This project was designed as a pilot and demonstration project with one its main purposes to establish a fishpond for testing and growing fish in Yap as well as educating the public on the importance of growing fish to contribute to this limited resource. Several natural disasters and other factors converged to delay the project and alter its design. Fish species was changed in the pond from milkfish, as bait, to mullet and rabbitfish because of a lack of activity by the local tuna fisheries, negating the need for bait.
The pond was stocked with 300 rabbitfish (Siganus sp.) at 2.5 to 3.5 inches long and 300 mullet (family Mugilidae). Apparently at high tide during a storm, tilapia (Oreochromis mossamicus) took over the pond. In the end, 122 tilapia, ranging from 3 to 10 inches, and 20 rabbitfish, from 5 to 6.5 inches, were harvested.
Education and public awareness of aquaculture in the form of a demonstration and pilot test project is an important aspect in the development of aquaculture in Yap. Through this project, people interested in aquaculture would learn firsthand about the practical and technical factors as well as the constraints involved in raising fish in brackish water. The project is designed as a start to educate the people of Yap about aquaculture.
A small pond (75 feet by 125 feet) was created with a dike across the mouth of a cove-like area. Mud and debris were removed using an excavator. A gate was installed for draining the pond and for water exchange during the tides.
Milkfish were originally planned for stocking. But a lack of juveniles when the pond was ready for stocking and the uncertainty of bait demand from the small government fishing company prompted a change in species. Mullet and rabbitfish, abundant in surrounding waters, were caught and stocked in the pond, a total of 600 juveniles ranging from 1 to 2 inches for mullet and 2 to 3 inches for rabbitfish. During this period, several challenges arose:
• Typhoon Sudal slowed project activities.
• Limited supplies of milkfish juveniles prompted a change to mullet and rabbitfish, both with high demand in Yap as food.
• A large number of tilapia, abundant in mangrove areas in the village and very aggressive and difficult to control, invaded the pond, probably during high tide.
The unforeseen invasion of tilapia, which are aggressive and attacked the mullet, precluded measures on growth of the two intended species. It was shown, however, that rabbitfish grew 2.5 to 3 inches over five months.
Even though the tilapia were a problem for the intended demonstration, a market was found at higher prices, $1.75 a pound compared with $1 a pound for other species. While tilapia, an introduced species, are typically considered a pest fish, this project showed the potential for their control and marketing.
Water and soil quality parameters of the demonstration pond are similar to those of surrounding areas, which leads to the conclusion that water exchange in the pond is adequate for fish growth. Algal growth was observed, although it was limited because of poor soil fertility and the tilapia problem.
Initial costs are high, but the cost should fall as subsequent fish crops are harvested. Labor for such projects is readily available as there is substantial interest in this type of activity.
BENEFITS OR IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE
The benefit of developing this type of aquaculture project is to gain recognition as a way of producing food and generating income among the people of Yap and the neighboring islands. The site has been used for student field trips and others, and the tourism industry has expressed interest in including the pond on sightseeing tours.
Information from the project provides a basic guideline for future related developing in Yap, and results will guide potential aquaculture farmers in better planning their fishpond or aquaculture venture in the future. Such farmers are now aware that tilapia has a potential market with better prices than other species, especially among members of the Filipino community. What’s more, issues related to natural disasters, marketing and fishpond modification and improvement can be taken into account to produce better results in the future.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
This pilot project provided a clear picture of how this resource can be utilized, showing a method of increasing the populations of much demanded fish products. Five members from neighboring communities have plants to start their own fishponds and are currently seeking sources of funding. In addition, several interested farmers and visitors have offered ideas for culturing fish and other marine species, including floating fishponds, large fish traps and hatcheries. In addition, there has been discussion about creating an aquaculture organization to promote development of the industry in Yap.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
Potential owners of fishponds should be aware that while tilapia can be a problem, the also can be easily cultivated in fish ponds and find ready markets at higher prices than for other fish.
There is potential for improvement in operating such fishponds, The ponds were not fertilized and fish were not supplemented with any type of feed. Fertilizing could improve algal growth for fish to feed on, and supplemental feed, commercial or locally produced, could improve growth. The costs for importing such pond supplements could be prohibitive, so studies on the use of pig waste as fertilizer and feed should be conducted.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
It is estimated that 300 people visited the project, half students and other children from the community ranging in ages from 6 to 16; some even helped harvest the fish. Twenty-five percent were members of various communities, 15% were government officials, 5% were Filipinos and tourists and 5% were interested farmers and fisherman.
Information sheets about the project were distributed, and 500 have been made available or distributed to private and government offices, the public library, elementary and high schools and the Land Grant Program in Yap.
The project has been discussed with several government officials in Yap, including the Marine Resources Division, the Resources and Development Department, the Small Business Center, Visitors Bureau and several senators.
Two business were contacted during the project for market assessment. Their workers are mainly Filipino, and they have expressed an interest in purchasing tilapia. Others have expressed a willingness to buy tilapia at higher prices than for other fish.