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Milkfish Farm for Community

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FIJI - Vitawa Village in Rakiraki will this week play host to 55 participants in an eight day regional workshop that will be conducted for milkfish farmers.

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Cosponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Fiji government, the workshop aims to expand on the basics of milkfish farming from pond construction right to value adding, reports FijiTimes.

Workshop coordinator Alifereti Senikau in a statement earlier this week said Vitawa with its milkfish pond and rural setting was ideal and was a unique setting to host the workshop.

"Vitawa Village has a milkfish farm as its community project and we saw this as the best possible setting for the workshop which will run from February 21-28," he said.

"There will be a total of 11 participants from 15 regional countries attending and the village setting will be an added bonus not only to them but Vitawa Village as well who will also be hosting the 40 local participants during the eightday workshop," said Mr Senikau.

The Vitawa milkfish project also utilises an extensive and environmental friendly way in pond construction techniques which provide villagers with simple production techniques for utilising unexploited marine resources in non arable land along tidal flats around Vitawa making it a first of its kind in the country. "This is also one reason the village was chosen to host the workshop," adds Mr Senikau.

An official from SEAFDEC in the Philippines will be in the country for eight days to conduct training at Vitawa.

"We will be having a specialist from the South East Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC) in the Philippines to conduct trainings during the workshop and this will be an advantage to the eight local representatives from potential milkfish farming areas that will be part of the workshop."

Officially launched in 2009 the Vitawa milkfish project was jointly implemented by the Fisheries Department, Aquaculture International Co. Ltd. (FAI) and NPO JECK Associates (a group of former JICA experts in Kanagawa Prefecture) of Japan particularly in association with the former JICA trainees who have served with the Fisheries Department.

Milkfish is an important seafood in Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands. According to Wikipedia because milkfish is notorious for being much bonier than other food fish, deboned milkfish, called "boneless bangus" in the Philippines, has become popular in stores and markets.

Milkfish can grow to 1.70m but are most often about one metre. They have no teeth and generally feed on algae and invertebrates. The young fry live at sea for two to three weeks and then migrate to mangrove swamps, estuaries and sometime lakes. They return to sea to mature sexually and reproduce.