April 2002


Commercial fish landings in Nauru mainly take place at the Boat Harbour (southwest coast), the Gabrab Channel (southwest coast) and the Anibare Channel (east coast), in roughly equal proportions. Landings by diving, reef gleaning and rod fishing on the reef take place all around the coast.

Estimated landings by principal site (tonnes)










Boat Harbour





Gabrab Channel





Anibare Channel















The large amount of tuna caught by foreign fishing vessels in the Nauru zone, about 41,000 mt in 1999, is all landed outside of Nauru.  Sixty per cent of the fish in 1999 was taken by Taiwanese and Korean purse seiners and was transshipped to canneries in either Asia or American Samoa. The Japanese catch, about 15%, was landed in Japan while the US catch, 15%, was taken directly to American Samoa.


The Nauru Government’s broad objectives and strategies for the development of the fisheries sector are given in the document National Fisheries Development Strategy 1996 – 2001.  With respect to fisheries management, several points should be noted. The document has been “approved in principle” but not formally adopted by the Nauru government. Although it is a “development” strategy other facets of government intervention in the fisheries sector are covered in the document. As such, it is the best available indication of government policy with respect to fisheries management. 

Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority is a new entity. The NFMRA was formed and has evolved during a period when the country was facing large financial problems, the demise of the foundation of its economy, and a bleak economic future. In such circumstance it is understandable why government’s fisheries agency is largely development oriented.  Non-development interventions by the government in the fisheries sector are minimal.   

Broad objectives

Under the Fisheries Act 1997, the general objectives of fisheries management in Nauru are “the sustainable utilisation of the fisheries and marine resources of Nauru to achieve economic growth, improved social standards, improved nutritional standards, human resource development, increased employment and a sound ecological balance”.

National Fisheries Development Strategy 1996 – 2001 gives as objectives:

  • Revenue generation

  • Provision of employment

  • Establishment of a local fish market

  • Improvement of nutrition standards

  •   Establishment of effective conservation measures

  • Promotion of aquaculture

  •    Establishment of participation in regional fisheries activities and taking advantage of regional fisheries development resources

  • Promotion of other activities related to fisheries and the marine environment  

Overview of government management strategy

Government fisheries management strategies have not been specifically articulated. Some indication of strategies can be obtained from the list of planned activities of the NFMRA in the National Fisheries Development Strategy 1996 – 2001. One of the eight priority activities in the Strategy is the review and updating of the legislation for fisheries to incorporate the developments in the region and to ensure the effective protection from over-exploitation of the fishery resources and the marine environment.  

A new strategic plan for the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority covering the years 2001 to 2006 is under preparation. Nauru fisheries officials anticipate that one of the four focus areas will be conservation, specifically the establishment of marine protected areas and drafting of inshore marine conservation legislation.  

Although present fisheries management is minimal, the Fisheries Act 1997 provides for such action.  The Minister can prohibit fishing or a fisheries activity in several ways. These include prohibitions by species, sub-species, class or type of fish, method, time, date, season, period, and other ways.  The regulations list as offences driftnet fishing, use of explosives and poison, use of fish aggregating devices, importation of live fish without permission and the sale of fish in breach of any notice. 

The Fisheries Act also provides for “fisheries strategies”. According to the Act, the NFMRA may draw up a Fishery Strategy for any fishery.  A Fishery Strategy should:

  • identify the fishery and its characteristics, including its current state of exploitation; and

  • specify the objectives to be achieved in the management of the fishery; and

  • identify any possible adverse environmental effects of fishing operations in the fishery, together with proposals for the management of those effects; and

  • specify the management and development strategies to be adopted for the fishery; and

  • ascertain precautionary reference points for the fishery, in accordance with internationally accepted principles, which can be used to trigger pre-agreed conservation and management action in relation to the fishery; and

  • specify the limitations, if any, to be applied to the issue of licences in respect of the fishery; and

  • specify, in international units appropriate to the type of fishing, and in accordance with any relevant international, regional or sub-regional agreement, the amount of fishing, if any, to be allocated to foreign fishing boats; and

  • specify the statistical and other data required to be given or reported for effective management and development of the fishery.  

Description of main management systems for major fisheries

The government interventions in the fisheries sector are largely limited to action for obtaining government revenue from the foreign offshore fisheries and measures to facilitate domestic fisheries development.  It is therefore difficult to categorize any fisheries management in Nauru into systems with associated objectives, strategies, and measures. Some observations can, however, be made on the offshore tuna fishery management. Only limited comments can be made on any inshore fisheries management.   
Offshore tuna fishery 

The offshore tuna fishery in Nauru is based on three tuna species: Skipjack tuna Katsuwonus pelamis, Yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares, and Bigeye tuna Thunnus obesus. The three tuna species are also covered under several regional management agreements and soon to be covered under one international management arrangement. The regional management agreements are:

  • the Harmonized Minimum Terms and Conditions for Foreign Fishing Vessel Access;

  • the Wellington Convention for the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets in the South Pacific;

  • the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the South Pacific Region;

  • the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Management of Fisheries of Common Concern;

  • the Palau Arrangement for the Management of the Western Pacific Purse Seine Fishery; and

  • the FSM Arrangement for Regional Fisheries Access. 

Nauru is a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, but the convention is not yet in force, nor have the details of management mechanisms been articulated.

According to National Fisheries Development Strategy 1996 – 2001, the objectives of management of the offshore tuna fishery are:

  • To earn revenue for the country;

  • To effectively conserve the fishery resource 

The strategy could be thought of as having three major components:

  • Bilateral and multilateral licensing agreements with the licensed fleets;

  • The use of the government owned 18 m longliner for opportunistic surveillance and enforcement;

  • Regional cooperation in the management, especially through the Palau Arrangement which limits tuna purse seine effort.

Measures applied consist of the requirement for all fishing vessels to have a valid license.  The measure appears to be successful as Nauru obtained about US$3.4 million in access fees from foreign fishing vessels in 1999.  This equates to about 15% of the GDP of Nauru. 

Nauru has limited capability to enforce the management measures.  The government 18 metre catamaran longliner, Victor Eoaeo II, is used on an opportunistic basis for surveillance/enforcement purposes. It has been successful in apprehending a US purse seine vessel fishing illegally inside the 12 mile zone. Some enforcement assistance is provided by military aircraft from Australia and New Zealand.  Under the Niue treaty, Patrol vessels from neighboring countries are able to carry out surveillance/patrol missions in the Nauru zone.  The requirement for every foreign fishing vessel to be equipped in the future with a vessel monitoring system (VMS) will facilitate enforcement in the future. 

The major non-government stakeholders in the offshore tuna fishery are the operators of foreign fishing vessels. Any input they have into the management system is obtained during the access negotiation process.

Information for decision making comes from both logbook forms that the operators of foreign fishing vessels are required to submit, and from observers placed on those foreign vessels.  The logbook data is inspected at NRMRA and also forwarded to the Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community where it is combined with similar information from neighboring countries to provide a regional perspective to the Nauru on tuna resources.  

Inshore fisheries

Only limited comments can be made on the management of inshore fisheries in Nauru.  As mentioned above, aside from fisheries development efforts, there is little government intervention in the inshore fisheries. 

According to a paper1 presented by Nauru fisheries officials at a regional fisheries meeting:

“Traditional marine tenure systems once formed an important link to Nauruan communities but since the commencement of phosphate mining, it has generated into an open access or “free for all” system, which means that there are no longer any community or traditionally managed fisheries on Nauru.”

Although little management of inshore fisheries resources is being carried out at present, there are plans for the future.  In a soon-to-be-released strategic plan for the NFMRA, it is anticipated that one of the four focus areas will be conservation, specifically the establishment of marine protected areas and drafting of inshore marine conservation legislation.

With respect to future stakeholder input, the Nauru Fishermen’s Association and the Buada Lagoon Association will have important roles.  The Nauru Fishermen’s Association often has input on fisheries matters of concern to them.  The Buada Lagoon Association was set up to influence government policies and development and management of the largest inland body of water in Nauru.   


The Fisheries Act 1997 provides for the management, development, protection and conservation of the fisheries and living marine resources of Nauru.   Major provisions of the Act are: 

  • Management principles – 10 principles which guide the development and management of fisheries in Nauru;

  • Foreign fishing  – 6 principles which guide the treatment of foreign fishing vessels;

  • Agreements and arrangements – The conditions under which Nauru can enter into conventions, treaties, agreements or arrangements with foreign fleets;

  • Provision of information – Arrangements for sharing of fisheries information with other countries;

  • Access agreements -  Arrangements and requirements for entering into an access  agreement with a state or association ;

  • Limits of catch and licences – Allows for the Minister to determine the total allowable catch in respect of fisheries waters or a specified part of fisheries waters;

  • Fishery strategies – Allows that NFMRA may draw up a Fishery Strategy for any fishery which inter alia profiles the existing information, specifies management objectives, identifies adverse environmental effects, and details management/development strategies.
  • Licensing of fishing and fisheries activities -  Allows the Chief Executive Officer of NFMRA to register boats, and grant certificates of registration, permits, licences and other authorisations to use a boat for fishing.

Other fisheries-related legislation includes:

  • Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority Act 1997

  • Fisheries Act 1997

  • Fisheries Regulations 1997

  • Interpretation Act 1971

  • Interpretation Act 1997 (Amendment)

  • Proclamation, Sea Boundaries Act 1997
  • Sea Boundaries Act 1997.


There are no published estimates of the value of investments or subsidies in Nauru’s fisheries sector. 

Apart from infrastructure, the major government investment in fisheries is the fish market and the 18 m catamaran longline vessel.  In the past the government owned two tuna purse seine vessels. 

Private sector investment is quite limited and mostly confined to the boats, outboard engines, fishing gear, and diving gear.  


Projections for the supply and demand for fish are unavailable for Nauru. Nevertheless, some crude estimates can be made by combining present fish consumption information with forecasts for population increases.

The population of Nauru in 2000 was 11,500.  Depending on migration and changes in fertility, the 2025 population is likely to be between 20,700 and 21,500. Taking the midpoint, this would be 1.83 times the 2000 population.

There has apparently been only one study in the past decade which has attempted to estimate per capita fish consumption in Nauru.  That estimate was 46.7 kg per person per year. 

If it is assumed that annual per capita consumption is 46.7 kg, then Nauru consumed about 537 mt of fish in 2000.  If the population expands 1.83 times between 2000 and 2025 as indicated above, and per capita fish consumption remains the same as in 2000, about 983 mt of fish will be required in 2025.


The management of marine resources in Nauru is the responsibility of the Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority, which is organised as shown in the diagram.


In mid-2001 the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority (NFMRA) had 56 permanent and 31 temporary employees. Most of the NFMRA’s revenue comes from access fees paid by foreign fishing vessels.

In 1998 the Nauru Fisheries Corporation (NFC) was established as the commercial arm of the NFMRA.  Its main activities are the operation of a domestic fish market and an 18 m tuna longliner. 

The Nauru Fishermen’s Association and the Buada Lagoon Association are important stakeholder groupings.




Jacob, P. and M.Depaune (2001). Nauru Country Statement. Second Heads of Fisheries Meeting, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.