Research shows how important fisheries are to Pacific Island economies

Fisheries in the economies of Pacific Islands countries and territories is a study of the fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). It outlines the development of its fisheries of each of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. It also assesses how much the fisheries contribute to gross domestic product (GDP).

The study fills gaps in the links between fishing and incomes. It investigates the main features of each country’s offshore and coastal fisheries and aquaculture, as well as domestic fish consumption and export, and household income and spending. It updates an edition released in 2009.

The most important findings showed that: 

  • Coastal fisheries production has not increased greatly in the 15 years 1999–2014. 
  • But the population of the region is increasing, which means that the amount of fish that people produce from the coastal fisheries has declined dramatically – by about 6% from 2007 to 2014. This is a dramatic decline. 
  • Foreign-based offshore fishing continues to increase. This is mostly due to increased purse-seine catches. 
  • Purse-seine fishing increased despite the introduction of the PNA Vessel Day Scheme and a steep increase in access fees. This shows how effective the scheme is. 

Some surprising facts emerged from the study

  • The 2014 tuna catch in Kiribati was 40.7% of the regional total, and was valued at about US$1 billion.
  • 52.7% of all employment in the region that is directly related to the tuna industry is in Papua New Guinea.
  • In 2014, the volume of production from the coastal commercial fisheries of Samoa was almost equivalent to that of PNG. The production from the same kinds of fisheries in Fiji was almost twice as high as in PNG, even though PNG’s population is almost nine times greater than Fiji’s.
  • 93% of the value of aquaculture in the region is from French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
  • Aquaculture is a significant commercial activity in only six PICTs – and all are territories except for Cook Islands.
  • 47% of the fishery exports of the PICTs comes from American Samoa. Of the remaining 53%, nearly half of it (41%) comes from PNG.
  • The total value of fishery exports from the region fell by about 42% in real terms from 2007 to 2014. The fall in the value of canned tuna exported from American Samoa accounted for 37% of the decline.
  • In the period 2007–2014, when the PNA Vessel Day Scheme was introduced and became established, fees from foreign fishing increased 279%.
  • In 2014, four countries in the region received fees that amounted to more than US$1,000 per person.

Country visits to report on economic value of fishing

SPC uses its data and conducts visits to countries to produce specific reports on the economic value of their fishing catch. Once a Pacific Island country has this information, it is in a stronger position to negotiate a better deal with foreign fleets. SPC researcher Steven Hare explains (57 secs). 

Bioeconomic tool helps countries plan their fishing efforts

SPC and FFA have developed a tool that combines biological and economic knowledge into a ‘bioeconomic’ tool. It helps countries decide the level of fishing effort they will set, depending on their economic and sustainability goals. SPC’s Steven Hare explains that the tool was developed to meet the needs of the Pacific Island states (3.00 minutes).

Training fisheries managers helps realise economic benefits in the WCPO

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) provides training in:

  • fisheries management
  • economic analysis and bioeconomic modelling of fisheries
  • policy development, investment appraisal, and international commerce
  • international fisheries negotiations.

FFA delivers training after formal requests from members, and when recommendations are made through the Forum Fisheries Committee. When a need is identified, FFA considers how to meet that need with its limited resources and the expertise that is available.

The Pacific Community’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) provides its members with scientific services relating to the management of oceanic fisheries, primarily of tuna.

FFA delivers high quality training in different areas. Here, training is under way on giving interviews to share the tuna story with a wide audience. Photo: FFA.