Fisheries plundered off the Pacific Islands - Solomon Star News


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Fisheries plundered off the Pacific Islands

29 May 2014

Two-thirds of the Pacific Islands communities could run out of fish to feed their populations within 15 years.

The concern is over both inshore and deep ocean fisheries that are not sustainable.
The warning comes as the Pacific Islands prepare to talk tuna fisheries management in Samoa in early July.
Dr Quentin Hanich, fisheries governance program leader at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, says 60 per cent of the world's tuna comes from the Pacific, and there are big boats with large capacity to remove stocks.
The tuna species are albacore, skipjack, big eye and yellow fin.
“Some of the world's biggest fishing boats from Spain, 500 feet long, for example, will fish for those tuna.
“When you manage that fishery you need to make it sustainable, but then you've also got to start prioritising where you want to feed.
“If you need to worry about food security for a small island country that doesn't have many other opportunities, you need to prioritise what you're going to feed them, whereas perhaps it's not quite so important to get fish onto the market of a Los Angeles restaurant if they can also eat cattle or sheep.”
Dr Hanich says Australians should look for sustainably caught tuna to help the Islanders.
“Skipjack tuna that comes to you in a can, that's fine.
“You should eat that, it's healthy and some money goes back to the Pacific Islander community.”
But he warns people should check the tuna fishing technique doesn't catch too many sharks, or too many juvenile fish.
Gleaning for fish
An age-old practice in the Pacific Islands is gleaning, but it's become unsustainable because of population growth.
“You'll be sitting on a beach somewhere and all the kids and women come out and glean; which is basically sitting on the sand with a teaspoon and maybe some tupperware and collecting shells out of the sand, making a soup out of that,” Dr Hanich said.
“Netting is popular and also traps. In Kiribati, you'll see complex coral rock traps that will herd the fish in at high tide and then at low tide, they'll go in and get them.”
He says small boats now have outboard motors that can enable local fishermen to exploit stocks further out.
He's also concerned about shore fisheries like snapper. Traditionally that was sustainable, but now that commercial Asian markets have been developed, this long-lived species is not coping.
“Lack of management combined with overpopulation is creating some serious challenges.
“In some countries, we can see opportunities where we can see them move into oceanic tuna fisheries.”
But Dr Hanich says that has to be well managed.
Kiribati, Solomons and Vanuatu project
Fisheries research Dr Quentin Hanich works on an Australian aid program through ACIAR of $3.7 million to help Pacific Islanders manage their fish stocks better as they face challenges like population pressure, climate change and foreign fishing boats.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has estimated that '75 per cent of the Pacific Island coastal fisheries will not meet food security needs by 2030 because of population growth, overfishing and inadequate national distribution networks'.
Over the time that he's been working in Kiribati, Dr Danich has noticed big projects don't work as well as small community-based projects.
“In North Tarawa, in Kiribati, the bone fish is being overfished. Too many people catching them at the wrong time, when they're aggregating for breeding.
“If you ask the locals they'll tell you the best time to fish, so they can help you develop the conservation management methods.”
Climate change is the ever-present threat, but Dr Hanich says resilience is the key.
“The only way to survive the next 100 years of climate change is to strengthen the resilience of these communities to maintain their food security and minimise the impacts of climate change on these communities.”
For example, coral bleaching may reduce the productivity of a coastal fishery, so locals should be allowed to develop an oceanic tuna fishery just offshore.
If Australia doesn't help improve management, Dr Hanich says, there's a real risk some Pacific Islands states will become 'failed states' and the only way out will be emigration.