Milkfish in Fiji

milkfish image from www.anglerschoice.com.auAccording to a report published by SEAFDEC/AQD, Philippines, milkfish (Chanos chanos) farming is a centuries-old industry in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Research into the culture of milkfish has not been limited to the Philippines. Research into the feasibility of milkfish culture in Fiji has been undertaken. Esteban Dela Cruz has published a report 1997, through the FAO, entitled, Potential of milkfish farming development in Fiji. From the summary:

Milkfish has been a successful food industry in Asian countries like Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia. The Government of Fiji had wanted to develop a similar industry, and so enlisted the help of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The South Pacific Aquaculture Development Project (Phase II) devised this survey to ascertain the extent of the milkfish stocks in Fiji waters, and further to investigate the possibility of milkfish farming in Fiji. Such farms have already been established in Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu, and it was thought that milkfish farms would be not only a good source of protein for human diets and an alternative to depleting fish from the sea (and thus a way to ameliorate an environmental pressure), but also a source of income for villages and farmers as tuna bait as well.

There are many sites suitable to develop milkfish farms in Fiji, such as unused rice paddies, salt or prawn farms, or swamps and marshlands. Farmers need to acquire skills in preparing the ponds for stocking by draining, drying, leveling, and liming or poisoning for unwanted animals (where necessary). Also, dykes and water gates must be constructed and farmers must learn to feed the ponds to grow benthic algae (brackishwater ponds), and plankton (freshwater ponds). The design of the farms must take into account that milkfish swim against the current, so the catching ponds will be placed to concentrate fish from the grow-out ponds for easy harvesting.

The Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau has published a report (2001) entitled Milkfish Farming Project Profile. This report outlines the investment potential of a milkfish project, including government incentives, and some forecast costs. Their summary of the market:

Market Milkfish is currently used as an intermediate good – an input – in the form of live baits for catching fish. Given the fact that milkfish baits supplements the longline tuna industry, which earns around F$40 million in export income, is indicative of the fact that there is a considerable market locally.

Prospective investors should do their own due diligence, and use the figures purely as indicators rather than current market realities.

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