Spearfishing in the Pacific Islands

FAO/FishCode Review No. 19

Spearfishing in the Pacific Islands
Current Status and Management Issues


Rome, 2006

Table of Contents

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ISSN 1728-4392

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This report was prepared by Robert Gillett and Wayne Moy, on the initiative of the Secretariat of the Pacific Commission (SPC) and with the support of the FAO FishCode Programme, under Project GCP/INT/823/JPN, “Responsible Fisheries for Small Island Developing States”. The document presents the findings of the SPC/FAO-FishCode Pacific Islands Spearfishing Study, including a review of spearfishing in selected countries, the major problems related to spearfishing and possible interventions to mitigate such problems in the Pacific Islands countries.

The FishCode Review series publishes results of studies, missions, consultations, workshops, meetings and other project activities undertaken through the Programme, in furtherance of the objective of facilitating implementation of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related international fisheries instruments and plans of action. Individual issues in the series are distributed to appropriate governments, regional bodies, meeting participants and Programme partners. For further information on Programme background, publications and activities, please consult the Web site at http://www.fao.org/fi/fishcode.htm

Gillett, R.; Moy, W.
Spearfishing in the Pacific Islands. Current status and management issues.
FAO/FishCode Review. No. 19. Rome, FAO. 2006.72p.


Spearfishing is growing in importance in the Pacific Islands. While its management has featured as a topic in some regional-level meetings, detailed information on spearfishing is surprisingly scarce. In early 1994, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) proposed to consolidate information on spearfishing in the Pacific Islands. The original intent was to undertake a review of the available literature through a desk study. With the realization that many issues related to spearfishing are undocumented, the strategy was changed to include some field work. These activities were supported by the FAO FishCode Programme.
This report reviews spearfishing in selected Pacific Island countries and identifies the important species caught by and the major problems associated with the method. It further considers possible interventions to mitigate these problems and the assistance that is likely to be required by Pacific Island countries in the management of their spearfisheries. Visits to five countries undertaken during the study show that there are very large differences between countries, and between locations within a single country, in the level and type of spearfishing activities. General conclusions on the management of spearfishing include: (a) for several reasons, a complete ban of scuba spearfishing coupled with effective enforcement is the single most important spearfishing management measure; (b) spearfishing effort must be managed along with other forms of inshore fishing, since attempts at restricting spearfishing alone are not likely to be successful as fishing effort may be easily transferred to other small-scale fishing methods; and (c) in the management of inshore fisheries, including that of spearfishing, interventions must be formulated, initiated and enforced at the local level, preferably with some assistance from the national level.

Keywords: coastal fisheries; marine fisheries; small-scale fisheries; traditional rights; small island developing States; South Pacific, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

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