All of the Tuvaluan population is coastal and highly reliant on inshore fisheries for their subsistence and local economic needs. Coastal fisheries are grossly undervalued in national accounting and development planning. Decades of poor or neglected management means that many coastal fisheries are fully exploited. Boom and bust exploitation has nearly collapsed the reproductive stocks of a number of marine species and altered food web relationships, affecting ecosystem productivity and food security.
The key mandate of the Coastal Fisheries Division is to ensure the sustainability of inshore resources for present and future generations of Tuvalu. All activities have been aligned to achievement the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) under the Tuvalu National Sustainable Strategy (Te Kakenga III) and also the TFD Corporate Plan (2020-2022).
Key activities of the division for 2020 will focus around priority activities of the three key sub-units of the division which comprise of;
Funafuti: Because of its high population concentration and relatively high degree of urbanisation, the fisheries management needs and issues in Funafuti are somewhat different than those of the outer islands. This is why it is important for some efforts to concentrate on ensuring the sustainability of inshore resources on Funafuti to accommodate food security issues and support livelihoods of the local population. For 2020, most of activities for Funafuti will be including those mandatory activities under the Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan (FRFSP). The FRFSP also creates an ideal arrangement for more cooperation between Funafuti Kaupule, FOFA (Fishers On Funafuti Association) and TFD through activities under the four key strategies for the FRFSP which are;
Strengthening of the FCA: Empowering of the management of the Funafuti Conservation Area (FCA) so that its potential benefits become a reality – protecting spawning adults, allowing juveniles to grow and promoting spill over of fishes into parts of the lagoon – increasing resilience of the fisheries on Funafuti atoll. This will be achieved through the enhancement of a package of effective smart measures to improve the whole management of the FCA. Development of stronger cooperation arrangement in supporting Funafuti Kaupule will be the primary key to achieve these measures benefitting stronger cooperation in future. Staff will be primarily involved in implementing regular patrols to enforce Monitoring Control Surveillance (MCS) activities in the area, conduct Kaupule office staff capacity building training, regular quarterly review meetings with key stakeholders, further revision of relevant legislation to support enforcement and management, produce public awareness radio programs to support the FCA and conducting further in-water assessments on the status of the resources inside the FCA.
Set Size limits: Limiting the size of fishes that can be taken by fishing to ensure that every fish can breed at least once in all other parts of Funafuti atoll. More study will be conducted to help provide more evidence based information results from scientific assessment fish size at maturity.
More pelagic resources use: Targeting pelagic and offshore fisheries more to reduce some of the pressure on reef fishes. It is envisaged that this strategy will be implemented through a package that will promote these measures. These are: increasing more inshore FADs (Fish Aggregation Devices); increase number of sea safety training and grab bags for our fishermen; improve boats for more efficient fishing offshore to reduce cost of fuel and time accessing pelagic resources more reliably and safely. This will also be accompanied with a trial of different fishing methods such as vertical deep bottom long line fishing, flying fish fishing and others which not only assist in off-setting fishing efforts off the reef but also increase productivity for fishermen on Funafuti. There will be also some work involved on implementing the OFDP (Offshore Fisheries Development Project) as part of this strategy 3 which is implemented under the Operational and Development Division on investigating opportunities to introduce larger more seaworthy fishing boats into Tuvalu to increase the potential benefit of pelagic resources.
Getting everyone on-board: This involves improving information, involvement by the community and state of the ecosystems on which the fisheries depend. There will be some consultation with all island communities on Funafuti to ensure that everyone is involved and supports this plan.
Outer Islands: More routine visits will continue to the outer island through the implementation of metronome trips to the outer islands to provide support to implement activities under the signed MOU for cooperation with each island Kaupule. The visits are to strengthen cooperation between the TFD and Kaupule/Falekaupule and Fishers on each outer island which also result in the development of community based fisheries management plans for each island. Further efforts will continue in 2020 to assist each island Kaupule to implement these fisheries management plans. Visits will be conducted quarterly to all islands to check on status of our IDCs (Island Data Collectors) on each island. The Metronome trips will also be an opportunity for IDCs refresher training, aiming to assess the progress of our data collection program on all islands. Special efforts will also focus on implementing assistance to some islands to initiate community based small scale aquaculture trials.
Resources assessment and monitoring: Staff will be dedicated to execute priority resources assessment and on-going monitoring of fisheries resources and related issues. These includes on-going Creel surveys on islands, Fish export, Water Quality assessment, Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, canoe/boat survey, fish stock assessment and socio-economic assessments. Some of these assessments have been incorporated as part of the metronome program which will be implemented on islands. There will be two new studies that will be introduced for the first time in Tuvalu in 2020. These studies assist to expand our scope in gathering more information on ensuring proper management and use of inshore fishery resources of Funafuti. These are the (i) fish maturity size study which will involve looking at determining the size limit for all key commercial reef fish species and the second study (ii) is the spawning aggregation study which will focus on exploring fish aggregation sites on Funafuti. Both studies will help provide more scientific evidence to determine the size limitation on length of target commercial fish species and also identify potential important spawning sites which may require special management measures to support resilience of our inshore fishery on Funafuti. SPC will also assist us to develop our national sea cucumber management plan.