A delegation made up of five officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), the Mekem Strong Solomon Islands Fisheries Programme (MSSIF) and the Pacific Community (SPC) recently visited Timor Leste to view the development of the country’s Nile Tilapia hatchery and farming systems.
Led by the Deputy Director of the Aquaculture Division in the MFMR Mr James Teri, the group is spending one week to view the operations of a recently rehabilitated tilapia hatchery that is now producing Nile tilapia fingerlings for small scale farmers in rural Timor Leste.
The delegation was warmly welcomed by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Mr Estanislao da Silva in Dili during a courtesy visit on the 9th of April. The Minister noted that this is not the first time that Solomon Islands and Timor Leste have found commonalities in the fisheries sector. The relationship has been cemented during Coral Triangle Initiative activities which kicked off in 2009.
Deputy Director Aquaculture, Mr Teri, expressed his thanks on behalf of the Solomon Islands delegation for the invitation to visit Timor Leste and the opportunity to learn from their lessons over the last three years since re-introducing a genetically improved strain of Nile tilapia.
WorldFish officers based in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Dili kindly hosted the Solomon Islands delegation. The Timor Leste Government has improved its Nile tilapia industry with technical support from WorldFish through a New Zealand Aid funded project (2015-2019). The delegation also paid a visit to the New Zealand Embassy in Dili to meet with the New Zealand High Commissioner Ms Vicki Poole.
After visiting the Nile Tilapia hatchery in Gleno, south-west of Dili, Senior Aquaculture Officer Mr Billy Meu noted that “the challenges that Solomon Islands and Timor Leste face in terms of establishing a Tilapia farming industry are similar. The scale of production, the type of technology, the extent of aquaculture knowledge in the farming communities and even the community setting are similar to Solomon Islands”. The similarities mean that the delegation can gain a realistic view of how a planned quarantine and hatchery development will operate in Solomon Islands.
In late 2016, Solomon Islands Government cabinet approval was given for the importation of Nile tilapia by MFMR and the development of a fry production system to support rural farmers.
The New Zealand funded programme MSSIF and New Zealand funded programmes in SPC are in currently supporting the initial stages of rollout in Solomon Islands and one of the lessons from the Timor Leste visit has been about how a donor model has been successfully applied in partnership with the responsible government ministry. While in Timor Leste the delegation is refining the design for the construction of a Honiara based Nile tilapia hatchery.
The delegation will return to Solomon Islands next week and expect the next stages of planning to proceed rapidly with the new information that they will draw on from Timor Leste. In coming years as the Solomon Islands Government hatchery begins operation, it is anticipated that further exchanges will take place between the two countries for training and capacity building purposes.