Data is key for sustainable Pacific fisheries


halieutique_webThe importance of inshore fisheries to people living in the Pacific region, both economically and as a food source, was quantified at the recent regional workshop on the “Future of coastal/inshore fisheries management”, held at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Inshore fisheries provide the primary or secondary source of income for up to half of households in Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs), while 50 to 90 per cent of animal-sourced protein consumed by people in Pacific rural areas comes from fish.

Coastal fisheries resources are declining in many PICTs, while populations are growing, which is increasing the gap between the quantity of fish required for food security and sustainable harvests from coastal fisheries. It has been estimated that, within 15 years, an additional 115,000 tonnes of fish will be needed across the region. The decline in coastal fisheries resources threatens to widen this gap even further.

The director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Moses Amos, observed: “If we consider that a fish of 25-30 cm weighs around 250 grams, it means the fish gap for the Pacific region within 15 years is about 460 million individual fish. So the question we must answer is: Where will the extra fish come from?”

Ensuring adequate data to improve the sustainable management of Pacific fisheries is an ongoing priority. For example, deepwater snapper are an important fisheries resource in many PICTs, however, a lack of adequate biological and fisheries data has limited the development of quantitative assessments and management plans for deepwater snapper stocks in the Pacific region.

SPC has undertaken a substantial amount of work to improve the data available about deepwater snapper. One of these areas is modelling for deepwater snapper habitat, and SPC has generated maps of the predicted distribution of deepwater snapper across the western and central Pacific Ocean.

Estimates of biological parameters, such as growth and mortality rates, are fundamental to the understanding of a species’ population dynamics, and for predicting responses of populations to fishing. SPC Senior Fisheries Scientist, Ashley Williams, commented on SPC’s work in this area: “During our three-year project, we coordinated scientific surveys and port sampling activities in Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, New Caledonia, Fiji, Wallis and Futuna, and Papua New Guinea.”

Recent status assessments for tuna and shallow inshore coastal species highlight the need to achieve a standardised approach to fisheries data collection across the Pacific region. This will contribute to managing Pacific fisheries in a sustainable way, and preserving fish stocks for future generations, through establishing a common Pacific fisheries database, providing consistency in data collection and analysis, and facilitating comparison of different fisheries, in order to manage fisheries sustainably.

Media contacts: Anne Lefeuvre, [email protected]

Jean-Noël Royer, [email protected]