FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Discussions to move FishFAD project forward in programs in Vanuatu

Participants of FDO at Vanuatu Maritime College collecting baseline information.

The Vanuatu Fisheries Department (VFD) hosted a programme retreat from September 28-October 2, 2020 on the island of Espiritu Santo at Turtle Bay Lodge. The 40 participants included VFD directors, managers and senior staff; provincial fisheries development officers (FDOs); representatives from the Pacific Pathways and FishFAD projects; stakeholders from the Sanma Secretary General and East Santo Area Council; and village chiefs and fishers. This meeting followed the FishFAD project’s virtual regional workshop and project steering committee meeting held August 18-19, 2020.  

At the retreat, the FishFAD project presented to the managers in attendance how they could incorporate FishFAD activities into their work plans and programmes. The retreat included a discussion on fish aggregating device (FAD) programmes in Vanuatu, which are a key objective under the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) and an indicator for productivity in the fisheries sector. By 2030, the NSDP aims to have 100 FADs in Vanuatuan waters that impact 1,000 communities.

Currently, more than half of the FADs deployed are lost or missing, due to severe tropical cyclones and other reasons. Overall, 70 FADs were deployed from 2016-2020, with only 19 FADs still active. This presents a challenge for the fisheries sector in meeting the 2030 target. To overcome this issue, VFD has requested assistance from the FishFAD project in obtaining a device that could accurately detect ocean surface topography; procuring tracking devices (using NEMO Software); and creating modified boat designs to increase production, provide safety and deploy modified Vatuika FADs.    

A meeting was also held from October 5-6, 2020 with provincial FDOs at the Vanuatu Maritime College. This meeting aimed to collect baseline information from each of the provinces on previously implemented activities related to FishFAD to identify any gaps to address in the project’s current work. The meeting obtained good baseline information, which will shape the project and key directions for its future work. This information can also be used to select suitable sites to implement FishFAD pilot projects.

Meeting representatives discussed the need to develop standard operating procedure guidelines and the FAD management plan, strengthen the fisherman’s association by setting up incentives and alternative revenue-generating activities, supply adequate tools for deployment, create modified FAD designs that can withstand multiple weather conditions, and provide safety gear and training for fishers.

These recent initiatives in Vanuatu address the first component of the FishFAD project: strengthening and developing community nearshore FAD programmes to provide improved access to high-value species.

The FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands is implementing the three-year FishFAD project, which the Government of Japan is funding.