Aquaculture-based livelihoods - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Aquaculture-based livelihoods

Pacific Islands
Fish Farm

Aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing food-producing sector and the fastest-growing primary industry sector in the Indo-Pacific. It is recognised as part of the solution to regional food security, but also has important roles in providing community livelihood opportunities, in supporting conservation efforts including restocking, habitat regeneration and marine protected areas, in reducing fishing pressure on coastal and freshwater resources, in the captive breeding of desirable and rare aquarium species, and in bringing economic benefits through domestic sales and exports.

The Aquaculture-based livelihoods research team combines science, economics and social science to develop industries and programs that are profitable, sustainable and culturally appropriate. A key aspect is institutional capacity building in partner agencies, thus supporting long-term development.

Key researcher: Professor Paul Southgate

Recent research projects

Fiji's pearl industry relies on community based spat collecton
Developing pearl industry based livelihoods in the western Pacific


This project aims to maximise engagement of remote coastal communities in activities that can generate livelihood supporting and income generating opportunities for individuals, families and community groups in Fiji, Tonga and PNG. These activities include collection of juvenile oysters (‘spat’) for sale to pearl farms or for local utilisation, mabè pearl production, and the use of mabé pearls and pearl shell to produce retail-quality jewellery and handicrafts. These activities provide important socio-economic impacts with particular benefit to women and youth.

Project Team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Dr Pranesh Kishore, Dr Thane Militz, Ms De'arne Kershler, Ms Nittya Simard, Mr Theo Simos, Mr Bill Johnston, Ministry of Fisheries and Forests - Fiji, Ministry of Fisheries -Tonga, National Fisheries Authority – PNG, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Funding: ACIAR - $2,264,620.

Pacific Island necklaces
Half-pearl industry development in Tonga and Vietnam


This project supports further development of community-based pearl farming in Tonga and investigates similar sector potential in Vietnam. Half-pearl (mabé) production and associated handicrafts industries are expanding and provide impressive livelihood benefits in Tonga. This project provides support to maintain this momentum as a basis for further sustainable development of the sector. Pearl oysters used for mabé pearl production are also found in Vietnam, but are not yet utilised for mabé or handicraft production despite a considerable tourist market. This project investigates the potential for successful transfer of culture methods developed in Tonga to Vietnam as a kick-start to sector development.

Project team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Mr Max Wingfield, Ms De'arne Kershler, Ms Sophie Gordon, Mr Bill Johnston, Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Food and Fisheries, Tonga; Research Institute for Aquaculture #3 (RIA3) in Vietnam.

Funding: ACIAR - $1,230,514.

Sea Cucumbers
Improved understanding of sandfish biology and culture supporting community mariculture in the Indo-Pacific


This research theme includes research across a number of projects and countries including Vietnam, Philippines, PNG and Fiji with broad regional objectives. Research in Fiji is conducted collaboratively with the University of The South Pacific (USP) and the Ministry of Fisheries and focuses on elucidating the genetic make-up of sandfish stocks in Fiji and the Pacific, with broader collaborative links to similar research in SE Asia. Outputs will provide a broad understanding of population genetics of sandfish in the region to inform fishery management policy, and mariculture activities such as hatchery production, broodstock management and translocation of hatchery produced juveniles for field culture.

Project team: Prof Paul Southgate, Dr Monal Lal, Mr Kelly Brown (University of the South Pacific), University of the South Pacific, Ministry of Fisheries Fiji.

Funding: ACIAR – and the University of the South Pacific. $2,565,000.