Marine fishery resources of the Pacific Islands

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 537

Marine fishery resources of the Pacific Islands

Fisheries Specialist
FAO Consultant Lami, Fiji


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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2010


Gillett, R.
Marine fishery resources of the Pacific Islands.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 537. Rome, FAO. 2010. 58p.

This document updates and expands an earlier review by FAO of the marine fishery resources of the Pacific Islands (Gillett, 2005a). The Pacific Islands region consists of 14 independent countries and 8 territories located in the western and central Pacific Ocean. In this area, there are about 200 high islands and some 2 500 low islands and atolls.

The main categories of marine fishing in the area are:

  • Offshore (oceanic)fishing. This type of fishing is undertaken mainly by large, industrial-scale fishing vessels. Approximately 1 500 of these vessels operate in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island countries, mainly using purse-seine, longline and pole-and-line gear to catch tuna.
  • Coastal fishing. This type of fishing can be divided into three categories: (1) small-scale commercial fishing (also referred to as "artisanal"), which can be further broadly subdivided into those operations supplying domestic markets and those operations producing export commodities; (2) subsistence fisheries, which support rural economies and are extremely important to the region's nutrition and food security; and (3) the industrial-scale shrimp fisheries, which in the region only occur in Papua New Guinea.

The region's fishery resources can be broadly split into two main categories: oceanic (offshore) and coastal (inshore). Oceanic or offshore resources include tunas, billfish and allied species. They are characterized by an open-water pelagic habitat and potentially extensive individual movements. Coastal or inshore resources include a wide range of finfish and invertebrates. They are characterized by their shallow-water habitats or demersal life-styles, and restriction of individual movements to coastal areas. This paper discusses these two resource categories. Information is provided on the major types of fishing, the important species, the status of those resources and the fisheries management that occurs.

In general, the coastal fishery resources are heavily fished and often show signs of overexploitation, especially in areas close to population centres and for fishery products in demand by the rapidly-growing Asian economies. With respect to the status of oceanic fishery resources, it is clear that there is most concern with bigeye. By contrast, the skipjack resource is in relatively good condition, with the large, recent catches considered to be sustainable.


Preparation of this document
Acronyms and abbreviations


1. The Pacific Islands region

2. Fishery statistics in the region


Coastal fishery statistics
Offshore fishery statistics

3. Main categories of fisheries in the region


Offshore fisheries
Coastal fisheries

4. Coastal fishery resources


Sources of information on coastal fishery resources
Important coastal fishery resources
Important types of coastal fishing
Export products from coastal commercial fisheries
Status of coastal fishery resources
Management of coastal fishery resources
Some important issues relating to coastal fishery resources and their management

5. Offshore fishery resources


Sources of information on offshore fishery resources
Important offshore fishery resources
Important types of offshore fishing
Some benefits from offshore fishing in the Pacific Islands area
Status of the exploited offshore fishery resources
Management of offshore fishery resources
Some important issues relating to offshore fishery resources and their management


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of FAO.

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