Zoom - Supporting fishing knowledge and livelihoods in Tuvalu


A fisher with a palu malau puku, a deepwater species

For centuries, the people of Tuvalu have been fishing the waters around their island nation. Their knowledge of local fish and their habits is second to none.

Two projects supported by the Pacific Community (SPC) are assisting fishers in very different ways: through outboard motor safety training for fishers and a stunning new fish identification guide.

For those fishing in the waters of Tuvalu, safety is a growing concern. Across the Pacific region, too many lives have been lost at sea in small fishing craft, often due to engine malfunctions. Targeted training for local fishers can help save lives.

In December 2015, an Outboard Motors Servicing and Maintenance Training Workshop was held in Funafuti, Tuvalu, and 24 members of the Funafuti Fishermen’s Association took part.

The workshop was organised by the Tuvaluan Government and SPC through the Development of Tuna Fisheries in the Pacific (DevFish2) project. DevFish2 was funded by the European Union and implemented by SPC, finishing in late 2015.

Acting Director of Fisheries, Fulitua Tealei, told the workshop that small scale fisheries are a lifeline for local communities. “Artisanal fishermen provide much of the fish supply for food security for the island population,” she said.

The training covered safety at sea and operating and maintaining outboard motors, especially important given the shortage of engine parts in Tuvalu. The workshop included practical sessions conducted in Tuvaluan, led by marine engineer Ioapo Tapu, who has an outboard engine repairs and maintenance business in Tuvalu.

“For most of these fishermen, fishing is their primary source of income. Therefore, their safety when going out to sea is critical,” explained the Director of SPC’s Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems, Moses Amos.

Trainees now have the skills to undertake regular servicing and minor repairs to their outboard engines, which will help them return safely from their fishing trips.

To reinforce safety-at-sea practices, 30 emergency grab bags were handed over to the Funafuti Fishermen’s Association, again funded by the EU. The grab bags provide fishers and small craft operators with convenient access to basic sea safety equipment that is easy to carry and transport onto small vessels.

 Fishes of Tuvalu and Tokelau is a colourful 120-page practical identification guide for local fish species. Produced by the University of the South Pacific (USP) with support from the SPC and others, it is packed with information and photographs. It includes in-depth knowledge such as local names for fish that were provided by older fishers from the area.

“Over the past 12 years, many people have assisted with this work and opened their hearts and homes and shared their knowledge of fish and the history of fishing in their atolls,” said Randy Thuman from USP. “In Tuvalu, these have included more than 10 former Prime Ministers and their wives,” he said.

The booklet will assist Tuvalu, and Tokelau, with conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources, providing a foundation for sustainable living in the face of environmental, climatic, economic and social change.


  • Outboard motor safety training for fishers is one example of how SPC and the EU are helping safe lives at sea
  • Emergency grab bags distributed to fishers in Tuvalu include personal locator beacon, strobe light, medical kit, inflatable life jackets, signalling mirror and whistle, marine radio, compass and emergency blanket
  • A new guide to fishes in Tuvalu and Tokelau is packed with local knowledge, including details provided by former prime ministers and their families

Related links
Fishes of Tuvalu and Tokelau
Pacific Community Fisheries Newsletter #148
Our partner: European Union

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Healthy Tips