In the past two decades, there have also been significant changes in the pole-and-line and longline
fisheries. Pole-and-line fleets were established at various times in the 1970s and early 1980s in
most of the countries of the western part of the Pacific. This was primarily because of the live bait
situation – without sufficient live bait supplies, pole-and-line is not feasible and these resources are
more prevalent around the mainly large islands in the west of the region. The only pole-and-line
vessels based in the Pacific Islands at present are those in the dwindling fleet of ageing vessels in
the Solomon Islands. The decline of pole-and-line vessels has been due to a variety of factors,
Most of the pole-and-line operations were owned by government fishing companies,
which has proven to be inherently inefficient.
The baitfish situation was a major constraint at small islands (e.g. Tuvalu, Kiribati), and
limiting even at large islands.
Competition with purse seine vessels was proving increasingly difficult as those vessels
increased their production and tuna prices fell.
With respect to tuna longlining, the two most important changes in the Pacific Islands in the last two
decades have been:
The entry of vessels from China into the fishery. The number of Chinese longline vessels
based in the region increased rapidly during the early 1990s, peaking at 457 vessels in
1994. It is estimated that during 2004 there were a total of about 110 Chinese tuna
longline vessels locally licensed and based in five Pacific Island countries: Fiji, Marshall
Islands, FSM, Tonga, and Palau. Those in the Micronesian area target bigeye and to
a lesser degree yellowfin for the fresh sashimi market. Chinese vessels based in Fiji and
Tonga catch primarily albacore for the cannery market (McCoy and Gillett, 2005).
Figure 4: A tuna longliner leaving its base in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia
The development of domestic longlining in most countries. The 1990s saw the gradual
increase in the number of Pacific Islands domestic vessels, such as those from Samoa,
Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands. These fleets operate in
subtropical waters, with albacore the main species taken (Langley et al. 2003).
Chapman (2004) estimates there were about 1900 longline vessels operating in the region in
mid-2002, about half of which were based in Pacific Island countries/territories. Figure 5 gives the
industrial tuna catches by gear type in the region for the past several decades.
Figure 5: Industrial tuna catches in the Pacific Islands area, 1970 to 2003