of the project, Junita has had to resort to cheap, poor quality feed, such as expired chicken grower pellets, to feed her fish because she is unable to afford good quality feed. This highlights the importance of taking into account the socioeconomic aspects of fish farming and how impoverished households with little cash flow will be able to sustain their fish ponds. One potential mini-project that was discussed was investigating low-cost, readily available feed ingredients. Poor farm management practices were also apparent at Junita’s pond (e.g. the presence of numbers of juvenile fish, which will compete for food). This emphasises the need to continue to support fish farm training workshops. According to NFMRA aquaculture officer, Lucky Buraman, one positive sign was that the Nile tilapia harvested from her farm received a very good taste-test reaction from the public at the National Agro Fair.

Site 2:  A backyard concrete pond stocked with Nile tilapia. Occasionally, the owner sells his fish at AUD 7.50 per kg . His fish are left to breed in the tank and excess fish fingerlings are removed periodically.

Site 3: A concrete swimming pool no longer in use. It was decided to turn it into a fish pond, and was stocked with an all-male tilapia population in order to achieve faster growth rates. The fish are fed a diet of whatever is at hand, including arrowroot leaves, pawpaw, and bread scraps. The fish appear to be growing reasonably well.


Buada Lake is the largest inland water body on Nauru. Traditionally, milkfish fry caught in the lagoon were stocked into the lake where they were later harvested under a communal system. Unfortunately, fry are no longer abundant in the wild and so in the past, fry have been sourced from nearby Tarawa Atoll in Kiribati. After the most recent restocking, several thousand milkfish fish were harvested. Several of the fish farming units now have enclosures and these have since been stocked with Nile tilapia. It may be interesting to conduct some research trials for polyculture of milkfish and Nile tilapia.


There are two associations that have an interest in fish farming in Buada: the Nauru Aquaculture Association (NAQUA), which has been established to assist farmers on an individual basis, and the Buada Land Owners Association (BLOA), which supports communal efforts.


A Taiwanese aquaculture aid project in Auobar, which mainly focuses on farming milkfish, will establish a hatchery for breeding. The site has two large concrete raceways supplied with seawater from the nearby lagoon. Tanks are stocked with one-year-old, 500 g milkfish fry from Kiribati. Thousands of juvenile surgeonfish have also been recruited into the raceways and are growing quite well. For reasons unknown to NFMRA, some Penaeus monodon shrimp were also imported from a Taiwanese project in Kiribati. The project (which is managed by the Ministry of Commerce) seems to lack coordination within Nauruan government agencies and the Taiwanese themselves were unclear about the objectives and timelines. The facility has the potential to serve as a national hatchery, broodstock management, and quarantine centre for finfish aquaculture.


In later discussions with Margo, Charleston Deiye Chief Executive Officer for NFMRA and Hon Roland Kun, Member of Parliament and Minister of Fisheries, it was reiterated that the rejuvenation of milkfish farming is an important priority, and Buada Lagoon is still the prime location for this development. It was also recognised that farming Nile tilapia provides a quick solution to addressing food security issues, which are becoming more important to households under the current economic crisis. Technical support will be needed. Margo also mentioned that there was interest in reseeding the reefs with trochus to provide another source of nutrition.