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A local Tilapia farm in Aruligo, North West Guadalcanal, has lost more than 7,000 tilapias (a species of fish native to Mozambique) after its hatchery pool was devastated by king tides associated with recent wild weather.
The owner of the tilapia farm, Maxwell Ham, says it was a sad day for him, with all the hard work he had put into the farm gone in a matter of hours. He says his dream of breeding and farming tilapia was washed away, quite literally, when the king tides broke through the small sand dunes, he had set up to prevent damage.

“I thought I had done enough to prevent this, but the king tides were high, and it came through the small stream, damaging my hatchery site. I was very upset and although you can try and prepare, disasters like this do happen. It all washed away. All I can say is that I have not only lost money but also all the time and energy [that went into] setting up the hatchery,” Ham told me, while he was trying to save whatever he could from his farm.

“I was looking forward to my first harvest which should have been in September. Now the only thing I will have to deal with is the cost of repair.”

Mr. Ham says that this is the second extreme weather event to hit his fish farm. The first occurred during Tropical Cyclone Harold, which led to flooding in April 2020. During that cyclone, Ham lost similar amounts of tilapia to flooding resulting from the torrential downpour.

At its peak, Mr Ham said his farm had well over 30 thousand tilapias, which earned him a decent income. He says despite this massive setback he will continue to work hard and not give up. Dreams come with challenges, Ham points out, and he says he will take this as a challenge to build his farm to be more resilient to storms and extreme weather events.

Tilapia farmers in Aruligo, North West Guadalcanal
Tilapia – a valuable source of protein
Mozambique tilapia is a non-native fish that is currently cultured at a low scale within the Solomon Islands. Farming of this particular species of tilapia is done mainly in Malaita and Guadalcanal. Under good growing conditions in ponds, the Mozambique tilapia may reach maturity in as little as three months of age, with an average weight of between two to four ounces (60 to 100 grams). This makes the Mozambique tilapia popular with farmers and a good source of protein for Solomon Islands communities.

Ham urges the Ministry of Fisheries, to build public-private partnerships to facilitate investment and innovation in the fisheries sector, especially in aquaculture.

More effort is needed, he says, to improve the participation of tilapia farmers in social protection schemes to provide a social safety net for the fisheries sector. Aquaculture in the Solomon Islands has been growing rapidly in recent years, more and more people are starting to grow tilapia, watercress, and other species of fish and vegetable crops. Aquaculture is improving Pacific island communities’ ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change. But as the storms that hit Maxwell Ham’s fish hatchery make all too clear, aquaculture isn’t immune from the forces of nature.

Storms at Aruligo devastated a tilapia hatchery.

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