What’s been happening lately at Coastal Fisheries?

The last year has been a busy one for the Coastal Fisheries Section with lots of changes to positions and plenty of new activities.

We completed most of the tasks in our work plan, but had to drop a sea cucumber (beach-der-mer) management plan because we do not yet have enough data to formulate the plan. There were some modifications in roles of staff to accommodate new positions and staff shifts within the department. In addition, two senior staff returned after further studies overseas, resuming their roles in the department. The main tasks achieved centred on collection of data on cases of ciguatera fish poisoning and creel (fishermen’s landings), radio awareness programmes, and outer islands socio-economic surveys and consultations in support of future management. Here are some details on our work over the past year:

Artisanal Tuna: The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have been assisting Tuvalu with its artisanal tuna data monitoring programme in Tuvalu. These data are collected from eight of the nine atolls of Tuvalu and include information on landing sites, vessel identification and catch data. The data are send in every month from the outer island to Funafuti where they are entered into a regional database.

Creel Surveys: Creel activities have now been much improved. A new effective program has been introduced and is now been practiced by staffs weekly.  Surveys now are carried out during early hours of the morning twice a week. A creel data base have also been set up to store and analyse result for these surveys. It’s expected that this program can be further expanded to the outer island next year.

imageCiguatera: Over the last past 3 years, there has been substantial amount of information collected from the hospital on ciguatera cases. These were number of patients admitted to the main hospital on Funafuti (servicing a population of 6,200) which are collected on a monthly basis. Over the years, we noticed a significant decline of number of cases compared with 2012 where we had over 40 cases reported by the hospital. In 2015 we recorded 14 cases from January to December. Thirteen of these were male and one female. Some of the most common fishes that were recorded as having caused ciguatera in Funafuti were groupers (gatala), rabbitfishes (maiava), red bass clip_image001(fagamea), parrotfishes (ulafi), one-spot snapper (taiva), unicorn fishes (ume, manini lakau) and lined surgeonfish (ponelolo). Most of the incidents recorded were from different location inside Funafuti Lagoon, particularly te akau Pukeu, which is a popular fishing ground. In 2012, 75% of the fish that were caught on this reef were found to be highly toxic. Other affected areas included Tepuka reef, Paava, Papaelise, Fatato and other locations around the islet of Fongafale. The public has been warned through several radio awareness programs not to fish or take any suspicious species from the lagoon and also to report any case to the department. A ciguatera database is under construction and procurement of monitoring equipment for are now underway.

Socioeconomic and resource assessment surveys: were carried out on three islands (Funafuti, Nui and Nanumaga). Between August and November, extensive resource assessment surveys were conducted in three islands namely Funafuti, Nui and Nanumaga. The main objective of this activity was to collect habitat and socioeconomic information on each island in order to establish resource profiles for each island. Nui and Nanumaga have not previously been surveyed and the data collected will form a baseline for these islands. Nine of our staff went on a six week mission on where they also  undertook surveys in the community. The work was intense and it gave the team a lot of hands-on experience on conducting these types of surveys in the outer islands. Data collected from the surveys have now been entered into a database to be analysed in 2016 and used support the islands in future fishery resource management planning.

Training: Several training workshops were run in 2015. This included under-water visual census (UVC), socio-economic surveys, geographic information systems (GIS), using databases, first aid skills and self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) diver training.

Public Awareness Radio: Radio programs were aired to educate the public and fishermen on fisheries-related topics. These included information on fish aggregating devices (FAD)s, Creel (fishers’ landing) surveys and artisanal tuna data collection.

Outer island consultations: Five of our staff were sent on a consultation mission to the outer islands in August. The main objective of this mission was to contact communities on NAPA II project activities (see below). It was also used as an opportunity to introduce the two NAPA II officers to the community and familiarise them with Kaupule members and fishermen’s associations of each island. Meetings with relevant stakeholders were held to discuss issues related to the implementation of NAPA II project activities. This mission went to all islands except Nukulaelae island, cancelled due to mechanical problems with the vessel chartered. It is expected that the mission to Nukulaelae will be carried out during later NAPA II voyages in 2016.

Other Project funding: Under the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) II project (funded by UNDP/GEF), two new coastal fisheries officers were recruited in April (2015). They will implement the fisheries interventions funded by the project in Tuvalu’s outer islands, which seeks to build resilience to climate change in marine-based livelihoods. Their work will focus on surveys, marine managed areas, training workshops, traditional fishing methods, FADs, modernized canoe-building and seafood processing, all designed to increase food security and resilience of outer island communities.

This year we have even more going on, so watch this space…