Vanuatu freshwater aquaculture research for a sustainable future

The Republic of Vanuatu is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, and ranked among the most vulnerable countries in the world to both geological and climate risks. Vanuatu fisheries provide for a sustainable supply of fresh protein, as well as new opportunities for employment and improvements.

Tulapia fish. Fish farming and governance in Vanuatu for a more sustainable future.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Satya Nandlal from Queensland University of Technology, an expert in freshwater aquaculture has been granted funding for a project entitled “Freshwater aquaculture trials and governance in Vanuatu.”
Dr Nandlal is designing specific strategies that can be adopted at government fish hatcheries and on individual aquaculture farms. Government agencies will also be able to better assist Vanuatu fish farmers with ‘climate proofing’ individual aquaculture investment plans, as a result of this project.

The project’s objectives are twofold: trial and test economically and environmentally sustainable small-scale community-based aquaculture models, integrating successes into a robust national aquaculture governance system; and upgrade the infrastructure of Tagabe Freshwater Aquaculture Centre including improving skills of its technicians and enhancing overall planning and management of the facility.

There are also two expected outcomes: environmentally sustainable small-scale, community-based aquaculture model farms becoming operational; and functional and effective national aquaculture facility upgraded and supporting community-based aquaculture.

The project helps to underpin advancements in Vanuatu’s food security, nutritional standards of the Vanuatu people, and contributes to the economic development.

“The research team in this project is helping to improve management practices at the hatchery and on-farms by examining factors such as fingerling ‘seed’ quality, water chemistry, fish farmer’s decision-making, gender roles and government policies,” Dr Nandlal says.

“Removing some of the barriers to healthy, productive, sustainable fish farming practices is our central motivation.”

Fish farmers have limited scientific information about the tilapia fish that they grow and the systems they use to grow them. As a consequence, farmers are not always aware of the best ways to farm, or how to address the impacts of catastrophic events such as drought.

Climate variability and change complicate existing fish farming systems and water management. Specific farming adaptations include using quality fingerling or ‘seeds’ to reduce risks from climate variability or to adapt to climate change.

Another climate-related challenge is to maintain appropriate pond water levels. Small-scale pond aquaculture has many competitors for the allocation of fresh water supplies during the dry season.

Extreme weather and climate events, such as droughts stress fish by directly affecting the water resources and other resources that small-scale fish farmer depends on. This may lead to poor fish health, and even fish mortality. The impact on farmers’ food supply and livelihood security can be dramatic.

Devising strategies in water management is critical to the industry’s sustainability. This project assists government to show non-aquaculture water users the stake aquaculture has in their food security.

These strategies advance the development of small-scale fish farming in Vanuatu and if diligently adopted, will ensure that the benefits of aquaculture can be enjoyed by present and future generations.

“By sharing the results of pond grow-out trials and helping to build expertise, we can make a real contribution to helping communities to grow fish, and hence contribute to grow a national fish farming industry. The Vanuatu National breeding Centre could also be valued by others in the country and the region, for example by offering broodstock produced in the hatchery,” said Dr Nandlal.

The project was officially launched in October 2016 by the Vanuatu Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity, Matai Seremiah, at a ceremony in Port Vila aimed at combating the impacts of climate change.

Participants at the launching shouting the fisheries slogan with (seated l to r) DG Climate Change — Jesse Benjamin, Shefa Province Secretary General — Michel Kalworai, Giz Advisor — Craig Bohm, Minister Matai Seremiah, Project Team Leader — Dr. Satya Nandlal. *Image from Vanuatu Daily Post* by Jonas Cullwick.

The German foundation GIZ is administering the Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (ACSE) program and is providing additional administrative and technical support to the project. Project partners with the Vanuatu Government are the European Union under its Economic Development Fund (EDF10), Queensland University of Technology and GIZ and the three participating communities on the Vanuatu island of Efate — Mangaliliu, Eton and Onesua.

“I am grateful to funding awarded by GIZ and opportunity given by Government of Vanuatu to QUT which will allow us to contribute to laying the foundation for small-scale aquaculture development in Vanuatu,” said Dr Nandlal.

Contact Senior Research Fellow Dr Satya Nandlal from Queensland University of Technology for more information.

Find out more about research at QUT.

*Image from Vanuatu Daily Post