Fisheries plundered off the Pacific Islands

ABC Radio interviewed Dr Quentin Hanich, Fisheries Governance Program Leader about the key threats to food security and sustainable fisheries in the Pacific Islands region. Due in part to the paucity of land and few agricultural or mineral opportunities, the region is heavily dependent upon oceanic and coastal fisheries for food security, livelihoods, revenue and development. It is estimated that fish provide 50% - 90% of animal protein intake in rural areas and 40% - 80% in urban areas. Most of the fish eaten by rural people (particularly for people from the coral atolls and smaller islands) come from subsistence fisheries, with little or no cash cost to the consumer. Recent studies have concluded that coastal and lagoon fisheries resources are heavily utilised, often overfished, and are fished by both commercial and subsistence fishers. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has estimated that 75% of Pacific island coastal fisheries will not meet food security needs by 2030 due to a forecast 50% growth in population, limited productivity of coastal fisheries (exacerbated by overfishing) and inadequate national distribution networks.

Researchers from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) are working with island communities in Kiribati and collaborate closely with the Government of Kiribati, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Worldfish Centre to strengthen capacity and empower these communities to manage and develop their fisheries sustainably. Research will include assessment of critical success factors of implementing CBFM, how CBFM interacts with broader livelihood choices, and how men and women make decisions around CBFM. It will also look at how the successes from work done in communities and with national agencies in the three partner countries be spread through the region. Outputs will focus on communications, including policy documents, training material, management plans, and workshops. Helping to facilitate better local and national governance of near-shore fisheries will lead to a sustainable and secure supply of fish for the region.

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."

The full interview is available at on the ABC website.

Last reviewed: 11 September, 2017