Marshall Islands move into commercial fish farming

‘Moi’ fish farms to expand

The history of the Marshall Islands is littered with so many failed attempts to turn aquaculture and fish farming ideas into commercially viable businesses that it is a wonder Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi even considered starting a fish farming operation in Majuro. But for once, all of the ingredients are pointing to the possibility of success. Matayoshi’s Rongelap Atoll Local Government (RALGOV) has maintained for several years a small black lip pearl oyster farm on the isolated atoll in the Marshall Islands. But the fish farming pilot project launched in late 2012 was a complete departure from previous attempts at starting this type of fisheries work in the Marshall Islands. From the start, Hawaii, the closest market to the Marshalls, was targeted with the experimental growing of “moi” (Pacific Threadfin), a fish prized in Hawaii.

Great interest from Hawaii fish distributors resulted in significant technical assistance, including help from scientists at the Oceanic Institute to fine-tune a fishmeal mix that included locally available products. Ryan Murashige, President and CEO of Hukilau Foods in Hawaii and Vice President of Hawaii Moi and Fish Company, was heavily involved in assisting RALGov workers set up and maintain the pilot project. The results of growing moi eggs in aquaculture tanks at a College of the Marshall Islands facility in Majuro were startling: They achieved a 17 percent survival rate, close to double the survival at fish farms in Hawaii.

The surviving fish were then put into small lagoon cages for grow out and harvested in mid-2013 after about six months, a shorter growth period than at Hawaii farms. The pilot project was so successful, RALGov established Aquaculture Technologies of the Marshall Islands (ATMI) and earlier this year completed construction of a hatchery and nursery so it can grow fish eggs at commercial levels for later lagoon grow out.

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