Building capacity for Solomon Islands in freshwater aquaculture (December 2008)
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00

By James Ngwaerobo


With the increasing pressure on capture fisheries, freshwater aquaculture has potential to develop among the PICTs. SPC and USP are taking a lead to assist the development of tilapia and freshwater prawn farming among the PICTs.  

The Aquaculture Development Plan for Solomon Islands, recently developed by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) in collaboration with SPC, listed freshwater aquaculture (tilapia and prawn) as a priority. To further strengthen the Solomon Islands Freshwater and Brackish programme , MFMR requested that SPC provide training to enable MFMR to build capacity to implement its programme. A three-week training and work attachment was conducted by SPC and USP in collaboration with the Aquaculture Unit of Dairy Farms (Fiji) Ltd. (DFF), and the Naduruloulou Research Station (NRS) of the Fiji Islands Department of Fisheries. As a member of MFMR staff based in the newly established Aquaculture Division, I was able to attend this training.


 Freshwater and brackish water aquaculture has been established for more than two decades in Fiji Islands, so aquaculture infrastructure like feed mills, hatchery and culture technology, supporting institutions and personnel are comparatively well developed. This has created a foundation for training so that other PICTs can learn from experiences in Fiji. Nile tilapia and Macrobrachium rosenbergii prawn hatchery and grow-out practices are in operation, including one large commercial prawn farm at Navua and a number of smaller extensive and semi-intensive tilapia and prawn farms in other parts of Fiji. There is a large freshwater aquaculture centre and prawn hatchery operated by the Fiji Islands Department of Fisheries at NRS in Tailevu, responsible for overseeing the development of this sector among rural communities. The establishment of a second, commercially-oriented prawn hatchery by USP’s IMR, and IMR’s partnership with DFF to operate the Navua prawn farm, have further consolidated freshwater aquaculture in Fiji. 

The training

 The training covered a wide range of practices in tilapia and prawn hatchery operation, husbandry and grow-out. This involved fieldwork, hands-on work experience, and lectures on tilapia and prawn biology. The training was conducted at the DFF Navua prawn farm, the IMR-USP hatchery in Suva, and NRS in Tailevu. Vanuatu Fisheries staff member Glen Alo was the first person sponsored by SPC to complete this training (in September 2008) and I was the second (in November 2008).

  The Fiji freshwater aquaculture sector includes polyculture, integrated agriculture-aquaculture farming (tilapia and ducks) and monoculture of both tilapia and prawn. The different farming methods have been proven to work well and are suitable for PICTs. The main commercial species are Nile tilapia and rosenbergii prawn, but also includes grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), big head carp (Aristichthys nobilis), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), puntius (Puntius gonionotus), gold fish and fancy carp (koi).

Grow-out — tilapia and prawn

 Two weeks of attachment and training was spent on the pond cycle developed for prawn pond management: preparation and maintenance of ponds, application of lime and fertiliser, filling of ponds, stocking with prawns, feeding, daily maintenance, pond sampling, and record keeping. Also covered were feed preparation (ingredients and equipment), harvesting, and packaging of prawns. Field visits were made to a number of other farms to observe the different types of farming (monoculture, polyculture, and integrated farming). These topics were covered both at DFF, which focuses on prawn grow-out, and at NRS, which maintains broodstock for tilapia and prawn and produces juveniles for pond stocking.

 Hatchery — tilapia and prawn

NRS operates hatcheries for both tilapia and prawn. These are ‘master hatcheries’, responsible nationally for maintenance and dissemination of the best possible broodstock for these species. I spent time here going through the steps for broodstock management and tilapia fingerling production for pond stocking.

 Prawn hatchery — green-water technique 

One week was spent in the IMR hatchery at USP for training on a green-water technique for prawn larval culture. This method is an alternative to the clear-water culture technique usually practiced in Fiji Islands, and was learned under the guidance of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Senior Volunteer Tomohiro Imamura and the IMR hatchery team. Training covered all aspects of hatchery larval husbandry: water quality management, prawn larval development, and daily feeding.

Implications for Solomon Islands

 Solomon Islands preparing for the establishment of a freshwater and brackish aquaculture sector under its Aquaculture Development Plan 2009–2014. This training in Fiji Islands has contributed to: 
  • Capacity building on skills and knowledge in best practices for farming and hatchery practices under Pacific Islands conditions;
  • Our knowledge about the pond cycle for prawns;
  • Developing MFMR’s capacity to conduct its own experiments in Solomon Islands;
  • MFMR reaching a position to conduct an import risk assessment on the viability of importing Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus as a better option for aquaculture than the Mozambique tilapia O. mossambicus already long established in Solomon Islands; and
  • Capability of MFMR Aquaculture Section staff to carry out training for its provincial officers.
 The training will help strengthen the work force and will contribute to the current MFMR tilapia and prawn farming programme as an alternative livelihood under the Community-Based Fisheries Management Programme . This aims to provide food security to the increasing population as well as reduce the stress being placed upon our natural fish stocks.