The Tuvalu Fisheries Department, in association with the Funafuti Kaupule (Island Council), Falekaupule (Elders), Fishermen in Funafuti Association (FOFA) and the community is developing a comprehensive plan for the management of stressed fishery resources on Funafuti Atoll. The plan is expected to optimise our use and benefits from fisheries.
The Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan (FRFSP) is not simply a fisheries management plan focused on ensuring sustainable use of fished resources, but embodies a whole-atoll approach which recognises the role of people and healthy ecosystems in fisheries and adaptively responds to change. Focusing on smart use of the already established Funafuti Conservation Area (FCA), and avoiding the use of too many complex rules and seeking to preserve and enhance livelihoods and food and nutrition security for Tuvaluans living in Funafuti, the FRFSP has been designed to ensure reef fisheries recover to more productive levels.
The most difficult aspect of the plan to understand is that a reduction in fishing pressure will within a short time (a few years) lead to greater productivity with less future fishing effort.
Coastal marine resources (including invertebrates) are currently being exploited by traditional subsistence and small-scale artisanal fishers (Pita, 2005). Fisheries have been a major source of employment and income for local fishers as well as the source of fish supplies for the community through the roadside fish markets. This also includes women who collect shellfish and focus on handicrafts. Traditionally, fishers used outrigger canoes by paddling or sailing, working in the lagoon or outer reef and coastal waters. In the 1960-70s there was a shift to part-time fishing using small outboard-powered monohull aluminium, fibreglass or plywood boats.
In the last 10 or so years, there has been a worldwide move away from fisheries development (i.e. expansion of effort) to a more moderate approach which recognises that resources are limited and can relatively easily be overfished. The focus is now more on good management, or stewardship of the resources to ensure the food supply and resilience for communities against climate change. The Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) is tasked with improving fisheries livelihoods and food security in Tuvalu in line with the government planning documents Te Kakeega III and TFD’s Corporate plan.
The so-called “nutrition transition” is well underway in Funafuti, with dietary patterns shifting since the 1970–80s from traditional low fat diets, typically based on complex carbohydrates, fresh fish and meat and leafy greens, to increasingly modern diets, based on refined starch, oils, processed meats and confectionary (Charlton et al., 2016, Ahmed et al., 2011). These changes now mean that access to food of sufficient nutritional and cultural value is the primary driver affecting food security, more so than general food availability (McCubbin et al., 2017). In the McCubbin study 52% of people surveyed in Funafuti ate less desirable imported foods, which tended to be nutrient poor because they could not access preferred local foods. Factors affecting access to local foods included availability of and access to land; declining involvement in local food production; the convenience of imported foods; unreliable interisland shipping; and climate and environmental changes that have negatively affected food security and are expected to continue to do so. Having a healthy and productive reef fishery is clearly of major importance for reversing some of these trends.
Status of the Resources
As part of its work, the Coastal Fisheries Section of the TFD has been carrying out resource assessments and monitoring to provide the information needed for management. Creel surveys are suited to that task because they provide information on the fishers, the resources being caught and the effort required in a way that can be used to assess the health of the fishery. The purpose of the creel survey, which was begun in April 2015 and will be on-going indefinitely, included measuring the catches (numbers, sizes and weights) of fished resources, assessing their health and identifying stressed resources in need of management. Full results of the creel are found in the Creel Report No. 1 (Alefaio et al., 2016) which can be downloaded from www.tuvalufisheries.tv/library.
As part of the creel survey, data on fish lengths were compared with known values of size at maturity (Lm) for 22 species for which data are available. This was used as an indicator to assess whether the resources were overfished. Fishes were considered overfished if 50% or more of the animals landed were smaller than the size at maturity.
The results of the first Creel Report showed that coastal fisheries in Funafuti are overfished. A total of 14,508 specimens were landed and measured during the survey, including 180 species of fishes in 30 families. Of the 22 species that could be assessed for signs of overfishing, 13 (60% of species) had 50% or more of the catch below the size at maturity. This means that the fishes are being caught and removed from the population before they can reproduce. The main fishes showing strong signs of overfishing in Funafuti included acanthurids (pone / surgeonfishes), carangids (ulua, kamai, trevallies), serranids (gatala, groupers), lethrinids (noto, emperors) and lutjanids (taea, snappers). The graph shows the sizes of fishes being landed compared with the size at maturity for this species of snapper shown as the red arrow.
In response to a clear need to address overfishing in Funafuti’s reef fisheries, the Fisheries Department began consulting with fishers, leaders and the community to develop a management plan capable of reversing the declines and restoring the fisheries to a more productive state. To ensure that the interests of members of the public were taken into account in the process, several Fisheries Monitoring and Management Consultations (FMMC) are being conducted in 2017. The Stewardship Plan will be the outcome of those consultations.
- Initial Fisher’s meeting 9th February: A pre-meeting held between Funafuti Fishermen’s Association and TFD (Coastal and Operations & Development sections) to inform fishermen on Creel Survey results, Artisanal Tuna, Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, Sea Safety and post-harvest training.
- FMMC1 23-24 February: This meeting included four main activities: (1) Report by Coastal Section on results of the creel survey; (2) Presentation of a range of management options that could be used in Funafuti; (3) Working Groups to discuss the options and suggest approaches that might work; (4) Consensus mandate derived by the participants to guide TFD’s work on the FRFMP. The meeting was attended by members of the Funafuti Fishermen’s Association, the Kaupule and Falekaupule, representatives of the outer islands communities living in Funafuti, and other members of the public. At the end of the meeting, participants requested that TFD develop a proposed plan to present at the next consultation for them to consider. The full report (Paka, 2017) and all others in this series can be downloaded from the Tuvalu Fisheries website www.tuvalufisheries.tv/library
- FMMC2 27th April: Presentation of the proposed FRFMP to identify any issues and steer further development
- FMMC3 planned July: First draft of the FRFMP presented for discussion and adjustments; and FMMC4 planned for September: Adoption of the finalised FRFMP and development of work plan and implementation.
The Stewardship Plan
The Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship plan will be focused on reversing some of the damage already done to the nearshore fisheries in Funafuti with the ultimate aim of increasing the current low productivity. In the end, the aim is to increase the supply of fishes, invertebrates and other seafoods being fished now or in the past, to improve the state of the ecosystems that support them and to reduce problems with ciguatera, algal overgrowth and coastal pollution. The FRFSP will be designed to:
- Establish the conditions for recovery of the resources,
- Educate and involve the public so we are all part of the solution,
- Establish transparent processes for activities, enforcement of rules and funding, and
- Ensure good coordination with other development activities and departments so that clashes in approaches can be minimised or eliminated.
Updates on the plan will be available as it is developed through the consultation process. The text and information products will be widely distributed by September of this year. Watch this space for further information !
Ahmed, M., Maclean, J. L., Gerpachio, R. V. & Sombilla, M. A. (2011) Climate change and food security in the Pacific. Rethinking the options. Pacif ic Studies Series, pp. 85. Asian Development Bank, Manila.
Alefaio, S., Finauga, M., Italeli, S., Kaitu, L., Kaly, U., Lopati, P., Makolo, F., Petaia, M., Taufilo, M., Taula, H. & Tetoa, F. (2016) Tuvalu Fisheries Creel Survey Report No. 1. pp. 21. Funafuti.
Charlton, K. E., Russell, J., Gorman, E., Hanich, Q., Delisle, A., Campbell, B. & Bell, J. (2016) Fish, food security and health in Pacific Island countries and territories: a systematic literature review. BMC Public Health, 16, 285.
McCubbin, S. G., Pearce, T., Ford, J. D. & Smit, B. (2017) Social-ecological change and implications for food security in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Ecology and Society, 22.
Paka, L. (2017) 1st Fisheries Monitoring & Management Consultation (FMMC-01) in Funafuti 23-24 February 2017. Funafuti.
Pita, E. (2005) Tuvalu Integrated framework diagnostic trade integration study: Fisheries – Tuvalu’s pathway to trading. Tuvalu Integrated Framework for Trade Related Development Assistance Diagnostic Integration Study, pp. 33. ADB, AusAID, NZAid, World Bank, WTO, UNDP.