Fisheries Story: Dynamics of a South Tarawa Atoll fisher group, Kiribati

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Photo credit: SPC/Jeff Kinch

While South Tarawa (Kiribati) is facing multiple threats at the same time, it is important for local fishers to understand the main fish species targeted, including the how, when and why as this can help fishers to ensure there are enough resources to cover consumer demand while considering sustainability issues of those resources.


Dynamics of a South Tarawa Atoll fisher group, Kiribati

The Republic of Kiribati consists of three main island groups, the Gilbert Islands (or Tungaru Group), Line Islands and Phoenix Islands. While Kiribati’s exclusive economic zone encompasses 5 million km², its total land area is just slightly more than 810 km² (Lovell et al. 2002). Tarawa is the largest of 16 atolls that make up the Gilbert Islands group.

Tarawa’s reef perimeter is approximately 107 km² and is open to the west where the reefs are permanently submerged. The lagoon area encompasses 375 km² and has many reefs within it, with the shallowest areas being on the eastern and southern margins (Lovell et al. 2002). Location of Kiribati within the Pacific, and Tarawa, the largest island within the Gilbert Islands. reef habitats are divided into the atoll rim, lagoon floor, and patch reefs and shoals. Because the western margin of the atoll is submerged, there is a continual exchange of sea water between the lagoon and the ocean. In contrast, the southern and eastern atoll rim consists of a relatively narrow outer reef flat, a series of low islets, and a wide lagoonal sand flat with limited ocean exchange. Causeway construction has further reduced this exchange by obliterating most passages along South Tarawa and several along the eastern rim on North Tarawa. These differences in oceanic to lagoon water exchanges have created a lagoon with marked northwest to southeast gradients in water characteristics, including productivity and composition (Paulay and Kerr 2001).

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