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Fisheries in the Pacific

Simonne Pauwels
Elodie Fache

Socioeconomic significance of fisheries in the Small Island Developing States: natural heritage or commodity?

Nathalie Hilmi, Tamatoa Bambridge, Alain Safa, Bran Quinquis et Paul D’Arcy

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1Commodities are defined in economics as marketable and interchangeable goods or services produced to satisfy wants or needs; they can also be inputs in the production of other goods and services with commodity prices determined by supply and demand. This chapter questions if fisheries should be considered as just economic commodities or something broader which we refer to as “natural heritage”. “Natural heritage” refers to the biodiversity inherited from past generations, maintained in the present, and transmitted to future generations. In local daily life, communities in the Pacific do not really make a distinction between natural and cultural heritage. For many Pacific Islanders, land and sea marks are inherited through ancestral transmission and the relation between nature and culture is embedded in their cultural visions and practices (Descola 1986; Hviding 1996). Universal environmental features such as reef passages are therefore also given, in some places, local meaning by specific references to historical events and cultural views on how the world is formed and maintained (Kirch et al. 2010; Morrison 1966; Verin 1965). Thus, for example, the northernmost point of Aotearoa/New Zealand is known as Cape Reinga to European New Zealanders, but “TeRerenga Wairua” to Māori, the leaping place of spirits of the dead on their journey to the spirit world of the ancestors. In Tahitian oral history, Tahiti is conceptualized as a fish, with the head located in Taiarapu (the small peninsula of southwest Tahiti), the stomach in Mataeia (the western part of Tahiti) and the tail in Faaa (the northern part of Tahiti). The locality of Hotopua in Teahupoo, Taiarapu, combines sea and land spaces, and is known throughout the Polynesian triangle (the cultural-geographical area bound by Hawai’i, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Rapanui/Easter Island) as the primary portal of the gods Taaroa and Tane, and of the spirits of the dead, when they come to visit the visible world of humans. At the other end of Tahiti, Tata’a located in Faaa (the tail of the fish) is where the spirits of the dead and gods leave the visible world for the invisible world of the gods and ancestors. The first modern version of the Tahitian rahui (a restriction on resources), established in 2014, encompasses Hotopua as a sacred place that needs to be protected for the benefit of local communities (Bambridge 2013).

2Moreover, specific species (for example the green turtle in the central Tuamotu, Archipelago of French Polynesia) in many cultures of Oceania are considered as gifts from the ancestors, as a taura’a or a sort of totem that personalizes the extended family today, or as kin (Bambridge 2009; Firth 1964). Other marine species or individuals within a species might be seen as waka (vessels) of ancestors or gods, for example tiger sharks whose body marks make every individual easily identifiable. In Hawaii, their appearance soon after the death of a relative created a bond between the deceased’s family and the particular shark involved from then onwards (Beckwith 1970: 128).

3Indigenous history across the Pacific Islands region also reveals clans associated with the sea shore and others associated with mountains and valleys. For example, the linguistic distinction between tai (the side of the sea) and uta (valley) in French Polynesia (Bambridge 2015) reflects both the indigenous and the local representation of island territory. Fish, yam and taro also served as commodities for exchanging objects and food between clans (Bambridge 2015). Even on small atolls where no location was more than a few hundred meters from the ocean, exchanges occurred between land and sea products, identified and socially constructed as exchanges between males/sea and females/land (Alkire 1968). In the earlier period of Pacific history when indigenous priorities dominated, the modern dichotomy noted above between fish as a commodity and fish as a cultural exchange item and natural heritage was not present (Caillot 1909; Hanson 1973; Kirch 2000). For example, Katherine Luomala (1984) demonstrated how certain sea creatures could be viewed as both food and ancestors in different contexts in Kiribati. This characteristic is not isolated to Pacific Island societies. Many other societies (e.g., in Japan, Mediterranean countries, etc.) also exchange objects, food and fish for economic, ritual, political and cultural purposes. However, Pacific Islanders are unique in the extent to which utilitarian, economic values assigned to objects exchanged were of secondary importance to the social and political interactions prompting these “economic” exchanges. Goods were a means to an end rather than the end itself. Even in exchanges between resource-poor atolls and better endowed high islands, social and political alliances were constructed and maintained, and the respective mana (prestige and authority) recognized and acknowledged. These exchanges of sea and other products were more valued than these goods. They also provided more substantial benefits in terms of refuges from natural disasters and networks of support (Alkire 1965; Davidson 1978; Lessa 1950; Lewthwaite 1966).

4What is also specific to Pacific Island societies is the fact that they live in a territory incorporating the largest inhabited section of the world’s oceans (Banks 1962). The Pacific Ocean is the biggest ocean in the world and many Pacific Islanders maintain a special link with the ocean (see also the introduction of this volume). It is considered, for example, by the Polynesians as the very first marae (open place where ritual ceremonies are performed). Furthermore, it was common in ancient Polynesia that those marae were the place where “guardian animals” would meet with their mentors (Barry 2002). This was for instance the case for Upaupai Fenuaura Marae where a famous ancestral figure, the guardian shark, would appear at very specific seasons.

5The Pacific Ocean is also the richest ocean in terms of commercial fisheries. For example, the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery is the largest and most intact tuna fishery in the world, supplying more than half of the world’s tuna supplies (Bardach and Riding 1985; Allain et al. in this volume). This economic role at times conflicts with cultural roles that fisheries play in Pacific societies.

6Another issue that concerns Pacific peoples is that many emblematic species protected by international conventions (whales, dolphins, turtles, rays) are localized in the Pacific Ocean and are often small populations or in the early stages of recovery from overfishing. The Central and the South Pacific for example accommodate the smallest specific populations of humpback whales and many other species of dolphins such as the rough-toothed dolphin and spinner dolphin (Poole 2015).

7The first part of this chapter will highlight the cultural and socioeconomic importance of fisheries in Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). The second part will discuss the importance of fisheries for Pacific Islanders in terms of environmental issues and viewing fisheries as natural heritage rather than as commodities. This chapter reveals a contemporary trend of some Pacific Islanders reconstructing their relations with various marine organisms and acting as guardians, not only of their marine resources (Teiwaki 1988; Willis et al. 2003), but also of oceanic spaces (near and off-shore) which are imbued in some localities with long and deep cultural histories and meanings, central to Pacific identities (D’Arcy 2006a: Chapter 2; Hviding 1996). The involvement of Pacific Islanders in fisheries as well as in near and off-shore conservation forms a complex dynamic that needs to be taken into account in any form of contemporary and future sustainable management regimes (D’Arcy 2013).

Socioeconomic and cultural importance of fisheries

The status of fish in indigenous Polynesia

8Mythologies of eastern and southern Polynesia relating to fish and the ocean are numerous and convergent despite linguistic diversity (Arbousset 1867). According to Henry (1928: 389), in ancient Tahiti, the whale was the “Shadow of Ta’aroa” (the preeminent god associated with the ocean in Polynesian cosmogony). Other fishes, including dolphins, personified the spirits of those lost at sea and drowned. In the latter case, the changing colour of a dolphin-fish (mahimahi) was allocated from these spirits after the death of people (Henry 1928: 390; Williamson 1933). An interpretation of Rongorongo petroglyphs (a written language of Rapa Nui or Easter Island) locates the whale in the song of creation of this island as born from the union of the god Tinirau and the goddess Hina. It thus establishes a relationship between the whale and the supreme god Makemake (Metraux 1941: 321; Rjabchikov 2000, 2001: 219, 2002; Whimp 2008).

  • 1 We do not know precisely if the term “dolphin” used by Williamson refers to the dolphin mammal or (...)

9In the Austral Islands and Cook Islands, just as in the Tuamotus, there were experts (Tohunga, arai’a) who specifically regulated relations between large marine mammals and island societies. For instance, stranded whales in Pukapuka (Cook Islands) came within the jurisdiction of Te Mangamanga, the guardian of the trees. This guardian priest oversaw the division and distribution of whale meat, whose consumption was forbidden to children (Beaglehole and Beaglehole 1938: 311). In Rurutu and Rimatara in the Austral Islands, the consumption of turtle meat was reserved for ari’i (chiefs), within the chiefdom. Because of the removal of the privilege of eating turtle meat in these last two islands during the French annexation in 1900, the guardian experts (arai’a) criticized the terms of the annexation (Bambridge 2009). To the west of the Austral Islands, Vatea, the father of the gods in Rarotonga (Cook Islands), appeared as half man, half fish and was recognized as an ally of the dolphin (Williamson 1933: 12).1

10In some Pacific Islands, the universe of the Great Ocean, Moana, permeated all human relations regarding mythology, gods, classification and taxonomy systems, ontology, power relations and statutory alliances between chiefdoms, tenureship arrangements, protection of the invisible world of spirits and ancestors, and the capture and consumption of fish and other animals (Kirch and Khan 2007; Lucett 1851; Moerenhout 1837; Whimp 2008). In the oral traditions of Rurutu and Raivavae (Austral Islands), porpoises and some species of sharks acted as protectors of specific extended families and as the equivalent to land toponyms in helping people find their way to their village (for similar observations in Kiribati, see Grimble R. 1972; Grimble A.F. 1989). In the case of the Austral Islands, the beautiful “Ire” shark is saved by the gods Ta’aroa and Tu. The former gave Ire to another god, Tane. Tane had a little red bird companion that guided this shark and a large red bird who was also his messenger in the realm of Moana (“mono eiiaTaneirotoitemoana o teieaonei”). This large red bird guided travellers, but travellers risked perishing by storm if the sailors abused him (Henry 1928: 369).

11Fish and other marine animals are not only aspects of many Oceanian mythologies, they are also objects of exchange between clans from the sea and the land for ceremonial purposes (Bonnemaison 1996 for Melanesia and Lewthwaite 1966 for Polynesia).

12Whether it is considered as a commodity or as a natural or cultural heritage, during the last decade, fish and ocean in the Pacific have gained tremendous importance for many actors inside and outside Oceania for two main reasons: food security and environmental protection in the context of globalization (D’Arcy 2012). They have also been assigned significant economic importance that is not only concerned with fisheries but also with protection/valorization of the marine environment.

Food security, trade and income

Food security

  • 2 According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), PSIDS are Fiji, Mars (...)

13The Small Island Developing States appeared in the 1992 Earth Summit as a group of nations sharing similar and unique concerns. In particular, the PSIDS form an organized group of developing countries of the Pacific region advocating their views of the Pacific Ocean and its resources.2 Fisheries and living marine resources are essential for the lives, cultures and economies of the PSIDS’ inhabitants, especially in the context of the limits on land-based development. These people are dependent on ocean-related economic activities, such as fisheries and coastal tourism, for food, employment and national income.

  • 3 For example, in French Polynesia, 58% of households consume their own catches in Tahiti and 85% ou (...)
  • 4 In this volume, Allain et al. confirm that, according to the 2014 stock assessment, overfishing is (...)

14Access to fish, as their basic source of animal protein, is crucial for the PSIDS. They are very dependent on their offshore resources and very vulnerable to food insecurity (ADB 2007; Gillett 2009). Subsistence fisheries (fish caught for local consumption rather than market sale) provide 50% to 90% of the animal protein diet of the PSIDS’ populations living in rural settings and in remote islands.3 But this resource is threatened by the loss of coral reefs, which provide nutrients to fish and other seafood, and by climate change effects such as ocean acidification and rising water temperatures. It is also threatened by legal and illegal fishing within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Pacific nation states. In the last decade, the Pacific Community has declared bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna to all be overfished beyond sustainable levels (Allain et al. 2008; FFA 2008; Gillett 2008).4 The total harvest of tuna has increased by an average of 5% per year over the past 50 years. This average understates the escalating pressure on fisheries given that the number of boat-days has risen about 10% per year over the period 1970-2000. Boat-days are the fishing access license standard measure of one day’s fishing by one boat (Kompas, Grafton and Che 2010: 1-2).

Figure 1: Capture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes

Figure 1: Capture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes

Sources: FAO Fishstat

15Fig. 1 demonstrates that the PSIDS that are the most reliant on capture fishery are the Melanesian countries of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji, with Marshall Islands and French Polynesia also being heavily dependent. Most of their catch is for their own consumption, but part of it is traded.

  • 5 See, for instance, Solomon Islands and the Pacific Community’s Joint Country Strategy 2009 – 2012, (...)

16Overfishing and climate change have depleted natural resources and increased pressures on subsistence-level livelihoods in the Solomon Islands. Fig. 2 shows that the Solomon Islands have thus developed a large aquaculture sector, which mainly consists of small-scale inland aquaculture ventures. Farming of seaweed (Kappaphycus) and fish (such as Macrobrachium or tilapia) is promoted as an alternative means of supplying food and livelihoods in rural areas, in accordance with aquaculture development plans.5 Environmentally sustainable forms of aquaculture are developed to build economic growth through exports of Penaied prawn, hatchery-reared giant clams (Tridacna derasa), and marine ornamentals such as corals, juvenile lobsters and other crustaceans for aquarium exporters, or blacklip and goldlip pearl oysters. Kiribati has also invested significantly in aquaculture, in this case coastal and near-shore because of its atoll environments (Thomas 2003).

Figure 2: Aquaculture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes

Figure 2: Aquaculture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes

Sources: FAO Fishstat

17Fisheries contribute to employment and income, poverty alleviation and social inclusion. It is a crucial sector for the PSIDS’ economies, and one where women play a substantial role. Although it varies between geographic regions, women account on average for 56% of annual small-scale catches, resulting in an economic impact of US $ 363 million in the Pacific region (Harper et al. 2013). Livelihoods of coastal communities are focused on fishing and fish farming, even though other income generating or subsistence activities are important too, e. g., tourism or homestead farming.

18In the PSIDS, fisheries provide revenue and employment to small-scale fishers and fish farmers who sell their catch in urban centres and tourist resorts. Some are also employed on vessels for industrial fisheries. Women often market their catches, creating new job opportunities. Sport fishing has potential for development as a small-scale ecotourism activity for many communities. An important percentage of the active population is employed in fisheries and associated activities, such as processing and trading. It is important to note that in some island states, capture fishery can contribute as much as 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and fish consumption accounts for 50 to 90% of the diet of coastal communities, 3 to 4 times the world average (FAO 2014). If the fisheries sector declines, fishers have to find work outside the country and send back remittances to support relatives because there are few alternative employment options in their country. In small-scale artisanal fisheries, most catches are for human consumption. In industrial fisheries, bycatch and discards are unregulated practices that increase pressure on the resources. Only high-value species are retained because of a lack of storage space on vessels. This is the practice of high-grading, which increases the pressure on oceans when the industrial fishers have high volume export objectives.

Trade and income

Figure 3: Distribution of the Pacific tuna fisheries relative to EEZ

Figure 3: Distribution of the Pacific tuna fisheries relative to EEZ

Sources: Bambridge and D’Arcy (2014: 119)

19According to the latest report from the South Pacific Commission (Gillett 2014), tuna fisheries account for just over 2.5 million tonnes in the Pacific (fig. 3). In this volume’s first chapter, Allain et al. note that the tuna fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) is the largest in the world with 2,627,696 tonnes (t) of tuna caught in 2013. This tonnage represented 82% of the total 2013 Pacific Ocean catch of 3,213,733 t and 58% of the global tuna catch (see also Williams and Terawasi 2014).

20For the last 20 years, the artisanal catch has represented less than 10% of the total catch in tuna fisheries (Chand, Grafton and Petersen 2003: 331-332; Cordonnery 2005: 724; D’Arcy 2006a and 2006b; Gillett 2014; Gillett et al. 2001; Williams and Reid 2006). Fig. 4 shows that tuna fisheries make a minor contribution to Pacific nations’ GDP, even though they represent a source of foreign exchange through exports of fish and fishery products. Fish caught in the Pacific contribute to the world food supply, for human consumption (protein intake) or feed for livestock and aquaculture (Borgese and Ginsburg 1985).

Figure 4: Exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Figure 4: Exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Sources: FAO Fishstat

21Distant-water fishing nations (DWFNs) are important users of tuna resources in the Pacific Islands region. It is estimated that they account for 86% of the catch from the Pacific and sold at market, especially in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States. Despite all major stakeholders signing a Multilateral High Level Convention (MHLC) on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean in Honolulu in 2000 (MHLC 2000), DWFNs continue to prefer bilateral relations to multilateral ones when dealing with Pacific Island nations because of the greater strength of Pacific collective bargaining stances (Cordonnery 2005: 725; MHLC 2000; Tarte 1998 and 1999). The exception has been the United States whose multilateral agreement with members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) produced terms more favourable to Pacific Island nations than most bilateral ones between these nations and DWFNs (Van Dyke and Nicol 1987). Bilateral agreements tend to be less restrictive on DWFNs’ operations than the protocols collectively defined by FFA members. These protocols also potentially compromise bilateral aid, which is seen by DWFNs that are also aid donors as a potential tool for gaining the fishing access rights they desire.

22Pacific nations not only derive little benefit from selling fishing access rights to their EEZs to DWFNs, but contrary to prevailing beliefs, many PSIDS are net importers of fish for their own consumption and for their tourist industry (fig. 5).

23The case of the Republic of Fiji is unique because of their important re-export figures (fig. 6), meaning that they export a part of their fish imports. Fish is an important natural resource sector in Fiji, second only to sugar. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank (ADB 2005) estimated that fishing represented 1.7% of Fiji’s GDP, exports of fishery products were about 9.1% of all Fijian exports, and jobs directly related to fisheries represented about 3.8% of the total number of jobs in Fiji (salaried or self-employed). Fish make an important contribution to the diet of local residents and tourists. Fisheries are either offshore (mainly tuna long-lining) or coastal (for subsistence, local markets or exports) and about 50% of all rural households are involved in subsistence fishing (reef gleaning, hook-and-line fishing, and spear-fishing). The main ocean-based exports are tuna and bycatch, mostly to supply the sashimi market in Japan (Ministry of Finance and National Planning 2006) but also in the USA and Europe, as well as aquarium items, bêche-de-mer and trochus. They import fresh chilled quality fish from the Pacific area and re-export it as frozen fish or processed fish products to other countries.

Figure 5: Imports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Figure 5: Imports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Sources: FAO Fishstat

24When these ocean-based resources are less abundant or their price increases, the PSIDS’ food security becomes at risk. The level of their populations’ vulnerability depends on their capacity of adaptation to hazard risks. Boats are easily lost in storms and aquaculture infrastructure is often exposed to climate hazards. Fish is a highly perishable good that needs to be sold or consumed rapidly when freezing is not possible. Small-scale fishers are price-takers on the markets, so in a weak marketing position. They tend to take life-threatening risks to increase their capture. Small-scale fisheries are increasingly dedicated to commercial goals and exports rather than subsistence, and therefore compete with industrial fisheries, but they have limited access to insurance and financial credit. In brief, artisanal fisheries remain a risky sector with low profitability.

Figure 6: Re-exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Figure 6: Re-exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes

Sources: FAO Fishstat

Maximizing fish commodity through environmental protection

Pacific nations’ engagement in world negotiation forums

25The fishing industry (whether coastal or offshore) is not the sole resource of Pacific nations. Fisheries conservation and management also play key social and economic roles, both in coastal areas near urban centres and in the EEZs of Pacific nations.

26The international ocean governance framework for the management of oceans is provided by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which defines the extent of jurisdictional zones and sets the rights and obligations of each country. The UNCLOS governs activities both at sea and on land. Other global and regional agreements supplement the UNCLOS, like the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, and the United Nations Environment Programme that includes the Regional Seas Programme, complemented by regional fisheries management organisations such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Multilateral agreements (Brownlie 1995) have also been adopted under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation with regard to shipping, and of the International Whaling Commission that aims to ensure sustainable whale populations. In the Doha round of the World Trade Organization, the SIDS participated in the negotiations because of the impact on their trade of marine goods and services (especially commodities through preferential trade regimes).

27Besides, a series of local regimes and interest groups operate under a broad umbrella of national and international principles, such as conservation of endangered ecosystems and species being paramount over sector or community interests, and open but differentiated access to the foreshore on the basis of historical and cultural factors (D’Arcy 2006b; Govan 2009; Hviding and Baines 1994; Johannes and Macfarlane 1990; Laffoley 2008; Veitayaki et al. 2011).

28It is in this context that, for the last 10 years, we have been observing a rapid and profound trend towards the guardianship of resources and marine territories near and off-shore in and around many Pacific Islands (Bambridge and D’Arcy 2014; D’Arcy 2013; Lee et al. 2007; Toonen et al. 2013).

Pacific population and environmental issues

29As mentioned earlier, fisheries are not only important as a commodity for Pacific peoples, but also as a natural and cultural heritage managed by local populations (SPC 2012). In 2011, Govan et al. (2011) recorded 420 sites across 8 countries in Oceania practicing “Community-Based Adaptive Management” (CBAM) over 12,000 km² of coastal marine areas. But the number of sites and the area covered is actually much larger than that if one takes into account the full range of legal, ecological and cultural instruments used for marine protected areas (MPAs), which are only rarely classified as CBAM by marine scientists.

  • 6 See Cook Islands International Waters Project in Takuvaine Community, (...)
  • 7 CRIOBE, Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement, (...)

30Some approaches in the Pacific do insist that fisheries are both a commodity and a natural and cultural heritage. Examples include the Cook Islands where a legal framework has been established that combines traditional management of ra’ui (Cook Islands’ term for rahui, meaning a restriction on resources) by local chiefs with a legal state framework and ecological surveys implemented by the National Environment Service.6 There are, for example, six locally-managed MPAs on the island of Rarotonga (Cook Islands), whose ecological connectivity (the ease with which species can move between them) helps to develop the fish biomass for the whole lagoon. In Moorea (Society Islands, French Polynesia), 8 MPAs are managed by an island committee to protect the entire lagoon. As far as clam shells are concerned, significant positive spillover effects have already been recorded by the biologists of a marine research center based on the island.7

31As argued by Bambridge and D’Arcy (2014: 115): “The recent trend in local MPA has involved the simultaneous development of cultural and ecological connectivity to enhance reef resilience. In a context of isolated islands and atolls in the Pacific (which does not, however, mean the isolation of their people), the development of many small MPA at the scale of an island, not to say, at the scale of interconnected islands of a same archipelago, the multiplication of separated but interconnected MPA is fostering the fish biomass and the resilience of the reef. In this latter case, the protection of parrotfish and similar herbivores helps to preserve the good health of the reef (ICRI 2013). Almany et al. (2013) demonstrated that the protection of specific fish in Papua New Guinea at the scale of their territory of reproduction (which encompasses multiple MPA), appears to be more efficient than the mere protection of a unique MPA.”

  • 8 Secretariat of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks, “Shark San (...)

32In recent years, several Pacific Island nations have been prominent in declaring species-specific protected areas, most notably for sharks and whales. In 2009 Palau declared the world’s first shark sanctuary. It was followed in 2011 by the Marshall Islands which created a 1.9 million km² shark sanctuary in which commercial shark fishing is banned. The Federated States of Micronesia, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas joined to create a 5 million km² shark sanctuary in the Western Pacific. Stretching without interruption from Palau to the Marshall Islands, this sanctuary is located right beside the main East Asian market for shark fins and other shark products, and in so doing it forgoes potentially significant income derived from shark products. French Polynesia declared its entire EEZ a shark sanctuary in 2006, and in addition a whale sanctuary in 2008. Tokelau declared its entire EEZ a shark sanctuary in 2011, with Cook Islands also doing so in 2012. Similarly, whale sanctuaries exist throughout the entire South Pacific, including the EEZs of New Zealand and Australia, thus forming a continuous sanctuary across the breadth of the Pacific.8

33Furthermore, many Pacific Island nations and coastal nations of the Pacific Rim (for example the USA and Chile) have legislated large-scale marine protected areas (LSMPAs) in their EEZs (fig. 7; about LSMPAs, see also in this volume Giron, and Cornier and Leblic). Among them, we should especially note certain clusters of highly beneficial practices. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park established in Australia in 1975 is now run by a public authority, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. On 14 June 2012, the Australian Federal Government announced a major extension of its MPA network to encompass much of its EEZ. The package included AU$100 million for commercial fishers who would lose their fishing access to new MPAs.

  • 9 Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan, (...)
  • 10 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office: (...)

34The second especially noteworthy example is the Papahanāumokuākea Marine National Monument,9 created on 15 June 2006, measuring 362,074 km², located in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This MPA contains 7000 species of wildlife and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,10 in close coordination with the State Government of Hawai’i. The latter party ensures that a significant indigenous voice is represented and empowered in the context of the management of the Monument.

35In 2012 the Cook Islands Government announced the creation of a LSMPA encompassing the southern half of its entire EEZ, or about 1.1 million km². This MPA will be zoned for multiple uses — tourism, fishing, and possibly seabed mining, but only if these activities can be carried out sustainably and adhere to the precautionary principle wherein a new potentially damaging activity must be proven not to cause harm before it can proceed. The process of creation of this LSMPA was characterized by wide consultation and the search for consensus between government, traditional leaders and local communities (Cook Islands Government 2011; Kanwal 2013; Lynch 2011).

  • 11 Many of these initiatives are presented in Bambridge and D’Arcy 2014.

36Under these strategies many Pacific Island countries and territories (such as Palau, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Hawaii)11 have sought to diversify their income while at the same time protecting their resources. Their view of fish and the marine environment is changing while the commodity status of fish and the marine environment is transforming. Compensation measures, sometimes subsidized by international NGOs and governments, are regularly discussed in order to find other incomes and benefits for protecting huge areas of fish stocks. In this regard, viewing fish solely as a commodity becomes unsustainable because food security constraints may run counter to other paths such as the tourism industry, the international conservation NGOs’ attention and the “science industry”. Fish have, and will continue to always occupy, multiple roles in society. The recent words of T. ‘Aulani Wilhelm, Superintendent of the Papahanāumokuākea Marine National Monument, also suggests that, more generally, marine biodiversity is a pluralistic objective:

“The 2010 inscription of Papahānaumokuākea as a World Heritage site by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) redefines the value of oceans to the collective heritage of humankind. The designation also recognizes the multifaceted relationship that indigenous people of Hawai’i still have with this ocean expanse today. As with prior national designations, first as a Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve then a Marine National Monument, these distinctions honoring both nature and culture were not by chance. They were the result of direct engagement by Native Hawaiians, in partnership with many others, in the design, advocacy and implementation of the management regime put in place to protect ¾ of the Hawaiian Archipelago.” (T. ‘Aulani Wilhelm and Randall Kosaki, personal communication to Tamatoa Bambridge).

Figure 7: Pacific large-scale MPAs

Figure 7: Pacific large-scale MPAs

Sources: Bambridge and D’Arcy (2014)


37This chapter offers an alternative mechanism and way of thinking to the standard regional institutional frameworks within which most fisheries scientists operate, but it does not seek to challenge or overturn these frameworks. Rather, it aims to show that the approach they reflect is partial and not necessarily appropriate for integrating coastal communities’ expertise and concerns within fisheries management and conservation plans. Indeed, fisheries science cannot be separated from community expertise as fishers have been part of the ecosystem for millennia and the diverse relations they have with fish also affect their identity and social structures. These factors complicate fisheries management, but cannot be ignored and, as T. ‘Aulani Wilhelm and others show, are a powerful force for conservation when integrated and allowed a voice. Our use of T. ‘Aulani Wilhelm’s quote not only reflects her own opinion, but that of a pan-Pacific coalition of indigenous communities involved in MPAs and LSMPAs, which includes one of the this chapter’s authors, Tamatoa Bambridge. Our point was that, while coastal communities’ concerns and fisheries scientists’ concerns are not necessarily incompatible, the former are sidelined in international debates and fora despite these communities’ long history of sustainable fisheries management and their current interest in being active in the implementation of fisheries management and conservation, rather than just in consultation processes.

38Finally, in Oceanian tradition, there has never been a contradiction between fish as a commodity (defined as an object of exchange) and fish as a cultural and natural heritage. What changed in the 20th century was that Pacific fish gained an economic importance far beyond the Pacific world, which changed their global economic relevance both in scale and intensity. This challenged the local pluralistic value assigned to fish in the Pacific Islands. The decimation of the Atlantic fishery to the point of non-sustainability has changed global perceptions of the need to control fisheries exploitation. Such control requires the cooperation of all parties in a system essentially based on voluntary compliance in the absence of effective monitoring and policing of the vast offshore expanses of the Pacific Ocean (Grafton et al. 2006). Pacific societies are now taking the lead in reconceptualising fisheries as pluralistic objects with environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues to be considered in any management regime at local, national, regional and global levels. The already mentioned effective use of traditional means of fishery regulation and conservation known as a rahui at Hotopua in Teahupoo (French Polynesia), a culturally sacred site for all Eastern Polynesians, has much wider application. The vital importance of emphasizing the economic, social, cultural and environmental value of fish in combination goes far beyond the Oceanian world.



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1 We do not know precisely if the term “dolphin” used by Williamson refers to the dolphin mammal or the dolphin-fish. In Tahitian the word is “tohora” for the dolphin mammal and “mahimahi” for the dolphin-fish, which is called “masimasi” in Samoan. According to Poole (personal communication), there is no uncertainty whatsoever – “masimasi” applies only to the dolphin-fish and never to the dolphin mammal in Samoa.

2 According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), PSIDS are Fiji, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Biodiversity issues are crucial for these PSIDS because they have special connections with the ocean and sea.

3 For example, in French Polynesia, 58% of households consume their own catches in Tahiti and 85% outside Tahiti (ISPF 2002).

4 In this volume, Allain et al. confirm that, according to the 2014 stock assessment, overfishing is occurring on an overfished bigeye tuna stock. They also state that it is highly likely that the yellowfin tuna stock is not experiencing overfishing and is not in an overfished state, even if yellowfin tuna is at least fully exploited.

5 See, for instance, Solomon Islands and the Pacific Community’s Joint Country Strategy 2009 – 2012, approved by the Solomon Islands Government in November 2008, (Accessed on October 16, 2015).

6 See Cook Islands International Waters Project in Takuvaine Community, (Accessed on October 9, 2015); Cook Islands’ Environment (Atiu and Takutea) Regulations 2008, (Accessed on October 9, 2015); Cooks Islands’ Environment (Mitiaro) Regulations 2008, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).

7 CRIOBE, Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).

8 Secretariat of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks, “Shark Sanctuaries”, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).
Department of Conservation/Te Papa Atawhai, New Zealand Government. The conservation of whales in the 21st century – Whale sanctuaries, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).

9 Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).

10 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office: Marine National Monument Program,, and Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, (Accessed on October 9, 2015).

11 Many of these initiatives are presented in Bambridge and D’Arcy 2014.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Capture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes
Légende Sources: FAO Fishstat
Fichier image/jpeg, 71k
Titre Figure 2: Aquaculture fishery in the PSIDS in 2011 by tonnes
Légende Sources: FAO Fishstat
Fichier image/jpeg, 93k
Titre Figure 3: Distribution of the Pacific tuna fisheries relative to EEZ
Légende Sources: Bambridge and D’Arcy (2014: 119)
Fichier image/jpeg, 226k
Titre Figure 4: Exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes
Légende Sources: FAO Fishstat
Fichier image/jpeg, 172k
Titre Figure 5: Imports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes
Légende Sources: FAO Fishstat
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 6: Re-exports of fish by the PSIDS, by country and in tonnes
Légende Sources: FAO Fishstat
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Titre Figure 7: Pacific large-scale MPAs
Légende Sources: Bambridge and D’Arcy (2014)
Fichier image/jpeg, 233k


Specialist in macroeconomics and international finance. In 2010, she joined the Centre Scientifique de Monaco as the head of the environmental economics section and collaborated with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Environment Laboratories to initiate correlation studies between environmental sciences and economics and, thereby, better evaluate the socioeconomic extent of impacts and costs of action versus inaction with regard to carbon emissions. In 2011, she obtained her accreditation to supervise research (HDR) on “Multidisciplinarity and Sustainable Development”. Her research area encompasses economic impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, evaluation of ecosystem services, such as those offered by coral reefs, sustainable development and environmental policies.

Anthropologist and CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) Senior Researcher at CRIOBE, Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement, Moorea, French Polynesia. His research focuses on the relations between society and environment in Eastern Polynesia, in particular on traditional Polynesian management of the land and the sea. He recently published Rahui in Polynesia. Legal Pluralism in Environmental Management (2015, ANU Press).

Specialised in macroeconomics and international finance. He is a professor at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis and EDHEC Business School, the founder and manager of the research and advisory structure Skill Partners, and a participant in several European and international research projects. He works on the capacity of countries to adapt to major economic, environmental and social changes. His research focuses particularly on the integration of environmental considerations into national, regional and international governance, and the economic and social impacts of ocean acidification. He has recently published several papers on this last topic (e. g., in Water, Volume 6 (6), 2014 and in Marine Biology, Volume 160(8), 2013) and participated in three workshops on the economic impacts of ocean acidification held in Monaco in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

Economist specialised in climate change issues and the evaluation of ecosystem services. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at CRIOBE in 2013 and currently works for the government of French Polynesia as an inter-ministerial delegate for climate change and as a research and innovation advisor for the Ministry of Health and Research.

Teaches Pacific, Asian, and environmental studies in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University (ANU). After graduating with a degree in Pacific and African history from Otago University in Aotearoa/New Zealand, he studied at the University of Hawai’i in Manoa and worked as an archaeologist and for Television New Zealand before completing his MA at Otago and PhD at ANU. His current teaching and research focus on the problems and benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration and the history of conflict and conflict resolution in the Asia Pacific region, especially conflicts over natural resources with particular reference to the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, Paul will publish with Polity Press the first general environmental history of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing its geological history from the start of the Anthropocene up to the present.

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