Aquaculture-based livelihoods | UniSC | 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

Towards more profitable and sustainable mabé pearl and shell-based livelihoods in the western Pacific


Collection of pearl oyster juveniles, and artisanal mabé pearl and pearl shell handicraft production, provides livelihood and income generating opportunities to remote coastal communities in the Pacific. Prior research by ACPIR scientists has supported establishment of community enterprises in Fiji, Tonga, PNG and Samoa, benefitting primarily women. There is potential for significant development of this sector but, as well as technical support, sustainable expansion now requires country-specific research interventions relating to development planning, partner institution and stakeholder capacity, marketing and governance. In partnership with collaborating agencies in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and PNG, this project seeks to increase opportunities for community engagement with the pearl-livelihoods sector and optimise the flow of benefits. Specifically, the project aims to improve and expand production and sales, develop improved business structures and opportunities, and strengthen governance frameworks and markets for the artisanal mabé pearl and pearl shell handicraft sectors in the Pacific.

Project Team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Dr Thane Militz, Dr Pranesh Kishore, Ms Nittya Simard, Mr Theo Simos, Dr Katja Mikhailovich, Mr Ian Buck, Ms Ilse Marie Erl, Mr Bill Johnston, post graduate students from University of the South Pacific and Fiji National University, Ministry of Fisheries - Fiji, Ministry of Fisheries - Tonga, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries - Samoa, National Fisheries College - PNG, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Funding: ACIAR - $3.22 M.

Sea cucumber scoping study


In a first for USC, a memorandum of understanding was recently signed with the Mauritius Government, Ministry of the Blue Economy. The agreement will support a three-year research project developed by ACPIR's Professor in Tropical Aquaculture, Paul Southgate, to develop the sea cucumber resource of the Indian Ocean nation. Based on successful development of culture methods for sea cucumbers by ACPIR's Tropical Aquaculture team in Pacific and S.E. Asian countries, this project will involve transfer of culture methodology, institutional capacity building and ongoing support of resource management and policy development. The project will benefit from the ACPIR teams current ACIAR-funded research projects focused on developing sea cucumber mariculture in the Philippines, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea.

Project team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Dr Thane Militz,Dr Cathy Hair and Dr Nguyen Dinh Quang Duy.

Funding: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - $400,000.

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.