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5 Regional information on women's fishing activities

5 Regional information on women's fishing activities

5.1 Regional differences in women's fishing activities

It is unwise to 'put on labels' and categorise local interest in fishing after a brief study; however there does appear to be a pattern. The recommendation that the consultant assess regional differences in Vanuatu as an aid to determing relevant assistance measures has been vindicated - even though time permitted assessment of only a small number of communities. The study revealed certain characteristics of communities, and using these as a guide, wise allocation of resources to aid women and inshore community fishing activities in Vanuatu can be made.

* people who have always lived on the coast of small islands are fishers

* people who live on the coast of islands which are large and/or have large areas of available fertile land are less devoted fishers

* people who have moved to the coast from inland are less often fishers

* people who have other means of food (?protein: beef, chickens) supply are less often fishers

* people who derive sufficient income from other sources (e.g. copra, beef, salaried family members) are less interested in earning income from fishing

* people who traditionally are not fishers are less interested in earning income from fishing

* in communities where certain tradition (custom) ways are strong - as expressed by women spending most of their time in tasks including gardening, carrying water and firewood, cooking and raising children - there is little involvement of women in fishing

* women who have many young children have little time for fishing

* a higher level of education of women in communities should not be taken as a basis for offering support in fishing ventures

* even where the optimum 'mix' of characteristics exists, there is no guarantee that communities will fish. Motivation is the over-riding factor to community involvement in fishing in Vanuatu. It often depends on short-term needs for cash

5.2 Differences by region

This section is compiled based on the information in Appendix Five, discussions in Vila, and readings. The quality of information obtained from communities varied with time of day in village, whether men were present at the interview, and the enthusiasm of the respondents. There are also large gaps in the area covered - for example, some larger islands such as Pentecost, Ambrym and Ameityum were not visited, and neither were the Shepherd Islands.

Policy implications of regional differences are noted in chapters 8 and 9. Additional information may be given here.

5.2.1 Torba


Banks people (Mote Las a, Mere Lava - at least) are good fishers and probably consume fish every or every second day. Everyone goes fishing. The islands are small. On Mota Lava there are no cliffs. Some other islands have cliffs which. inhibit sea access, and some have no airstrip. There are few plane services: Tuesday (to part), Thursday and Saturday are the main scheduled flights from Santo. Torres is serviced on a Saturday only. If there are no passengers or notified freight to collect, some scheduled arrivals/departures are cancelled. Freight rates are high: 140 vt/kg to Vila Shipping service appears irregular, with long delays between arrivals. Mota Lava has three motor vehicles.

Mota Lava has a very high population. Many Banks people have moved to live in Santo and Maewo. Recently a short tabu was placed on a stretch of reef.

The ground water on Mota Lava is brackish; collected from wells.

There are freshwater prawns on some islands. Seafood export are lobsters, freshwater prawns, coconut crabs to Santo (mainly). Problems with coconut crab conservation and freighting exist in Torres (destroyed if no room on plane).

There are no fish markets in Banks. There is no refrigeration and ice, irregular generator-supplied electricity.


There may be interest in preserving fish in some islands. People say that when cyclones hit, the fish disappear - but the consultant heard of previous failed ventures in drying fish in the province (reasons for failure not known).

Drying of trochus meat could be investigated.

Grow-out freshwater prawn farming could be extended.

Distance (therefore cost of training) is an impediment to developing ventures that require much fisheries supervision in early stages. The lack of facilities prohibits projects dependent on coolrooms, rapid freight and communication.

Investigation of domestic marketing activities would advantage Torba exporters. Some of the Banks islands (at least) are very attractive and there could be scope for tourism (Gaua certainly) which could be promoted to ecotourists. In any case, the Fisheries Department should not overlook the importance of supporting environmental awareness programs in the province

Support for better shell and coconut crab production should (continue to) be directed here. Improved handling practices for coconut crabs and lobsters would provide a basis for better prices (and therefore conservation of resources).

Beche-de-mer harvesting, and processing is a fishery which could be re-started once stocks are stabilised. It would need supervision by a trained 'quality manager' on each island participating, and good awareness of prices, collecting practices and processing techniques.

Training in business skills would be an advantage. The many islands invite an enquiry into the interest in setting up a cooperative marketing system. Access to raising credit would probably be difficult here.

5.2.2 Sanma


Reef areas are limited with deep water close to shore in many areas. The west coast waters are said to be very rough, and there are large rivers in south Santo. The main island has roads along the eastern half but the western half is unserviced (mountainous; and ha' a low and scattered human population). The south-east of the main island is service i well with planes, with freight rates from Torres to Santo and Santo to Vila both being 100 vt/kg. Shipping services are probably more regulregalar than to many other places. There is hydro-electricity in the south-east but only generator-supply elsewhere. The FTC currently is the only supplier of ice to fishermen.

There was no information on fishing activities on the west coast. People living on Malo and Aore islands may fish relatively often. In many communities outside of Luganville, Santo women are confined largely to their traditional roles and do not have much time for fishing. There are probably sufficient amounts of money coming in to communities from copra and beef to meet most needs in the short-term.

Luganville being on this island attracts a fair amount of industry and it has a very high human population. It acts as a service centre for northern Vanuatu. There are very poor people in Luganville and in some western and southern con munities. Luganville cannot get enough fish - much of the better quality product bypasses it for Vila where prices achieved are higher. The current failure of the fish market is a problem. There are reports of over-harvesting and some water pollution along the south-east.

The size of the island suggests that people are generally more comfortable with agricultural pursuits than with fishing. Some of the coastal communities are relatively recently established (inlanders).


There is need for awareness of sustainable fishing practices along the east and south coats - particularly with mangrou. Attention should be given to this resource - proper handling (including value-adding - drying) would improve remuneration from its limited season.

Picot and mangrou drying could be trialed with people in the south coast villages.

There is a convenient potential local market in Luganville. Rock salt is available.

Freshwater fisheries could benefit here: freshwater naura stocks should be conserved and ways of farming and handling prawns (e.g. in water taro paddies) should be investigated as a means of bringing more income (and nutrition) to bush people. The same can be said about the reported mullet, 'black loche' and tilapia - what is there?; what can be done with it? Reports that Ni-Vanuatu do not like the taste of freshwater fish may be just that. Is there a possibility that namarai grow-out farming can be trialled? Having access to the FTC is an advantage for running pilot studies of value adding techniques.

There is considerable need for better business skills among women: marketing, negotiating, credit and debit, profit and loss. There was particular interest in two villages for training.

As with the other provinces, a study to follow the domestic marketing chain of fish could result in better returns to harvesting communities.

The reported mudcrabs in the south Santo rivers could yield a steady, good income to communities there with proper resource management and post-harvest handling practices (see also Malampa province).

Net-mending businesses could be pursued but it appears that this market is already satiated.

5.2.3 Penama


Ambae and Maewo are very wet islands; maybe some of Pentecost is as well. Maewo and Pentecost and the centre of Ambae are mountainous. Roads are limited (and are hard to maintain in the climate) yet the three islands are in speedboating distance of each other. It is said that the waterway between Ambae and Maewo is rough in the dry season (?and Pentecost). Much of the coastlines is rough and not inhabited, and there are abundant rivers and streams (except in some rain-shadow areas).

Generators supply electricity to northern Ambae towns. The ice machine at Lolowei is not functioning. Airlines service Pentecost and Maewo several days each week and there are daily (not Sunday) flights from Longana on Ambae (freight 100 vt/kg to Vila).

There are very strong community cooperatives in Penama province.

Reports suggest that people on Pentecost seem to do more fishing than do other islanders, although the ex-Mere Lava residents of northern Maewo and Ambae may make a difference. There was not much fishing activity witnessed at Ambae.

Income comes from copra and beef on Ambae and appears to satisfy. The population on Maewo (particularly) is low; yet in north Pentecost it is high and there is emigration. It is mderately high on western and northern Ambae.

It is said that there are namarai and naura in abundance on Maewo, and that there are skipjack and other small tunas on the east of Ambae.


Inshore pelagic fish could be accessed on Ambae (?sell as tuna jerkey outside of the season, sell fresh in the season: would require marketing). Interest was also expressed in the bottling-fish preserving method. Pentecost has a tradition of drying fish.

A pilot grow-out freshwater prawn farming and eel-farming project should be carried out in northern Ambae, with stock supplied from Maewo. This location has several advantages, including the regularity of air services, flat land, access to stock and guidance (FTC a short flight away) and a strong cooperative spirit already existing in the communities

Another activity worth trialing (later) is doing 'something' with the frogs around the crater lake on Ambae: smoked frogslegs? Land crabs are also said to be plentiful most of the year, and their marketing can be enhanced by good post-harvest care.

There are one or two fishing ventures already operating in Pentecost and Maewo (this one is the grow-out prawn farm). Establishing and servicing a fish market on Pentecost has been identified as desirable

5.2.4 Malampa


Malekula is heavily wooded and receives high rainfall in the southern half (at least) but the north-east is dry in the dry season. Just-passable roads connect, communities on the east coast and there is a road going part-way along the north coast and one crossing the island to link up some west coast villages. The centre of the island is very rugged and little inhabited. There are numerous streams and rivers in the south. The north eastern islands are densely populated. Air services link Norsup to Santo about every day and there are less frequent flights to Lamap in the south and South-west Bay.

South-west Bay is fairly isolated. Air freight rates: South-west Bay to Santo is 100 vt/kg and Lamap to Vila is 80 vt/kg. There is an inter-island ferry to Vila.

Electricity (if it is available) is generator-supplied and not constant. Ice is available at

Lakatoro but the ice plant at Lamap is inoperable.

There are seasonal runs of mangrou and picot (south-east). The east coast has extensive rock/reef platforms and beche-de-mer and trochus have been periodically harvested. Eastern and southern Malekula is about the only supplier of mangrove oysters in Vanuatu.

While some west coast and inland Malekula, also Ambrym and Parma people are not noted for their interest in the sea (the coast is rugged?) the residents of Atchin, Wala and so on are good fishers. Many people traditional.

The Australian High Commission is supporting the development of a fisheries project on the Maskelyne Islands which will involve women (if it goes ahead).

Paarma is a densely populated island with emigration. I have information on Ambrym.


There was great interest for making dried and salted fish from mangrou and picot by almost all communities visited on east coast.

Freshwater prawn grow-out ponds should be trialed at Aulua village (river; large community; access to air service).

There is good potential for a crab meat market and stonefish fillet market from Lamap area once the freezer becomes operational.

Resource management practices should be encouraged with regard to mangrove oyster harvesting, beche-de-mer and trochus stocks.

The reef platforms and proximity to the Lakatoro ice could stimulate the development of niche fisheries - e.g. for smoked nawita, smoked namarai, seaweedSmoking of mullet was carried out in south-east Malakula up to about 10 years ago and the core of knowledge that may exist there could be useful.

Training in fish quality and product handling is needed.

Great need for training in business management, book-keeping, negotiation skills, group work, marketing and communication skills. As for all other provinces, checking out and stabilising the domestic marketing of fisheries products would probably act in the good interest of dispensing communities.

5.2.5 Shefa


This is probably the busiest province in Vanuatu. Efate is the home of the capital, and there are almost daily air services to Epi and Emae/Tongoa islands.

Efate at least is a relatively dry island and there are water shortages on the dry season on the offshore islands in the north. Some of the Shepherd I: lands may be similarly affected. Efate has no rugged coasts and few mountains. There is a complete road link.

Epi at least appears to be well-equipped with roads. Inter-island ferry services exist.

The heavy inward migration to Vila has brought pressure on the islands resources, especially around Vila. Vila has a very high population density and the cost of living there is very high. However, it is the centre of the government and as such provides a measure of sophistication and regular salaries to those lucky enough to be employed.

Urbanisation has influenced the outlook of some Ni-Vanuatu to rural dwellers and also the life styles of Efate communities. Whereas some goods are cheaper (e.g. eskies) than elsewhere, services (e.g. transport, market fees) are more expensive.

Electricity is available 24 hours a day in the capital and nearby villages, but electricity in some communities on north and east Efate runs on generators.

Many people go fishing in Efate and even more do in the Shepherd Islands.

Fish are marketed at Natal and in some supermarkets. There are no sales of dried fish.

There is a high tourist demand for fish products in Vila; and product is also exported from here. Probably a high amount of harvesting (over-exploitation?) takes place in northern and western Efate.

In Epi and Tongoa the sea is rough in some parts or seasons and this restricts fishing.

At Emae there is a sound fisheries co-management system operating.

Supply of foodstuffs is not a problem to people who have the money in Efate - and money gets to the communities via sale of product and remittances from salaried family members.


There is little interest from Efate village women in undertaking post-harvest activities on fish (many women don't have the time to go fishing). Also the price of tinned fish is probably cheaper than in outer islands. However, there is a need to encourage better fish handling practices, especially of shellfish

Environmental awareness and management programs should be commenced around Efate, at least.

Training in marketing, simple economics (supply and demand) and business management, book keeping and negotiation skills is needed. Efate is one island where trainers can go TO the people without much effort.

Marketing again is an important issue that should be investigated.

Efate (and Shepherds?) women may be more interested than some others in improving the shell products they sell to tourists.

5.2.6 Tafea


Five scattered islands comprise this province. Tanna is densely populated, and is the second most popular tourist destination after Efate. A new airport is being constructed at Tanna. There usually are two flights per day to Tanna from, Vila but other islands in the group are disadvantaged in air services. Shipping is also inadequate. While the air freight charge from Tanna to Vila is 80 vt/kg, so are those from the other islands to Tanna itself.

Many of the people on Tanna retain their traditional ways and education levels and business skills are lower than those in many other parts of Vanuatu.

Futuna has one small beach from which to launch boats, and seas on the eastern side are often rough. Erromango is a large,sparsely populated forested island, mountainous in its interior. Rocky reef platforms surround some of the islands, but on Aniwa and Aneityum (?) there are extensive reef areas.

There is a lack of water in the dry season at Tanna (and maybe Aniwa). There is clean, piped water in Futuna and clean water in Erromango. Aneityum suffers from some erosion and reports say the southern reefs (near Anelgowhat) are becoming over fished. There are small fishing ventures on Erromango and (several boats) Tanna.

Many Erromango communities get money from timber plantations, but some are poor. Tafea women - those on Aniwa, Futuna, Aneityum, at least - are said to be very active fishers. There are various tabus associated with women's fishing in each of the islands. Erromango, Aneityum and Futuna send lobsters to Vila and Tanna.

Beche-de-mer stocks are variable, although they appear not to have been tapped.


The handling of lobsters (and other invertebrates) should be improved. As elsewhere, an investigation of the domestic marketing arangements should be made.

Beche-de-mer harvesting and processing could be undertaken at Futuna and supposedly the other islands under guidance of a village 'quality manager'. Sustainable harvesting of sea cucumbers, trochus and greensnail (where applicable) would benefit from utilisation of the customary marine tenure tradition coupled with environmental awareness education. This is particularly so on Aneityum.

Ecotourism could be encouraged - probably on Aneityum, Aniwa.

Freshwater prawn farming (grow-out) may be possible on Aneityum

With the installation of a generator at Futuna and the construction of an ice-plant and fish market at Tanna, a regular supply of fish (protein) to Tanna could commence.

Regional freight rates are lower (than rates to Vila) and prices received in Tanna - because of the tourism industry there - would be less by a small amount then those on the Vila market.

Fish quality and value-adding training should be offered to community fishers on all islands. Business management skills are needed - especially on Tanna.

It may be that some islands could indulge in the production of niche products - e.g. dried trochus meat.

Rock salt from Aniwa and Futuna could be sold within the province.

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