The fish in the cage (cobia) are sorted by size. Photo: Rolf Engelsen, Institute of Marine Research.
The project consists of two sub-projects: “Development of Marine Aquaculture” and “Assessment of Fisheries Resources in the Andaman Sea”. The sub-projects are being in collaboration between the Institute of Marine Research and the Department of Fisheries, Thailand (DOF). Both of the sub-projects will run until the end of 2009.
In line with the wishes of the Thai authorities, the running of a pilot cage facility has been at the heart of the project. The aims of IMR have been to transfer know-how about running fish farms and modern aquaculture technology, as well as to enable the Thais to run the facility on their own. This goal has been achieved. DOF chose cobia as the first species to be farmed. Cobia (Rachycentrida canadum) is a pelagic fish found in tropical and temperate waters. It is extremely fast-growing, has tasty white meat, and is a popular with sport fishermen. Cobia has also played an important role in the development of new species for use in aquaculture, including in Taiwan, Vietnam and Latin America.
The photo shows a broodstock cobia, which is the first species used in the project. Photo: Rolf Engelsen, Institute of Marine Research.
Successful aquaculture and production
The facility in Phuket, Thailand, has been very successful, producing 82 000 kg of cobia, with low mortality rates and rapid growth (from 45 g to over 6 kg in average in 12 months). The fish are harvested, slaughtered and in most cases processed into fillets. The fresh fish is sold in Phuket, Bangkok and Singapore, whilst fillets are frozen and shipped to Germany or Singapore. This means that cobia can perfectly well be farmed in Thailand using Norwegian cage technology. The decision on whether to continue or expand the farming of this species will depend on market forces. In addition to the cobia, the DOF also wants to try farming selected species of grouper. These species are highly sought after in the live fish market in Asia, and are currently farmed in traditional small cages in various countries, including Thailand.
The humpback grouper is one of the species of fish that is highly sought after in the live fish market in Asia. Photo: Rolf Engelsen, Institute of Marine Research.
The first big cages in the history of Thai aquaculture
The Department of Fisheries in Thailand also wanted the project to look at the regulation of large cage farms. The three cages that constitute the pilot farm in Phuket are the very first large cages to be used in Thai aquaculture. There has been a lot of interest in the project, including from the important shrimp farming industry and fish industry in Thailand.
Sharing Norwegian experiences of governance and fish health
On 15-16 November 2007, a seminar on regulation was held in Bangkok, with contributions from Marion Stamnes and Anne-Karin Natås from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, Ragnar Thorarinsson from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and Pia Kupka Hansen and Rolf Engelsen from the Institute of Marine Research. The Norwegian participants presented the Norwegian system of environmental monitoring and evaluation, “Fish health management”, and the general framework for license applications the regulation of licenses. The seminar also included presentations on various topics by Thai delegates.
Feeding dry feed to cobia at the fish farm. Photo: Rolf Engelsen, Institute of Marine Research.
A seminar was also held in Songkhla, Thailand. It focused on the diseases and parasites that present a risk to farmed cobia, as well as on practical measures for combating disease and parasites in large cage farms. Thailand has a lot of expertise on fish health, but has little experience of dealing with these problems in large fish cage systems.
Results of the project so far
- Staff at the DOF aquaculture station in Phuket are now capable of operating modern fish cages on their own. This was one of our main goals, and the result means that the project has been successful.
- The DOF has also learnt more about fish health, including how to prevent disease and how to deal with disease outbreaks and parasite attacks in large cage farms. These areas are also critical to the development of aquaculture.
- The aim of training Thai fish farmers and staff at the Department of Fisheries has been achieved, and we will continue to provide training.
- The DOF has gained access to a significant amount of information about environmental and fish health management in Norwegian aquaculture. The way in which aquaculture is regulated in Norway has been presented, including the system of site classification and use of aquaculture zones. This will be used to inform the upcoming revision of the DOF’s plan for the development of marine aquaculture over the period 2009-2013.
- Equipment was bought and transported to Thailand according to plan.
- The project was completed to budget. We also successfully produced a significant amount of harvestable fish, which has to be seen as very positive.
A cobia in an ice box. Photo: Rolf Engelsen, Institute of Marine Research.
There will now be a focus on mass-production of fingerlings and a small modern hatchery has been installed at the aquaculture station in Phuket.
Over the period 2008-09 the practical farming project in the fish cages will continue. The juvenile production will start in demonstration hatchery at the aquaculture station in Phuket. The results of the operation of the pilot fish farm and hatchery will, along with our advice on management issues, help to elaborate the Department of Fisheries’ strategic plan for aquaculture for the period 2009-2013.
The Department of Fisheries has expressed a desire to use the “Norwegian” pilot facility in Phuket as an aquaculture training centre for Thai fish farmers, and potentially as a regional South-East Asian centre. The partnership between the DOF and the Centre for Development Cooperation in Fisheries (CDCF) has been very successful. The Thai representatives have to date shown excellent practical skills, and they have made a very large and valuable contribution to the project.
The Norwegian project manager is Rolf Engelsen (Institute of Marine Research). Finn Chr. Skjennum is in charge of the running of the fish cages. Torstein Harboe (Institute of Marine Research) has also been involved in some aspects of the project.
The cages have now been restocked with cobia fingerlings, and a second crop is going to be harvested commencing from February 2009.
Rolf Engelsen, Senior advicer aquaculture