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Over 120 People Attend CNMI Aquaculture Dev’t Planning Session (May 12, 2010)

Over 120 people attended the recently-held public planning sessions sponsored by the Northern Marianas College on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota for the development of the CNMI’s aquaculture industry. These sessions resulted from the CNMI Aquaculture Act, which mandates NMC’s Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service (CREES) to produce 5-Year Aquaculture Development Plan.

The Saipan session was held on April 26, the Tinian session on April 27, and the Rota session on April 28.

The 5-year plan that was proposed at the sessions is expected to identify species (commodities) to focus resources on, strategies to overcome challenges, and the facilities and resources needed to operate efficiently. Of the viable species discussed, the six chosen that would best start off the development in the CNMI include shrimp, tilapia, marine finfish, giant clam, milkfish, and sea urchins and cucumbers.

“We are pleased with the turnout and really appreciate the community’s involvement in our efforts to ensure that the 5-Year Plan covers all their concerns,” said NMC-CREES aquaculture specialist Michael Ogo, who is spearheading the drafting of the plan.

To help facilitate the planning sessions, representatives from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the region’s leading scientific authority, and consultants from New Caledonia and Pohnpei were present. The visitors gave overviews on the present and future marketability of farming different marine animals and plants.

“We would also like to thank the SPC for offering to assist in the development of the plan,” added Ogo.

Discussions included a thorough analysis of the CNMI aquaculture industry’s advantages and disadvantages. Some the advantages discussed include the CNMI’s clean environment, disease-free status, close proximity to high-value markets in Asia, and large tourism market. Its disadvantages are the high costs of energy, feed, and equipment and the tiresome process of obtaining all the necessary clearance to farm certain species.

To further analyze the disadvantages in the CNMI, participants formed discussion groups, where they reflected on solutions to the disadvantages, transpiring ideas that could be implemented, within two years, and by the end of the 5-year plan. For example, to resolve the issue of expensive feed, groups concluded that purchasing feed from the Philippines, instead of the U.S. mainland, would cut feed costs by 30% immediately. Within two years, aqua farmers in the CNMI would be able to manufacture their own feed, at least for one commodity. By the end of the 5-year plan, the CNMI would be able to manufacture a majority of its feeds.

“I commend the efforts of CREES in garnering the community’s participation in the planning of a significant aspect of the CNMI’s future economy,” said NMC Interim President Lorraine T. Cabrera. “I am confident in their ability and insight to come up with an effective plan for the CNMI.”

NMC-CREES will be working alongside Simon Ellis of the Micronesian Environmental Research Institute, who has been assigned by SPC to aid CREES in drafting the plan. The plan is expected to be presented to the CNMI public in approximately six months.

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