MARSHALL ISLANDS - Fish farming in Marshall Islands passes first hurdle

Pacific Island nation moves closer to food security with development of local aquafeed
June 8, 2013

The first meal of Marshallese-made fish food was a big success, if you ask the at kadu that gulped it down enthusiastically last week. The fish, known as moi in Hawai’i, and elsewhere as Pacific Threadfin, are being raised by Rongelap Local Government (RALGOV), in the first stage of a major fish farming project.

“Development of a locally sourced and produced feed is key to the success of this project”, Honorable James Matayoshi, Mayor of Rongelap said, “This was a major step forward”.

“An important part of the feed produced was local fishmeal from Pan Pacific Food Company. We are fortunate to have fish byproducts that are readily available in RMI – and what could be better than recycling it into feed to raise locally famed fish to improve food security, sustainability and create jobs for the Marshallese people?” said Dr. Warren Dominy, a globally acknowledged aquafeed consultant and recently retired Director of the Aquatic Feed and Nutrition Department (AFN) at the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii.

Mr. Ryan Murashige, President and CEO Hukilau Foods Inc, Hawai’i, and Vice President of Hawaii Moi and Fish Company, an expert in both moi hatchery and grow-out operations, explained that the feed tested, though well accepted by the fish, was a preliminary diet for the at Kadu sea cage system.

“The AFN Department at the Oceanic Institute, Hawai’i is analyzing the feed to make sure that we are meeting all the nutrient requirements of the fish”, he said. “Once we see the analysis we will fine-tune it to reduce cost, maximize health and growth”.

“ In this initial feeding trial using the locally sourced ingredients, feed was made with a mixer and meat grinder and was tested with the at kadu and with pigs.  The animals ate all that was given to them”, Mayor Matayoshi said.  “We are hoping to purchase a feed manufacturing system to utilize local ingredient resources to produce higher volumes of feed for the current production of at kadu and to produce feeds for local swine and poultry farmers”.

Since the first steps in creating an aquaculture industry in RMI were taken, significant progress has been made. “With collaboration between Mayor James Matayoshi, RALGOV, and The College of Marshall Islands (CMI) Land Grant Facility in Arrak, Majuro, we were able to achieve a 17 per cent survival rate in the hatchery phase with eggs purchased from the Oceanic Institute”, Murashige said.

The success of the first hatchery run conducted by the Rongelap hatchery staff, who were  trained and instructed by Hukilau Foods, holds promise for at kadu fry health and condition. 

“Deformity of the gills is a key indicator of how the protocols where followed and understood during the hatchery phase”, Murashige said. “Impressively, gill deformities were less than five per cent”. 

The fry from the hatchery went through the nursery phase with 98 percent survival.  These fish were then transported to surface nursery cages in the lagoon for growout trials. “The fish are showing great potential in growth and survival thus far”, said Murashige.

As for future plans, broodstock are currently being maintained, collected and conditioned for egg production. A new hatchery/nursery research and production facility for at kadu and other targeted marine species is in the construction phase and discussions are in progress to secure locations or 60 ft diameter surface cages.