The Pacific Islands region consists of 22 countries and territories in the central and western Pacific Ocean (Figure 1). The combined exclusive economic zones of these nations is about 30 million square kilometres which greatly exceeds the land area of 550 000 square kilometres. Consequently, marine resources are of considerable interest in the region.
Pacific Island marine resources can be roughly divided into two main categories:
Inshore resources: include many species of finfish and invertebrates. They are characterized by their shallow water habitats or demersal lifestyles, restriction of individual movements to coastal areas, and, in most cases, more restricted larval dispersal. Because of their relative accessibility, these resources form the basis of most of the region's small-scale fisheries.
Offshore resources: comprise mainly the tunas, billfish and species incidentally caught when targeting those two groups. They are characterized by an open-water pelagic habitat, potentially extensive individual movements, and wide larval dispersal. These resources form the basis of most of the region's industrial fisheries.
Figure 1: The Pacific Islands area
Source: SPC; the dark lines represent the SPC statistical area.
A wide range of fishing activities is carried out in Pacific Islands. In a recent study on categorizing fishing in the region (Gillett, 2005), some conclusions relevant to a study on industrial fishing were made:
The term "industrial fishery" is often used in the region and is loosely understood to mean offshore fishing in large vessels. A more encompassing and robust definition could be formulated in detail, but for the purpose of this short history paper, industrial fishing is defined as using large vessels, generally greater than 15 m in length, for fishing activity that is usually carried out in offshore areas. The present industrial fishing activity in the Pacific Islands consists mainly of three types of tuna fishing and shrimp trawling. Tuna fishing is carried out in all Pacific Island countries and territories, while shrimp trawling is presently confined to a few areas in Papua New Guinea. A study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB, 2001) showed that the industrial tuna fisheries produce about ten times the amount of fish being produced by all of the other fisheries of the region combined (shrimp trawling, inshore commercial, inshore subsistence). In terms of value, the tuna fisheries in the Pacific Islands area are worth over seven times that of all other Pacific Island fisheries together.