Want to eat Chinese, Japanese, American, Mexican or island food? No problem, Majuro has plenty of restaurants with flavorful fare to keep customers happily sated. Need cheap transportation around the island? Again, no problem. Stand on the roadside and within seconds a taxi pulls over to give you a ride. Need food, clothing or birthday supplies? No problem there, either: There are over 100 retail stores in the two-mile (3.2km) strip of land that is Majuro’s downtown. While Majuro businesses—at one time mostly run by Marshallese, but lately mostly driven by Asians—have successfully developed a service industry based on the largesse of government and its thousands of employees, coming up with developments that bring in new money through exports has been elusive.
Certainly, there is a growing field of unique handicraft products that are now making their way into international markets. But in fisheries and aquaculture, the recent history of the Marshall Islands is littered with failures, both government and private sector. A pilot fish-farming project in Majuro, with its first harvest successfully completed in early August, has pretty much thumbed its nose at the country’s dismal domestic fisheries history as it prepares for major expansion. Sponsored by the Rongelap Atoll Local Government and its energetic Mayor James Matayoshi, the fish-farming project has been in operation in Majuro for a year.
Following the small harvest, Matayoshi says Hawaii buyers and investors are so enthusiastic about the first-year results, that equipment for a commercial-level expansion are now on the way to Majuro for deployment. The project has targeted fish known as “moi” in Hawaii and commonly as “Pacific threadfin” which is prized in Hawaii’s market. While moi is not a fish widely eaten locally, it is known in Hawaii as ‘fish of the king’, says Matayoshi.
Matayoshi and the local government staff have partnered with several Hawaii businesses and entities, including Hukilau Foods, Diamonhead Seafood Company, and the Oceanic Institute, as well as the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority and the College of the Marshall Islands, to develop the fish-farming.
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In August 2012, for the purposes of diversifying coastal fishery activities, the SPC Nearshore Fisheries Development Section, in conjunction with the New Caledonia Merchant Navy and Sea Fishery Department (SMMPM) and the ZoNéCo Programme, using funding from the French Development Agency (AFD), carried out a deep-sea fishing trip in waters off New Caledonia. The aim of the trip was to confirm the presence of commercially viable “giant” squid stocks and also to identify possible alternative coastal marine resource development opportunities.
Initially scheduled for the 2011 cool season, this project had been postponed for lack of funding. AFD’s financial support and the availability of the SMMPM’s research vessel Amborella made the idea viable, as did the presence of Masterfisherman Ryoichi Kawasaki from Okinawa, where this resource has been commercially exploited since the late 1980s (from 15 tonnes in 1989 to more than 2000 tonnes today). Together with SPC Fisheries Development Officer William Sokimi, the Amborella crew conducted two consecutive fishing trips between 21 and 31 August 2012, over a total of eight fishing days, setting vertical drifting lines 500m in length, each fitted with four jigs, at depths of 1500 to 2000m.
The results far exceeded our hopes, because no less than 70 squid, amounting to a total weight of 785 kg (average weight 11.2 kg), were caught! Two species of commercially exploitable “giant” squid occur in New Caledonia and apparently in major quantities: the diamond squid (Thysanoteuthis rhombus) — or sei-icko, as it is known in Okinawa, where it is exported to the main islands of Japan to be consumed raw as sashimi or sushi — (35 specimens caught, with an average weight of 18 kg) and another species, the neon flying squid (Ommastrephes bartramii), smaller in size and with lower commercial value (35 specimens caught, average weight 4.6 kg).
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