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K. Swamy1

Ministry of Primary Industries, Fisheries Division, Lami, Fiji


Fiji comprises about 300 islands, and islets (approximately 106 inhabited), scattered in the area 15° – 23° S, 177 °E – 178°W. The main archipelago has a land area of approximately 18 333km2. The two main islands of Viti Levu (10 386km2 and Vanua Levu (5534km2) account for 87% of the landmass. The population in 1996 was 772 655. Fiji has a marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of about 1 260 000km2. Not surprisingly, marine resources play an important role in lives of Fijians, and in many coastal communities it is part of the culture and heritage.

Fish is one of Fiji's major export earners and Fiji's fisheries have been developing rapidly. Fisheries now contribute 1.2% of GDP (Anon 1997) and the Government recognizes the importance of the marine sector, which still has potential for economic development and growth, both to cater for local consumption and to earn foreign exchange. The industrial fishery concentrates mostly on pelagic species especially tuna and tuna like species. As for any commercial fishery, several species are taken as bycatch and some are discarded including most species of sharks. Some of the bycatch is retained for local consumption. However, in the case of sharks, the valuable fins are removed before discarding the carcasses.

The Ministry (Minister) of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests is responsible for fisheries. Within this Ministry, the Director of Fisheries oversees the work of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Fisheries Division is responsible for providing advice to customary fishing rights owners on their fisheries and issuing fishing licences to commercial fishermen. It is also responsible for enforcing fisheries laws inside and outside the reefs. Licences to fish in customary fishing rights areas are only issued to fishermen who have already obtained a written consent from the head of the relevant ownership unit. There are signs of over-exploitation of sedentary resources and several Customary Fishing Right Owners are already experiencing a decrease in marine resources within their qoliqoli2. Two types of licences are therefore issued: Inside Demarcated Areas (IDA) and Outside Demarcated Areas (ODA).

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests may make regulations under the Fisheries Act relating to management of fisheries resources which, after Cabinet discussion and approval, are promulgated by publication in the Fiji Gazette. The Fisheries Division relies on traditional administrators to take responsibility for the regulation of inshore fisheries while it concentrates on the deep-sea fisheries, mainly those for tuna and deep-water demersal fish. There is increasing emphasis on management and control of resources and acknowledgement of a need to encourage fishermen to fish offshore so as to preserve inshore resources. The broad objectives for the development of Fiji's fisheries sector are to:

1 The views presented in this report are those of the author and may not represent those of the Fisheries Division.

2 Qoligoli are customary Fijian fishing rights areas, i.e. areas reserved for local indigenous users. The Native Land Fishery Commission is responsible for their administration; 410 exist.

The Fisheries Division recognizes four primary sub-units of the fisheries sector:

Fish plays an important role in the lives of rural people and small-scale commercial and subsistence fisheries provide much of the protein consumed in the rural sector (Anon 1997). Rawlinson et al. (1996) found that over 50% of all households are involved in fishing activity and 99.3% households consume marine products at least once a week.

The shark fishery has its own place both within the artisanal sector where it may be small, but is important, and in the industrial fishery where it forms a major portion of the bycatch.

Many of the shark species caught are edible and have excellent palatable flesh if processed properly. Many of the larger species are suitable for shark fin and hide production. Squalene oil can be extracted from bottom dwelling sharks as well as some of larger pelagic species. Shark teeth and jaws of the larger species are used in the tourist industry.


2.1  The fisheries

2.1.1   Species composition of the fishery

Little is known about the shark resources of the Fijian region, as the shark fauna has been little studied (Nichols 1993) though they are believed to be lightly exploited (Richards et al. 1994). Until recently, reef fish was readily available, thus shark was not considered an important food fish. With the increase in population and greater ease of exporting there have been moves to develop shark fisheries both to supply the local demand for fish and to earn foreign exchange. Although shark forms a large part of the bycatch of the longline fishery, little or no consideration has been given to study of its impact on the shark stocks.

Over 40 species of shark have been recorded from the Fijian waters and are listed in Appendix 1. From the data supplied by observers on board local longline vessels, oceanic blue sharks together with oceanic white tip and silky sharks are the most commonly caught in Fiji's EEZ (see Table 1). Short fined mako shark, grey reef shark, and mako shark are also quite abundant and combined with the three species mentioned above form the major part of the bycatch. Hammerhead and white tip shark are quite common in the inshore areas and a few species also venture into the fresh water especially the larger rivers. Table 1 shows the species composition of the shark (bycatch) of the domestic long line vessels and shows that only a few species are retained while most of the shark species are discarded.

Table 1

Shark catches from domestic longline vessels based on observer data (Source Pacific Community)
Blue shark324202.52.434958662656
Oceanic white-tipped shark98145.60.7331698910452
Silky shark49168.60.37168486143363
Short fined mako shark38184.9.028534758393958
Sharks (unidentified)2093.00.152070855-5
Grey reef shark17148.70.13881276247124
Pelagic sting ray1746.50.132971596296
Mako shark10186.50.07505050302080
Long finned mako shark2198.50.01 100100--100
Rays skate & Mantas200.01 100505050-
Thresher shark300.01 100100---
Hammerhead shark12420.01 100100--100
Pelagic thresher shark100.01 100100---
Tiger shark12890.01 100100-100-

2.1.2  Associated species either as bycatch or discards

Since there is no shark fishery as such, there is no bycatch associated with it. Shark itself forms a major portion of the bycatch from the tuna longline fishery. Within the artisanal fishery, shark forms part of the incidental catch and some of it is landed, but most of it is discarded after removal of valuable fins. Sharks take a lot of space in the icebox, thereby occupying space that could be used to preserve target species (i.e. more valuable fish). Moreover, the vessels used in artisanal fisheries are too small to handle shark.

2.1.3   Distribution of fishery

Shark fins offloaded in Fiji come from the FFA region and are mostly landed by tuna longline vessels operating under multi-lateral agreements. Therefore it is not possible to pin point the area in which the sharks are being caught. The shark fins and shark meat landed by domestic longline fleets comes from the Fijian EEZ. Those sharks consumed locally come from the artisanal fisheries (see Table 1).

2.1.4   Discussion

White little is known about shark resources in the region, the shark fin industry is quite large in Fiji and the number of sharks caught from the region is quite large (Kailola 1995). Some information may be available from logbooks and this needs to be looked at. Although large amounts of shark are caught, only a small portion, including the fins, is used and most of their carcasses are discarded. And, as large numbers of shark are discarded by domestic longline vessels, a good source of protein is being wasted. At the same time, Fiji imports considerable amounts of fish for local consumption (MAFF Annual Report). Little is being done to study shark or shark stocks from the region and unless serious shark fishery is established, resources will not be diverted to study sharks.

Neither all the fins, nor all the sharks found in Fiji, are suitable for the shark fin trade. The skin of many species has been used to produce quality leather and the teeth of tiger and mako sharks, in particular, are used for jewelry while the jaws of larger sharks are cured and dried as curios. Sharks such as the thresher, mako and great white, are the targets of game-fishermen and with the increase in the tourist in the region, fishing pressure on these species will increase. Although game fishing is not very common it is developing in conjunction with the tourist industry.

For the last 10 years, interest has grown worldwide for the liver of deep-water sharks as a source of squalene, a fine oil used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Between 1985 and 1987, experimental fishing for squalene-rich deep-water sharks was conducted in Fiji waters, under the direction of Fiji Fisheries Division. The trials were suspended principally because of a decline in the squalene price.

2.2 Development of the fishery

2.2.1 Harvesting process

Sharks are caught by gill nets, set lines, ocean longlines and other techniques. Sharks are taken as bycatch from the pelagic tuna longline fishery. There are two types of fleet that offload shark trunks and fins in Fiji:

Longline vessels, which come to Fiji either for transshipment or for provisioning, offload shark fin, but in recent years some of these vessels also unload shark meat (trunks). The domestic tuna longline fishery is a recent development. Its vessels also offload shark fins and some domestic vessels also land shark meat as well. Most of the shark meat is exported and a small portion of the landings is distributed locally. Before the establishment of a domestic longline fishery in 1988, shark fins exported from Fiji came exclusively from foreign vessels fishing outside Fiji's EEZ.

In 1989, a domestic longline fishery started with few vessels, but the fleet has since grown to over 50 vessels. At one point more that 90 vessels were actually fishing using longlines in the Fiji EEZ. However, the fleet has stabilised at around 50 to 60 vessels.

Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) attract sharks (Anderson 1996) as well as other pelagic species and the Fisheries Division has a comprehensive programme to deploy FADs to divert fishing pressure from inshore areas to offshore areas. The extra FADs deployed under the CDF programme will give easier access to shark resources and thus shark catches (artisanal) are expected to increase. At present most sharks caught near FADs are not landed and are discarded or are discarded after the removal of their fins.

2.2.2  Evolution of catch

The reported catch of sharks in Fiji has been declining as has the price for shark meat, whereas fish prices (Table 2) have been increasing yearly. Despite this, there has been a wide variation in the quantity of shark fin exported from Fiji.

Foreign fishing vessels also unload shark trunks for export. Some of the domestic long line vessels also land shark trunks, which are mainly exported. In less than 5 years, the domestic landings of shark trunks have increased from 5 to 30t/yr (see Table 2).

Table 2

Weight and value of dried shark fin from Fiji for the years 1980–1997 (Fisheries Division Annual Reports)
Unit value/kg
198054.00(est.) 270.00(est.) 50

1 $F1 = US $0.53.

2.3   Marketing and production

2.3.1  Introduction

While shark meat is well regarded in many countries (e.g. Australia) and supports sizeable fisheries, it is not eaten in many parts of Fiji because of traditional taboos on its consumption. The exceptions to this case are the Rotuman and Rabi communities where shark is readily accepted. A small quantity of longline-caught shark, mainly Mako, is exported to Japan. Because of the high urea content of the flesh, which breaks down to produce ammonia, and the reduction of trimethylamine oxide, sharks intended for use as meat need to be bled and dressed soon after capture (Lewis 1985). Local market for shark meat is limited, but there is an export market for shark meat. Price seems the determining factor for the exploitation of this resource for export markets. Shark fins command good prices and the Asia market is able to absorb the local and regional production of fins that is offloaded in Fiji.

The shark fishery is comprised of two components:

Shark meat

Locals consume little shark meat, mainly due to the non-acceptability of shark meat. Rawlinson et al. (1996) surveyed thousands of households in Vitilevu and found that none of them indicated any consumption of shark at the subsistence level. Similarly, in Vanualevu it was found that few people eat shark. Several communities within the Fijian ethnic groups, which consists of 51% of the population, do not eat shark because of traditional taboos. In the Indo-Fijian community, which consists of 40% of the population, only a few consume it. The Indo-Fijian community considers shark as monstrous man-eating creatures and for this reason they have not tried eating them. Their non-acceptability is mainly due to aesthetic reasons. However, some traders sell shark meat under the trade name “lemon fish” without indicating the true species identity. Some small restaurants also sell shark meat and use it for ‘fish and chips’ without the knowledge of the consumer.

Shark fin

Fiji has been exporting shark fins to Asian countries for more than two decades. Previously, most shark fins were offloaded from foreign longline vessels for later export. This trend has changed recently after the development of the domestic longline fishing industry. At present some of the shark fin exported comes from Fiji's EEZ and is caught by local fishing vessels. However, foreign vessels still offload shark fins that are also exported. Table 3 shows the amounts of shark fins landed by local longline vessels for the last two years compared to landings from foreign fishing vessels.

Table 3

Shark meat and fin exported during 1996 and 1997 period
Shark meat exported127.0065.00
Shark fin exported223.3525.77
Local shark fin exported20.0530.97
Value of local landings$F1.18 M$F1.83 M

1Off-loaded from Korean longline vessels and exported to Korea andmostly comprised of silky white tip shark.
2 Off-loaded from foreign fishing vessel.

2.3.2  Local fishery

Subsistence fishing is very common in the coastal areas of Fiji. Rawlinson et al. (1996) found that at least one member of each family (from 86% of Fijian and 30% of the Indian households) carries out some form of fishing, mostly for subsistence purpose. Subsistence fishing in the inshore areas (artisanal sector) is as large as commercial fishing if not larger (MAFF Annual Fisheries Report).

Shark caught within the archipelagic waters by commercial and subsistence fishermen are consumed locally; however, shark fins from the local catch are processed and exported. Shark (meat) caught from the artisanal fisheries is mainly sold through municipal markets in urban centres. Butchers and fish outlets also sell shark but to a lesser extent. The artisanal shark fishery production and the selling price for shark meat are shown in Table 4. The value of the artisanal shark fishery is quite small and is also shown in Table 4. One of the major problems is that shark is not handled properly on board and fishermen are not aware of the proper onboard processing procedures.

Domestic longline vessels, land small quantities of shark for export purpose but some of their catch is consumed locally. These vessels are well equipped with icing facilities and the crew is well trained to handle and process sharks; thus they land good quality shark meat.

Table 4

Shark meat (artisanal shark catch) sold through municipal markets and other outlets (without gills and guts)
Shark meat price
Value of meat
Mean fish price

Source: Fisheries annual reports

2.3.3  Shark fin industry

Local Asian traders and a few foreign investors handle the shark fin business. Even after proper processing, the price for processed shark fillets is still very low and it is uneconomical for tuna longline vessels to retain sharks.

The data supplied by observers on local vessels show that shark forms over 25% (by numbers) of the catch and most of it is discarded. The crew is at liberty to process shark fins, and interestingly, the proceeds from the sale of shark fins do not go to the vessel owners, but are shared among the crew. All shark fins produced locally are purchased by local shark-fin traders. A wide range of prices is paid for shark fins that depends on the quality, type of fins, their completeness and moisture content. During 1997, prices paid to local fishermen ranged from $F20/kg to $F140/kg and the average price paid to the fishermen was $F60/kg. Shark fins are a valuable commodity and the amount of theft is quite high. Whenever fishermen are not able to properly dry their product, fins are sold as they are. This is mainly because fishermen do not want to take the risk of drying the fins ashore because of possible theft. Fishermen are paid a much lower rate than that for-well dried fins. Not only fisherman but traders too, suffer from high rates of burglary. Heavy security is required to safeguard the shark fin warehouses.

Most of the shark fin is exported in the same form as unloaded from the vessels, but some fins require further drying. However, one company further processes the fins before exporting, but the processing depends on the demand. The company is only able to process 30–40% of the fins. This is due to the small demand for the processed product from overseas markets.

Under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade agreement, donor countries grant preferential trade concessions to imports from developing countries, including Fiji. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia all import shark fins from Fiji and are donor countries; all are members of the OECD. These countries impose only a 10% tariff on imports from Fiji compared to a normal 25% on imports from elsewhere. For example, a Taiwanese vessel offloading shark fins in another country for shipment to an importing country would have to pay 25% duty on shark fins but only a 10% tariff on the same fins if offloaded in Fiji and re-exported.

To encourage foreign investors, tax concessions are available to those companies that export over 95% of their product. Companies exporting shark fins enjoy tax-free concession as they all qualify for tax-free status. Little shark fin is consumed locally.

2.3.4   Revenues from fishery

Shark meat fetches quite a low price in the local market and therefore the value of artisanal shark fishery is quite small as shown in Table 4. On the other hand shark fin fetches a high price and the value of shark fin exported is shown in Table 2. In 1992, exports increased dramatically to exceed the annual exports recorded in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is likely that this phenomenon is directly related to the recent resurgence of the domestic longline fishery.

During the period 1993 to 1997 it was not possible to estimate the value of shark fins exported because of the way the information is recorded by the Customs Department as shark fins and shark meat are lumped together. The values declared by exporters are always under estimated and in some cases are below the buying price. Since the commodity is auctioned, the exporter declares a F.O.B. price for the goods. If the auctioned price is above the declared price the nominated price is not adjusted. The authorities do not check on the price declared and assume that the declared price is fair. However, the price represents the lowest price paid for the previous shipment and is usually done to evade tax. However, the records kept at the Fisheries Division make it possible to calculate the value of the catch from the domestic longline vessels.

The resource rent is well defined in the Marine Spaces Act, and is 5% of the landed market value of the catch taken in the EEZ by foreign vessel, to which the licence refers. So far the government has not imposed this, so as not to dissude foreign vessels from entering the industry.

2.4  Economics of the fishery

While there is a market for shark meat, the price offered is not sufficient to motivate longline vessels to retain shark as it would occupy valuable freezer space. Since the local demand for shark is limited, market development of shark fisheries must target export markets.

Although the artisanal shark fishery is economically viable the market is small and so is the production. The entire earning from the shark fishery (meat and fins) remain with the fishermen. In the present market structure over 50% of fish and fishery products are sold by the fishermen themselves, therefore little of the total wealth is lost by the fishermen. The amount of shark meat sold through wholesalers and fishmongers is quite small compared to the amount sold directly by fishermen.

Although there is nothing such as resource rent the goodwill payment is in fact resource rent that is paid to the custodians for permitting commercial fishing in the qoliqoli. Apart from a small fee required to obtain licence to fish, the government receives nothing.

In the case of the industrial fishery, Kailola (1995) found that the Fijian Government benefits little from the shark fin industry. The main beneficiaries are the shark fin agents and vessel crews. At present, foreign vessels land over half of the shark fin exported and these sales are untaxed. Proceeds from the sales of fins landed by the domestic longline vessels are distributed among local crews; these sales too are not taxed.

Under the GSP, exports from Fiji get preferential treatment and pay an import tariff of 10%. Normally for vessels shipping directly to the importing countries a 25% tariff must be paid. The shark fin agents in Fiji get a 15% tariff saving by operating from Fiji. Apart from the “value-added” from wharfage, freight charges etc., the benefit to the country may be minimal, smaller than the 15% tariff savings accruing to the agents' total.

It is not possible to estimate the value of the shark fins exported and quantitative studies remain to be done. The value declared is a F.O.B price and it is usually an underestimate since the exporters are not aware of the price their fins will be sold at the auction houses. They are not able to give an exact value of the product until the product is sold. There is no requirement for exporters to update the Customs Department or Reserve Bank with the actual value of the exported items once it is known.

The income generated from the shark fishery compared to other fisheries is large and the returns to government in form of tax and resource rent are minimal. A resource rent is paid to the state on any natural (primary) resources exploited; be it locals or foreign owned companies. It applies to forests, mineral, oil and fishery. Resource rents are charged to other primary resources (e.g. timber) but fishery products have been exempted, though there is provision for charging a levy of 5% of the landed value of fish caught from the EEZ. Moreover, the companies exporting shark fins enjoy tax concessions under the TFF/TFZ. There is no export duty on fishery products. Providing security is probably most labour intensive work and may require more labour than the handling of the fins themselves. Except for the fishing licence, which is less than $F20/yr, the tax returns from the artisanal fisheries are minimal, as local fishermen pay no tax.

2.5  The fisheries workforce

Eight to ten companies deal with shark fins in Fiji and all operate in the trade free zone. Being small-scale operations the labour input is minimal and each company employs only 3–4 workers. Since the product is offloaded from the vessel in export form little further labour is required after landing. The shark catch is incidental and the labour required to catch and process shark fins cannot be justified as employed in shark fishery. The shark caught from the artisanal fishery is also incidental and no fishermen are directly involved in shark fishing. Overall the shark fishery contributes little to the workforce.


3.1  Background context

The government is concerned about the status of the inshore fishery as is clearly noted in the government document ‘Opportunities for Growth’ which states that “Signs of over-exploitation of sedentary resources, is one of the key issues considered in developing the objectives for the fisheries sector”. The assessment of these stocks is essential for the overall management of marine resource. The commercial fish production in the artisanal sector has stabilized around 4500t/yr and the subsistence catch at a little over 15 000t/yr (Anon 1996). The fisheries sector is seen as having the greatest potential for expansion within the next few years and it is expected that the fishing industry will make up the shortfall in the foreign exchange earnings from sugar sales expected by the year 2001. Further, the government also realizes that the lack of infrastructure, including jetties, slipways and repair factories (Anon 1997) is the major constraint on further development of the fishing industry. This has also lead to under-exploitation in certain areas where the required facilities are unavailable to support the fishery.

The main components of the policy and strategy for the Fisheries Sector, as stated in the ‘Development Strategy for Fiji’ are:

The development of the offshore fishery is being used to achieve some of the objectives and the government is providing tax concessions and other incentives to the private sector involved in offshore fisheries to encourage greater exploitation of the resources from the EEZ. This has led to the formation of companies under joint-venture arrangements to fish in the EEZ using longline vessels.

3.2  Fisheries within the context of national fisheries policies

The emphasis of the national fisheries policy is on the offshore sector, i.e. the exploitation of tuna and tuna-like species because of their export earning potential. Since shark is the major bycatch from this fishery any increase in the effort in this fishery would mean increased fishing pressure on the shark stocks. Moreover, the strategies for the fisheries development, especially for provision of infrastructure, will increase exploitation of resources like sharks in the near-shore areas targeted by small scale artisanal fishers and may lead to the development of a directed shark fishery.

The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forests is implementing a major resource development programme, the Commodity Development Framework (CDF). The main aim of this project is to exploit further the potential of the offshore and inshore fisheries. The CDF programme will spend over $F4 million by the end of the year 2000 to develop the fisheries sector. Although shark fishery is not specifically earmarked there are several projects, like FAD deployments, that will directly affect shark fisheries.

3.3  Objectives of management of the shark fisheries

In the past the main objective of the fisheries sector was to increase fish production and this has been described in the previous development plans. Given that the fish stock in the South Pacific region is least studied, TACs for any fishery are rarely available. To achieve the above objective, several fisheries were developed with no scientific data to evaluate their sustainability. Usually the ‘wait and see’ approach has been the most common way used to develop these fisheries. If no problems occur after a period; the fishing pressure is maintained at the same level, or may even increase, if the fishery is profitable.

Development of shark fisheries will be concentrated in the EEZ and shark resources are also greater in the EEZ compared to the inshore areas. It may be possible to develop shark fin processing in some of the isolated islands because the technology is simple, readily available and requires little, or no, infrastructure. The product has a long shelf-life and requires no refrigeration for preservation. And, as the outer islands have no reliable shipping services, only those commodities that can be stored for long periods without refrigeration are suitable for production in those areas.

Although there are no specific management objectives for the shark fishery, the broad guidelines for the fishery sector including those for shark fin industry are summarized as follows:

The government would like to develop the shark fishery and encourage longline vessels to land shark carcasses. This would supplement local protein supplies.

3.4  The objective setting process

3.4.1  The stakeholders

Inshore fishery

The Fisheries Act defines four main stakeholders but there is no provision for consultation on the development and management of the resources. In the qoliqoli the main stakeholders are the Fishing Right Owners (Custodians), fishermen (commercial), subsistence users and the State. In developing management plans for qoliqoli the custodians are consulted. Moreover, the custodians themselves dictate the terms and conditions of the usage of the qoliqoli. Interestingly, neither the commercial fishermen nor the subsistence fisher are consulted on the management, or the development of the resources in the qoliqoli. The two groups have shown little interest in the management of the resources. The small-scale commercial fishermen usually operate individually and subsistence fishers are scattered over a wide area, along the entire coastline. They also have shown little interest in the management of the resources.

Until recently, there has been minimal dialogue in regards to setting up priorities. This is well illustrated in the National Development Plans, which previously formed the basis of the major developments. These plans were virtually one-sided, with little consideration given to other stakeholders.

Offshore fishery

Within the EEZ the two main stakeholders are the State and the large industrial companies operating within the EEZ. Although consultations with these operators are not required, in recent years the Fisheries Division has consulted the private sector on some of the key issues.

3.4.2  The process

The objective setting process is quite lengthy. The Fisheries Division comes up with a set of objectives that are scrutinized by senior management of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forests before being sent to National Planning Office. These objectives pass through several reviews before being finally accepted. One of the important aspects of the objectives is to see how they meet the overall national objectives. These objectives must also conform to the Ministry's objective and be consistent with the corporate plan. Only in cases where qoliqoli are affected must custodians be consulted before the plans are prepared.

3.5  Discussion

It is now becoming a management goal to include stakeholders in the decision making process to give them a clear understanding of the management objectives and planning targets. Since the stakeholders are part of the decision making group it will also be easier to achieve management goals.

The national objectives usually give clear directions in developing fisheries policies and goals. Wherever fishing rights (within the qoliqoli) are involved, it is sometimes difficult to get clear direction from the national authorities especially when dealing with the compensation of loss of fishing rights and goodwill payments by fishermen for consent to fish within the qoliqoli. This is aggravated when disputes arise between the fisherman and the custodians.

In addition to his fishing licence issued by the Fisheries Division fishermen must pay ‘goodwill’ (a sort of resource rent but not defined in the Act) to the custodians. The goodwill is negotiated between the fisherman and the custodians and varies from area to area and fisherman to fisherman. The goodwill can be in the form of cash, kind, or usually both. There are no clear directives on the system and this can cause confusion and disputes between fisherman and custodians. Some qoliqoli have devised their own systems to make it transparent and fair to both parties and to minimize the occurrence of disputes.


4.1  Identification and evaluation of policies

The management and policy setting process is a two-tier system, whereby, the qoliqoli are managed by the custodians but development and enforcement of regulations are within the powers of the Fisheries Division. The management of the EEZ, however is solely the responsibility of the Fisheries Division.

Within the EEZ, the fishery property rights belong to the State, and access is limited to 80 vessels. Locally-owned vessels are given preference to operate in the EEZ over those of joint ventures or foreign-owned companies. Most management plans are developed without consulting the stakeholders, but in recent years dialogue has begun between the Fisheries Division and stakeholders in regards to management of the resources, especially quota allocation to local companies. The policy and the decision-making process for fisheries in the EEZ and qoliqoli are quite different and so are dealt with separately.


Within the qoliqoli, the property rights belong to the traditional custodians, usually clan “yavusa” or a sub-clan “mataqali” (Fong 1994). The custodians maintain that the resources belong to them and that they have total property rights over the resources. Previously, the Fisheries Division used to develop management plans for the fishery in the inshore areas but, this is now changing and many qoliqoli are now taking an active role in managing their own resources. The extent of the involvement of the custodians in the management of their qoliqoli depends on several factors.

Fong (1994) describes three avenues to the decision making process to manage the qoliqoli as follows:

  1. Through subsidiary legislation
  2. Through meetings between chiefs (custodians) and the Fisheries Division and
  3. Through the Fijian administrative structure.

The Fisheries Division can easily introduce a subsidiary legislation and this has been the most common practice so far. It is not necessary to consult the stakeholders and in many instances they are not consulted. As stated earlier the custodians (through their chiefs or representative) discuss and prepare management plans for their qoliqoli. The custodians may also take their causes through the Fijian Administration System though this may be time consuming.

Fishing grounds that are nearer to urban centres are in greater demand than those of the outer islands and therefore the management requirements for each of the qoliqoli vary. Traditional taboos such as a closed area after death of the chief of a tribe “Vanua” are management tools in place to conserve the resources. Modern management tools, some of which are implemented by the Fisheries Division, have already been adopted by the custodians and amalgamated with their traditional methods. The most common of these are gear restrictions, close areas and limits on the number of commercial fisherman that can operate on the fishing grounds. Some qoliqoli restrict commercial fishing, but others may allow a few fishermen to fish commercially, but they may impose restrictions on the use of certain gears. Therefore, there is no uniformity in management of fish resources in the qoliqoli areas.


Here, the licensing arrangements are the sole responsibility of the Fisheries Division although fishermen may be consulted from time to time. Lack of information makes it impossible to undertake cost-benefit analysis on any of the major developments being done in the EEZ.

4.2 Policies adopted

4.2.1 Resource access

Access to marine resources depends on where one wants to fish and for what purpose. Catching fish for subsistence purposes is a fundamental right of every Fijian citizen constrained by using fishing gears not restricted under the Fisheries Act. The conditions for commercial fishing in the qoliqoli areas depend on the area, the relationship of the fisherman with the custodians and the willingness of the custodians to let them use their fishing grounds. As mentioned in Section 2.4, commercial fishers pay goodwill but it is difficult to devise a uniform goodwill payment system for each qoliqoli. Moreover, two fishermen may pay different amounts of ‘goodwill’ to fish in the same area using the same gear. In recent years some qoliqoli have standardized their goodwill requirement (Fong 1994) so regularizing the system in some areas. This makes the system more transparent especially to members of the qoliqoli, so reducing, or, eliminating disputes. Within the EEZ, there are no restrictions on subsistence or sport fisheries. The commercial exploitation of resources within the EEZ is closely regulated and is discussed in detail later.


In theory, every citizen has access to fishing for personal consumption, however, in certain areas resources are only available to custodians and they may restrict others from exploiting the resource. The use of resources within the inshore areas is defined in Section 5, Subsection 3 of the Fisheries Act and states that:

“No person shall take fish in Fiji Fisheries waters by way of trade or business or an employee of a person carrying on the trade or business of a fisherman unless such person obtain licence to take fish provided that:

a) a person who takes fish with a line from the shore or with a spear shall not be required to obtain such a licence;…”.

A fishing licence is required to catch fish for commercial purposes and a written consent must be obtained from the custodians before the District Commissioner grants permits for commercial fishing. On the strength of the permit, the Fisheries Division issues a fishing licence authorizing the fishermen to operate commercially. Section 13 of the Fisheries Act stipulates the powers vested in the District Commissioner to issue permits for access to the qoliqoli areas for the purpose of commercial fishing and has powers to prohibit, or exclude, fishing for any species or even restrict the use of any gear:

“Provided that -

  1. … and
  2. any such permit may exclude fishing for particular species of fish or may exclude fishing in any particular areas, or may exclude fishing by any particular methods, or may contain any combination of such exclusion.”

The resource custodians charge goodwill for commercial exploitation of fishery resources from their qolqoli. The goodwill payment varies for each qoliqoli. Some fishermen may fish without paying any goodwill but may occasionally supply fish to the custodians. Some custodians may ask as much as $F100/yr plus provision of fish occasionally to custodians. The licence fees for commercial fishing is stipulated in the Fisheries Act, Part II and the annual fees are as follows:

The custodians themselves decide the number of commercial fishermen that can operate in any qoliqoli. There are no strict guidelines for determining the number of fishermen that can operate in any given qoliqoli. Moreover, information on the status of the resources in the qoilqoli, especially the TAC's, is not available and it is difficult to decide on the number commercial fishermen each qoliqoli can accommodate.


Within the EEZ, 80 longline vessels are permitted to operate in any one year and this quota may be increased to 150 vessels. However, at present, only 70 medium to small longline vessels are licensed to operate of which 47 are either locally owned or are under joint venture agreements. Most of these vessels fish for sashimi grade tuna. Information gathered by observers on longline vessels reveal that sharks form a major part of the bycatch. Under a multi-lateral agreement distant water fishing nations also exploit these resources, including sharks from the EEZ, and the administration of this is handled by the Forum Fisheries Agency.

The licensing fee for foreign fishing vessels is $F220/yr plus 5% of the landed value of the catch through the 5% levy has never been imposed as has been discussed earlier. Local vessels over 12m length and not operating in the qoliqoli must pay $F110/yr.

4.2.2  Gear restrictions

Inshore grounds

The fishing methods used in the inshore areas are numerous and vary from basic traditional methods such as bamboo traps to efficient gill nets or hookah. Under the Fisheries Act use of explosives and chemicals to catch fish is prohibited. Several qoliqoli restrict certain gears that can be used in their waters, especially gillnets which can only be used by the artisanal sector to catch sharks within these areas.

Offshore grounds

Drift net fishing is prohibited within the Fijian EEZ. Of the three main fishing gears, commonly used in the EEZ, i.e. pole and line, purse seine and tuna longline, only the tuna longline catch shark. There are no restrictions on the length of the main line or number of hooks that can be deployed. Rather the length of the longline and number of hooks per line is governed by the size of the vessel and the ability of the crew to handle it.

4.2.3  Vessel regulations


There is no restriction on the size of vessel that may be used to catch fish in the artisanal fishery. During 1996, 1596 fishing vessels of various sizes were licensed to fish within the artisanal fisheries for commercial purposes. However, the type of vessels used in the artisanal fisheries depends on where they fish. Most subsistence fishers use punts that are not motorized, but some use outboard engines whilst commercial fishermen use punts powered by outboard motors and dieselengined inboard-powered vessels. Those fishermen using punts with outboard motors are usually reluctant to land sharks because of the small size of their vessels and the dangers from large live sharks. However, those using inboard vessels sometimes retain sharks they catch if they are capable of handling them. Hence, the exploitation of shark depends on the type of vessel and the gear being used in the fishery.


Longline vessels operating in the EEZ have not fully utilized the available space and shore infrastructure (port capacity, processing capability and most importantly air cargo space) available at any one time. Given the available facilities, their quota allocation seems reasonable and more vessels could be handled. Since all domestic longline vessels fish for sashimi tuna, a fishery in which time is the limiting factor, no restrictions on the vessel size (GRT/length) have been applied. As the catch is below the TAC for the target species, the number of vessels allowed to fish in the EEZ may be increased in future.

4.2.4  Biological regulations

Since there is no shark fishery as such, there are no specific biological regulations in force and this also applies to catch quota allocation both within the qoliqoli and in the EEZ. The Fisheries Division has a preliminary catch quota (estimated with the help of SPC) for important species from the EEZ, but not for sharks.

4.2.5  Traditional taboos

Traditional belief is one of the main factors affecting the artisanal shark fishery in Fiji. Shark is considered as traditional god/spirit in many areas and those communities that have traditional ties with shark do not consume shark meat. With the introduction of Christianity, sharks are no longer worshipped as in the past, however, they are still believed to have certain powers by those communities that have traditional linkages to shark. On the other hand, many communities have no such restrictions on the consumption of shark meat. Therefore, any development of shark fishing in Fiji for local markets must consider these cultural aspects.

4.2.6  Discussion

As shark is not managed as a separate fishery in Fiji there are no regulations on its exploitation. Should a need arise, there is provision in both the Fisheries and Marine Spaces Acts to regulate this fishery. Until recently, Fijian shark catches were small so there was little concern for the management of these resources, but with the rapid development of the domestic longline fishery, the quantity of bycatch of sharks has increased several fold. This bycatch needs to be closely monitored and greater efforts should be placed on getting more information on the shark catches that could be used to manage the fishery.

There are several issues that need to be closely examined by managers of Fijian shark resources. Kailola (1995) listed several issues and constraints, which are still valid though and so far the Fisheries Division has taken little or no action at all. These include:

  1. The longline vessels do not land shark trunks and a considerable amount of fish protein is wasted. This could be easily tapped and processed to suit Australian and New Zealand markets where shark is readily accepted. Those vessels off loading shark fins should be enforced to land shark trunks, therefore making it compulsory for longline vessels not to discard sharks if they wish to process shark fins.

  2. No stock assessments have been done, nor are there plans to do such work in the near future. Once the stocks become too low it may be difficult to rehabilitate them.

  3. The local market for shark meat needs to be developed through the proper education of fishermen and the public. Improper handling of shark by the fishermen is one of the reasons why the consumers have rejected shark meat and this needs to be addressed. The processed product must be clearly labelled so that those who have traditional taboos are appropriately informed.

  4. Fishermen should diversify their processing to include shark hide and liver oil production. This would mean training fishermen in handling sharks as well as opening markets for the products. This will supplement the loss of income suffered by the longliners by keeping sharks in their fish holds.

  5. The ban on the use of gillnets in some of the more productive areas also contributes to the decrease in the artisanal shark landings. Sharks entangled in the gill net are usually dead before the net is hauled. The fishermen usually retain shark caught by gillnets because it is easier to handle dead shark on board their small punts. However, fishermen usually do not land live sharks especially if they are large and alive when retrieved with the gear.


5.1  Provision of resource management advice

Shark fisheries are governed by the Fisheries Act and Marine Spaces Act. As mentioned earlier, the Fisheries Act covers areas within the inshore including the qoliqoli areas, while the Marine Spaces Act covers all waters within the EEZ; the management and planning processes are different for each area.

Section 6 of the Fisheries Act gives powers to the Minister responsible for fisheries affairs to make regulations for the management of the fish resources and the relevant section as stated below:

  1. “ prohibiting any practices or methods, or employment of equipment or devices or material, which are likely to be injurious to the maintenance and development of a fish stock
  2. prescribe areas and seasons within which the taking of fish is prohibited or restricted, either entirely or with reference to any named species prescribing limits to the size and weight of fish of named species which may be taken
  3. prescribing limits to the size of nets or the mesh of nets which may be employed in taking fish either in Fiji fisheries waters or any in any specified part thereof
  4. regulating the procedure relating to the issue of the cancellation of licences and the registration of fishing boats and prescribing the forms of applications and licences therefore and the conditions to be attached thereto and
  5. regulating any other matter relating to the conservation, protection and maintenance of a stock which may be deemed requisite.”

Part II of the Marine Spaces Act (Management, and Conservation of Fisheries) empowers the Minister responsible for fisheries affairs to make regulations regarding the exploitation, management, and conservation of fishery resources in Fijian waters including those of the EEZ.

In the past the management plans were developed in isolation because resource ownership was considered the prime factor. This attitude is changing after the rapid development of the sashimi tuna industry. This industry was mainly developed by the private sector with little input from the Fisheries Division. The capital required for infrastructure development in the industrial fisheries also came from the private sector. To safeguard their investment, frequent consultation between the Fisheries Division and the private sector has taken place. This led to a participatory approach, which is now common. Although the suggestions from the users may not always be unconditionally accepted, they have an impact on the decision making process. The structure, shown in Figure 1, outlines the process used in dealing with management plans for the development of any fishery in the EEZ. The consultation path is depicted in Figure 2, which shows the steps taken when developing plans for qoliqoli.

The management and the development of fishery resources in the qoliqoli differ from that for the EEZ though the current status of the Customary Fishing Rights is not clear. The Custodians believe that they own the resources but under the Fisheries Act they only have user rights. Most of the custodians believe that the sole responsibility of developing and managing the resource within the qoliqoli is theirs but the Fisheries Act gives this power to the Fisheries Division to manage the fisheries resources. Custodians may develop management plans and later pass them to the Fisheries Division for formalisation. Usually the plans are developed by the Fisheries Division with, or without, the consultation of the custodians.

Figure 1

Flow chart showing steps followed in developing an offshore fishery plan

Figure 1

Figure 2

The main links in the development of fishery plan within the qoliqoli

Figure 2

The main government departments and institutions that are interested in the fishery management are listed below in Table 5.

5.2  Fishery statistics

5.2.1  Collection of catch and effort data

Tuna longline vessels operating in the region under the multi-lateral arrangement are required to supply daily catch records. Statistics collected via logbooks show that all shark species are lumped together but it may be possible to estimate the catch by species by using information gathered by observers on these vessels. From the quantity of shark fins unloaded in Fiji by longline vessels it seems that shark forms a major portion of discards. Fishery statistics, including statistics on sharks, are collected and compiled by the Fisheries Division from both the artisanal and offshore fishery. There are four sources of data.

Table 5

The main government departments and institutions involved in the fishery management
Fisheries DivisionAs managers of the resource
Lands DepartmentOwners of land below high water mark
Customs DepartmentExport/import regulation (tax collection etc.)
Ports AuthorityWharf facilities
Department of EnvironmentEnvironmental issues
Fiji NavyPatrol work
PAFCOPurchase of tuna for canning
NLFCQoliqoli management and ownership rights


All longline vessels licenced to fish in Fijian waters are supplied with logbooks which they are required by law to complete and send to the Fisheries Division. Vessels that do not comply may forfeit their licence; this is clearly stipulated in the licence conditions. The information recorded in the logbooks consists of estimates that are usually crosschecked with the unloading information. The information is kept at the South Pacific Commission, Noumea since the Fisheries Division has neither the funds, nor the personnel, to analyze the data. However, some information is used to compile the Fisheries Division's Annual Report.

Unloading data

Foreign vessels are not licensed in Fiji and a permit from the Fisheries Division is required to offload shark fins or meat and this can only be done at designated transshipment ports. At present, there are two designated transshipment ports: - Suva and Levuka. The Fisheries Division oversees the unloading and transshipment and keeps a record of species offloaded. The Customs Department also keeps a record of all unloading of shark fin and shark meat. The three factories process tuna offloaded by domestic longline vessels are they are required to provide a record of fish, including data on sharks, unloaded at the plants; these records must be sent to the Fisheries Division.


All fishery product exports must carry an export permit issued by the Fisheries Division. The Fisheries Division keeps records of all permits thus the Fisheries Division has records of all fish and fishery products including shark meat and shark fins exported from Fiji.

The Fisheries Division's fish production data

The Fisheries Division regularly monitors fish and fishery products sold through markets, roadside stalls and other outlets. Detailed monthly reports of shark landings for each division are available and are held by the Fisheries Division. The amount of shark landed in the artisanal sector is small and as they are lumped into a single group no species breakdown is possible.

5.2.2  Evaluation of the data collecting process

Log sheets

Logbooks are the most important source of data collected from fishing operations in the EEZ. All species of shark caught are aggregated and recorded as a single group. Some vessels do not record the weight of the sharks although there is provision to record both the weight and numbers. Apart from the target species (tuna and tuna like fish) recorded, provision exists for recording bycatch and incidental catch and some vessels supply reliable, detailed data. Moreover, regular observers are deployed and they too collect important information that could be useful in determining the status of the shark resources. The cause of the incomplete logbooks should be discussed with captains of the fishing vessels and the importance of such data emphasized so they make an effort to properly complete the forms.

Import and export data

Import and export data are kept at the Fisheries Division's Headquarters and are handled by a few designated staff. These data are not analyzed to any great extent except for those shown in the Fisheries Division's annual report. The export permit data that are supplied are usually an overestimate as the amount of product exported is usually less than that which is declared. The exact amount is only available after the consignment has been loaded. This information is not relayed back to the Fisheries Division and thus the database cannot be updated.

Domestic longline fishery

Under the Marine Spaces Act, every vessel licensed to fish in the Fiji's EEZ must fill daily log sheets and return them to the Fisheries Division. As the target species is tuna, vessel captains give greater emphasis to this species and information on shark is usually incomplete. Moreover, the department's main interest is also in tuna so there is no follow up about uncompleted forms. It was found that 10% of the vessels ignored sharks and lumped them with other bycatch, but over 70% of the vessels supplied all the required shark information.

5.2.3  Data processing storage and accessibility

Data entry

The Fisheries Division staff collects the completed logbooks and a copy is sent to the SPC for data entry and proper storage. In theory, the data should be readily available in Fiji whenever it is required, either as hard copy or in electronic form. However, the data are kept in Noumea and it may take sometime before the information is relayed to the Fisheries Division in Fiji. Some information is available at the Fisheries Division but is not particularly relevant to stock assessment.

Data storage

There is little conception of the importance of the historical data in the Fisheries Division, and little importance is given to the storage of data. The back up information is kept at the same place as the server and in an unlikely event such as fire, both the server and the backup copies would be lost. Fishery data are stored in either MS ACCESS or EXCEL.

Artisanal fisheries

Over 15 years of fish production data are available for the artisanal fisheries. These data were stored in Lotus 123. From 1995 the information has been recorded in MS ACCESS and is easily accessible to those who have access to the Fisheries Division's server. Some of the data have been converted to MS ACCESS. Because some of the information is still in Lotus there are some compatibility problems. Data entry procedures are customized including generation of reports, facilitating information retrieval, etc.

EZ fisheries

Import/export shark fin and meat products data are stored in an MS ACCESS database and this information is available to those who have access to the Fisheries Division's server. The information gathered from logbooks is kept as hard copies. However, some information is analyzed using MS EXCEL. It is expected that SPC will enter all the data from the logbooks and make it available to the Fisheries Division when required.

5.3   Stock assessment

5.3.1  Institutional capacity

Expertise in stock assessment is greatly lacking in Fiji. This has been aggravated by the rapid development of the fisheries sector. As mentioned previously, the government is emphasizing development of the fishery sector to generate export earnings. Since there is no requirement to carry out stock assessments and little emphasis is given to such work, it is seldom done. Moreover, the scarcity of funds, and lack of expertise in this field contributes to this neglect. Most managers consider stock assessment as the second phase of the development process whereby such tools are used to solve resource management problems.

At the regional level (for FFA and SPC member countries), the offshore fisheries, especially tuna and tuna like species, are studied and managed by the SPC on behalf of the member countries. The SPS advises on the status of the stocks and regularly update such information. Because of the nature of the oceanic sharks it would be appropriate to manage their shark species as regional rather than national stocks. Most common sharks caught in the Fijian EEZ have a wide distribution. It may be that the entire catch from the Southern Pacific region is from the same stock. For example, Fijian longline vessels have caught sharks tagged in New Zealand, which confirms the wide movement of sharks in the region.

5.3.2  Measures of stock abundance

The large decline in the shark catches in recent years is due to several factors. First, there has been a restriction on gill net fishing in the major fish producing qoliqoli. Second, data collected from the inshore fisheries are not designed for stock assessment purposes. The logbook data can be used to derive CPUE, but at present this is not done because, sharks are not considered an important fishery. Moreover, the quality of data supplied by the vessels is questionable. The fishermen assume that sharks are not that important which is evident from the incomplete logbook returns i.e. only a few vessels provide complete data on sharks. Data can be cheaply collected using logbooks and it is easy to obtain CPUE indices but, sometimes CPUE derived in this way gives biased estimates of shark abundance as the fisherman exploit those areas where fish are concentrated (Melita 1998). Given the financial backing for shark research, improving the quality of shark data via logbooks should provide useful information.

5.3.3  Provision of biological advice and the review process

In Fiji, limited personnel are available for resource management, stock assessment and to study population dynamics. However, it should be possible to get experts from the SPC to review stock assessment work. It is also possible to get peer reviewers from the University of the South Pacific, based in Fiji and from Australian counterparts, either through personal contacts, or through Australian Aid.

5.3.4  Biological management reference points

Since there is no TAC as such, shark biomass limits and/or reference points have not yet been considered. The data collected from log sheets on bycatch provide the only information that could be used for these purposes. However, as the statistics collected do not give information on species, the usefulness of these data has to be carefully assessed. This information coupled with observer data could be the starting point and the data from the artisanal fisheries could be used as an indicator, or a reference point, for shark stock management.

5.3.5  Sustainability of the resource

Within the inshore areas shark are quite common. In areas where bait fishing has been done by tuna pole and line vessels, the custodians have complained about the increased number of sharks in these areas. A bottom fishing trial carried out by a SPC Master fisherman within Lau Groups of Fiji during the 1981–82 period, found that over 40% of the catch consisted of sharks, mainly Carcharhinidae, Laminidae and Squalidae. In areas where gillnets have been banned, fishermen have experienced increased shark catches.

5.3.6  Discussion

The catch statistics on shark are limited for the region. Moreover, a considerable number of sharks are caught as bycatch, which are discarded except for their fins. There is no directed management as sharks do not form a major fishery except for shark fin processing. Little or no effort has been put into collecting relevant information on sharks. Sharks are given least importance within the region and in Fiji, sharks may not be studied in the future unless shark meat becomes lucrative enough for longline vessel to retain it. At that time it may be worthwhile to put more effort into improving the log book data system for catches.

5.4  The manager's perspective

The little information available on the status of stocks puts Fijian fisheries managers in a difficult position since sharks are not commercially important, except for their fins and the health of the stock is not considered a priority issue. A good proportion of the shark fin that is landed is not caught from local waters but comes from the high seas or from the EEZs of other countries; it is the management of local shark stocks that can only be considered by national managers.

5.5  User's perspective

As little or no interest is being shown in developing a shark fishery, there is little requirement or demand for management of present users. However, as the shark fin industry is important it needs to be regulated. Since there are only a few traders exporting shark fin, the management of this is much easier. Although most of the users are happy, shark fin traders and the crew processing fins are concerned about poaching and this issue should be addressed. The fishermen also lose much money by being unable to dry the fins properly before sale to traders.

5.6  Evaluation of the management process

At present, dialogue and consultation amongst stakeholders is minimal. Until recently, most of the plans to harvest the resources from the EEZ were developed by the Fisheries Division. The basis for this was that the government ‘owns’ the resources, therefore they should make the fisheries policy and develop the plans for the use of the resources. Since no data are available locally, the bulk of the information is acquired either from the SPC or the FFA. The consultation process now being undertaken is encouraging as the stakeholders are becoming involved in management decisions.


The Fisheries Act, Cap 158, Section 9, empowers the Minister responsible for Fisheries to make regulations regarding the exploitation of any fish stock. The Minister responsible for Fisheries is also empowered under the Marine Spaces Act, Cap 158a, Part II Section 13, to determine the Total Allowable Catch for every fishery within the EEZ. Further, Section 22 allows the Minister to prescribe measures for conservation and management of fisheries resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Since there is no serious shark fishery there are no specific regulations governing the shark fishery. As noted, should it become necessary to develop a management plan it should not be difficult to introduce appropriate regulations. Exploitation guidelines may be required should the shark bycatch from commercial longline fishing become excessive.

Enforcement of the regulations is vital to the success of any management plan but the Fisheries Division does not have the resources to carry out any major surveillance work. This is a major consideration in the implementation of any regulations.

As noted earlier, there are three ways regulations can originate but the Fisheries Division is finally responsible for submitting them to Cabinet through the minister. However, sometimes it may be necessary to use powers vested to the minister to impose regulations in managing fishery resources. The implementation of such regulation is through the Fisheries Division.


7.1  Legal status

The laws relating to marine resources in Fiji are enshrined in Chapters 158, 158A and 149 of the Laws of Fiji. Chapter 158, the Fisheries Act, recognizes the Fijian people's customary right to fish in traditional fishing grounds (qoliqoli), and allows the owners of customary fishing rights to advise the District Commissioner and the Fisheries Division which commercial fishermen shall be allowed to fish in their area and to impose restrictions on commercial fishing. Two different Acts govern the fishery resources (one for qoliqoli and one for EEZ) therefore the law enforcement requirement is different for each area as described below.

Inshore fishery

The ownership of the fishery resources is not clearly defined (Fong 1994) but the rights to use the resource by qoliqoli owners (custodians) is well established in Section 17 of the Fisheries Act. Not only the ownership but the exploitation of the resources by others for commercial purpose is also clearly spelt out. The procedure for the commercial exploitation of the resources from the qoliqoli is described in Section 3.2.1.

Offshore fishery

Section 9, Subsection 2 of Marine Spaces Act defines the legal character of the marine spaces as follows:

“Within the exclusive economic zone Fiji has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters.”

The minister for fisheries affairs is responsible for the management of fisheries resources in the EEZ as stipulated in Part 3, Section 12 of the Marine Spaces Act.

7.2  Enforcement problems

Scarcity of funds, limited manpower and lack of a well-equipped patrol vessel are the main reasons for inadequate policing of the fishing grounds. With limited funds, and such a large sea area to be covered, no serious patrol work has been done. In recent years several fish wardens have been appointed to patrol their qoliqoli. Under Section 3 of the Fisheries Act the Minister has powers to appoint fish wardens. The powers of fish Wardens are defined in Section 7 and are the same as a licenced officer, police officer, customs officer or any other officer empowered by the minister. With a good network of fish wardens it may be possible to police the qoliqoli at a minimal cost to the government. Such wardens not only apprehend those breaching the Fisheries Act, but also safe guard their own resources.

Fong (1994) states that the system of honorary fish wardens is not very effective because the wardens are not paid for their work. Moreover, they do not receive any assistance with equipment or vessels and they are not reimbursed for the expenses incurred during their patrol work. She claims that there are reports of bribery among some of the wardens. Since the wardens are from the same areas they police, there may be difficulties in apprehending relatives or friends breaching the Fisheries Act.

The penalties for breaching the Fisheries Act, or regulations, are small and therefore do not deter others from offending. The Fisheries Division usually warns offenders and lets them go because the time and effort required to prosecute offenders does not justify the penalty imposed.

The policing and the enforcement of the regulation also lie with the Fisheries Division. The Fisheries Division has neither the resources to patrol the large EEZ nor the funds to carry out such a massive operation. The Fiji Navy has been patrolling the EEZ, but because of its tight budget the Navy finds it difficult to carry out completely effective surveillance.

7.3  Surveillance

Fiji has a huge maritime zone and it is difficult to police the entire EEZ. The Fijian Navy therefore does the surveillance work within the EEZ. The Fiji Navy has a surveillance centre equipped with patrol vessels capable of covering the entire area. The Navy covers the major cost of the surveillance work, however, this cost is increasing rapidly and it is getting difficult to get sufficient funds to cover the entire area. With the scarcity of funds the Navy is also finding difficulties in carrying out regular patrol work (Fiji Times, 22/2/98) but surveillance work can still be done using other means. From time to time air surveillance is also carried out. This air surveillance is done through programmes with the French, Australia and New Zealand Air Forces.

7.4  The legal process

The ultimate power to convict offenders rests with the courts. The accused are innocent until proven guilty and have the right to appeal. People contravening or committing any offense against the Fisheries Act shall be liable for imprisonment up to 3 years or a fine not exceeding $F5000, or both. On the other hand, contravening the Marine Space Act can result in a fine not exceeding $F100 000.


8.1  Profitability of the fishery

Fiji is recognized as the ‘shark fin capital of the Pacific’ mainly due to a package of advantages including the Generalized System of Preferences trade agreement, presence of agents, convenient and cheap provisioning for fishing vessels, and its geographical position (Kailola 1995). As noted earlier the shark fin business should be examined separately to that of the shark meat fishery as the economics of the two fisheries are different.

Artisanal fisheries

It is important to understand the fish distribution pattern in the artisanal fisheries because it governs the economics and profitability of the fishery. Shark is usually sold through municipal markets and roadside stalls by fishermen and may also be sold through other retailers. The fishermen deal directly with retailers and there are no wholesalers in the marketing and distribution of fish in Fiji. This also applies to shark caught from the artisanal fisheries. Thus the distribution of revenues is limited to fishermen and fish retailers. Fishermen get 70–80% of the final revenues, fish retailers get 20–30%. This system benefits local fishermen since only two parties share the proceeds and the fishermen tend to get higher returns for their catch. Shark fin from the artisanal fishery are processed by the fishermen and directly sold to the exporters.

EEZ fisheries

In the case of the shark fin industry, crews of foreign vessels deal directly with the exporters therefore the revenues are divided between the crews and the exporters. The distribution of revenues from shark fins landed by local vessels differs. Although the fishermen directly deal with the exporter the price they receive varies a lot. The fins supplied by local fishermen usually are not properly processed; thus, the returns to the local fishermen are lower because part of the processing is done by exporters.

8.2  Issues of equity and efficiency

Policies that affect the shark fin industry need to be re-examined as the economic gain to the government is minimal; the distribution of the wealth generated is an associated factor. The management plan of the artisanal fishery has much wider impact on the stakeholders than that of the industrial fisheries. The artisanal fishery represents a much wider cross section of small-scale fisher community. Any management plan for the shark fisheries will have a limited effect on the artisanal fishers as few of them rely on shark fishing. The industrial fishery also does not rely on shark fishing and only the crew members are affected. On the other hand any plan that includes issues of bycatch should be discussed with the longline operators as it will affect the sashimi tuna industry.


The management regime for the artisanal fisheries and the industrial fisheries differ so the cost of managing the resources in the different areas differs too. Most of the cost in managing the artisanal fisheries and the industrial fisheries is borne by the government. Since the management of the two areas are different they are considered separately.

Artisanal fisheries

Resource users in the artisanal fisheries, including the subsistence fishers, are numerous and scattered over the entire group. Thus, the user pay concept of managing the resources may not be feasible. Moreover, the right to use the resources belongs to the qoliqoli though the resources are owned by the state, so it is difficult to decide who should bear the cost of resource management. It is a common view among the qoliqoli owners that these costs are the responsibility of the government. It is now becoming apparent both to the custodians as well as the Fisheries Division that there is an urgent need to carry out stock assessment of the inshore fisheries, but the government does not have funds to carry out this with limited resources.

However, some of the costs, especially patrolling and the enforcement of the regulations, are partly borne by the members of the qoliqoli through a network of honorary fish wardens who have similar powers as Fisheries Officers. But the fishing licence fee discussed in Section 4.2.1 barely is enough to cover the administration cost of issuing a licence. Moreover, there is no provision in the Fisheries Act to recover management costs.

Industrial fisheries

The cost of managing the EEZ fisheries is entirely borne by the government as the licensing fee just covers administration costs. The fisheries within the EEZ are fished by less than 80 vessels registered in less than two dozen companies. The industrial fishers neither pay any resource rent nor any tax, since they enjoy tax-free status; thus they enjoy more benefits than the artisanal fishers.

The Pacific Community mostly does the research and stock assessment work at the regional level. The major stock assessment research relies on the availability of funds from donor agencies. Surveillance and enforcement of regulations is done by government agencies, at times assisted by Australian and French governments. As the government is trying to expand the offshore fishery any levy on the fishing vessels or the fishing companies would be detrimental to the fishery's expansion.


Many people were consulted during the study and it is not possible to list them all. However, I would like to thank Peter G. Williams, database supervisor at the SPC, Noumea for providing information on the shark catches from the Fijian Domestic longline vessels. I would also like to thank A. Raiwalui of Fiji Fisheries Division for providing the import/export data. Thanks also to Ms Singh for reading through the manuscript and making some valuable suggestions. Several local fishermen and shark fin traders were consulted and their contribution is appreciated.


Anderson, J. and P.D. Gates 1996. Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Manual, Vol 1. SPC Noumea, 46pp.

Anon 1997. Strategic planning for sustainable development to year 2000, National Planning Office, Fiji. Government Printer. pp 81–84.

Anon. Annual Report Fisheries Division, Fiji, years 1980 – 96.

Anon 1993. Opportunities for Growth: Policies and Strategies for Fiji in Medium Term. National Planing Office.

Fiji Fisheries Act, 158, Rev. 1985.

Fiji Marine Spaces Act, 158a Ed. 1978.

Fong, M. Gracie 1994. Case Study of a traditional marine management System: Sasa village, Macuata Province, Fiji. FAO Field Report 94/1.

Kailola, J.P. 1995. Review of policies and initiatives to enhance fisheries management and development in Fiji.. A report prepared for Government of Fiji. FAO Tec. Rep.3. 105pp.

Lewis, A.D. (ed.). 1985a. Fishery resource profiles: information for development planning. Fisheries Division, Ministry of Primary Industries, Suva, Fiji: 90p. (Partially updated in 1988).

Nichols, P.V. 1993. Sharks. In: A. Wright and L.Hill (eds.). Nearshore Marine Resources of the South Pacific. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara/Institute of Pacific Studies, Suva. 285–327.

Rawlinson, N.J.F, D.A. Milton S.J.M. Blaber, A. Sesewa and S.P. Sharma. A Survey of the Subsistence and Artisanal Fisheries in the Rural Areas of Viti Levu, Fiji. ACAIR Monograph No. 35, 138pp.

Richards, A., S. Sharma, K. Swamy 1994. Fiji Fisheries Resource Profile Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. FFA Rep. 94/4 11p + figures.

Samoilys, M. (Ed.) 1997. Manual for Assessing Fish Stocks on Pacific Coral Reefs. DPI, Training Series QE9700.


List of known sharks from Fijian waters
(List provided by J. Seeto, University of the South Pacific)

Species nameCommon name
Heptranchias perlo 
Hexanchus griseusBlunt nose sixgill shark
Hexanchus vitulus 
Nebrius concolor 
Stegostoma fasciatumLeopard shark
Carcharhinus albimarginatusSilvertip Shark
Carcharhinus amblyrhynchosGrey reef shark
Carcharhinus cautusNervous Shark
Carcharhinus falciformisSilky Shark
Carcharhinus leucas*Bull Shark
Carcharhinus limbatus*Blacktip
Carcharhinus longimanusOceanic White tip shark
Carcharhinus melanopterusBlack tip reef shark
Carcharhinus obscurus*Dusky shark
Carcharhinus sorrahSpot tail shark
Carcharhinus plumbeus (?)Sandbar shark
Galeocerdo cuvierTiger shark
Negaprion acutidensSicklefin lemon shark
Prionace glaucaBlue shark
Triaenidon obseusWhite tip reef shark
Hemitriakis japanicaJapanese Lopeshark
Mustelus manazoStarspotted smooth-hound
Carcharodon carcharias 
Isurus hastalis 
Isurus oxyrhynchus*Shortin mako
Isurus paucus 
Rhiniodon typusWhale shark
Pseudocarcharias kamoharai 
Alopias supercilliosus 
Alopias pelagicusPelagic thresher
Alopias vulpinus 
Cephaloscyllium isabella 
Sphyrna lewiniScallopped hammerhead
Sphyrna mokarran*Great hammerhead
Sphyrna zygaenaSmooth hammerhead
Centroscyllium granulosum 
Centroscyllium spp. 
Centrophorus moluccensis 
Etmopterus brachyurus 
Euprotomicrus bispinatus 
Isistius brasiliensisCookie cutter shark
Squalus japonicusShort spine spurdog
Squalus megalops 
Echinorhinus brucus 
Echinorhinus cookei 

* Species suitable for hide production


List of highly migratory species as listed under Marine Spaces Act (Cap 158a)
as Appendix 1

  1. Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis)
  2. Yellofin (Thunnus albacares)
  3. Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
  4. Albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga)
  5. Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus macoyii)
  6. Little tuna (Euthynnus alletteratus)
  7. Frigate tuna (Auxis spp.)
  8. Butterfly mackerel (Gasterochisma melampus)
  9. Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri)
  10. Lancetfish (Alpisaurus)
  11. Marlins (Tetrapturus spp., Makaira spp.)
  12. Sailfish (Istiophorus spp.)
  13. Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
  14. Pomfrets (Bramadae)
  15. Dolfin fish (mahi mahi), (Coryphaena spp)
  16. Oceanic shark (Hexanchidae Alopiidae, Carcharhinidae, Sphyrnidae, Isuridae, Cetorhinus maximus, Rhinocedon typus)

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