April 2002



The industrial tuna catch is landed mainly at the two tuna canneries at Tulagi and Noro, while the semi-industrial locally-based longline fleet unloads its catch in Honiara for air or sea export. In 1999 about 73,000 t of tuna was caught by locally-based pole-and-line, purse-seine, and longline fleets. 

Landings from small-scale fisheries are estimated to be about 16,200 t in 1999 of which about 80% and 20% came from subsistence and commercial fisheries, respectively. These landings are made in rural fishing centres, urban centres and rural areas around the country, although a good deal of the commercial catch is subsequently transported to Honiara for marketing and sale.

Estimated landings by principal site (tonnes)
































Broad objectives

The Fisheries Act 1998 states: “The objective of fisheries management and development in Solomon Islands shall be to ensure the long-term conservation and the sustainable utilisation of the fishery resources of Solomon Islands for the benefit of the people of Solomon Islands”.  

The following management objectives are quoted from the Solomon Islands Fisheries Division’s Policy Statement (1994):

  • To achieve and maintain self-sufficiency in supply of fish to the domestic market.

  • To improve cash income throughout the fisheries sector by way of assisting Solomon Islanders in developing their resources through self-employment.

  • To maximise participation of Solomon Islands nationals in commercial fishing and associated activities.

  • To improve the foreign exchange position of Solomon Islands by encouragement of local processing of fisheries resources into value-added products.

  • To encourage farming of aquatic resources.  

Overview of governmental management strategy 

The Solomon Islands Fisheries Division’s Policy Statement (1994) comments on the broad strategies: “The overall strategy shall be to develop and manage in cooperation with provincial authorities (where applicable) the exploitation of all fisheries resources found within the fishery limits in such a manner as to secure optimal social and economic benefits for the people of Solomon Islands”.  

In general terms, the following management systems are presently used:

  • The offshore fisheries are managed under a highly structured system established by the Solomon Island National Tuna Management and Development Plan in which the Minister for Fisheries, the Fisheries Advisory Council, the Tuna Management Committee, and the Director of Fisheries have defined roles.

  • The small-scale commercial fisheries are managed by both national and provincial authorities using the mechanisms stipulated in the Fisheries Act 1998.

  • Subsistence fishing in waters subject to customary fishing rights is largely managed by the holders of those rights. 


Offshore tuna fisheries 

The management system for tuna in the Solomon Islands includes the following species:

·         Skipjack tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis

·         Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares

·         Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus

·         Albacore, Thunnus alalunga

Other species are also included under certain conditions.  Non-target by-catch species caught during tuna fishing operations are included, as well as species used as live bait for pole/line tuna fishing.

The four tuna species are also covered under several regional management arrangements and soon under one international management arrangement. The regional management arrangements 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. 

Solomon Islands 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.  

The specific objectives of management of tuna fisheries as stated in Solomon Islands National Tuna Management and Development Plan are firstly, to ensure that the tuna resources in Solomon Islands waters are not exploited beyond their optimum sustainable yields and that the risk of their being exploited beyond their maximum biologically-sustainable levels is never more than minimal. The second objective is, within the limit set by the optimal sustainable yields of the tuna resources, to maximize the sustainable benefits received by Solomon Islands from those resources. 

There are two main measures used in the management of the tuna resources of the Solomon Islands.  The most important of these is limited licensing; only a restricted number of licenses will be made available.  The other main management measure consists of restrictions on the areas which may be fished. For the purpose of tuna management, Solomon Island waters are divided into five categories:

·        Archipelagic waters and Territorial waters combined (including all Provincial waters) other than those of the Main Group Archipelago (MGA),

·        An MGA Area, including the Archipelagic waters of the Main Group Archipelago, the Territorial waters which surround that archipelago, and a portion of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Solomon Islands extending to 30 nautical miles seaward of the archipelagic baseline around the Main Group Archipelago,

·        Certain parts of the Archipelagic waters and Territorial waters within the MGA Area that are open to purse seining under restrictive conditions,

·        An Offshore Area, comprising all of Solomon Islands waters outside of Archipelagic waters, Territorial waters and the waters of the MGA Area, and

·         An area open to purse seiners fishing under the Multilateral Treaty. 

It is difficult at the present time to judge the performance of these two management measures. The civil disturbances that have plagued the country since 1999 have caused a breakdown of government institutions, including those responsible for fisheries management. In these circumstances it is understandable that the government gives higher priority to maintaining law/order and promoting social stability than to pursuing tuna management objectives.  

According the Solomon Islands National Tuna Management and Development Plan, the institutional relationships dealing with the management measures are as follows:

  • Minister responsible for fisheries – (a) prescribes tuna fishery regulations, (b) accountable for the sustainable use of the resources, (c) retains al powers but works within agreed constraints;

    Director of Fisheries – (a) has legal authority for implementing the Solomon Islands National Tuna Management and Development Plan, (b) acts on the advice of the Tuna Management Committee;

  • Tuna Management Committee – (a) is a committee of the Fisheries Advisory Council, (b) provides strategic direction to the Director of Fisheries, (c) has operational authority for implementing the Tuna Management and Development Plan (d) is the conduit for stakeholder input into tuna management, including that from a Tuna Operations Group;

  • Fisheries Advisory Council – (a) provides the institutional framework for Tuna Management Committee, (b) advises the Minister on important management issues, (c) administers a management and development fund.

With respect to enforcement, the Fisheries Act 1989 states that the Director of Fisheries, Principal Licensing Officer and such licensing officers, fisheries officers and other authorized officers are responsible for fisheries enforcement. In the field, police officers aboard Solomon Islands patrol vessels are the main enforcement agents.

Information for management decisions dealing with tuna is acquired through various means.  Tuna fishing vessels are required to record and submit logbook forms containing position, effort, and catch information.  This routinely-collected data is processed and analyzed by the Research and Resource Management Section of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The data is 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 Solomon Islands on tuna resources.  In addition, information on tuna exports from the Solomon Islands is collected by the Customs Department and compiled by the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands. 

 Small-scale commercial fisheries 

Compared to the offshore tuna fisheries, the management of small-scale commercial fisheries is much less structured. In addition, the management arrangements are national or provincial in character, rather than bilateral or regional. 

The target stocks of these fisheries are reef-associated finfish, beche de mer, trochus, giant clam, lobster, and turbo. About 180 species of reef finfish fish, from 30 families, are caught by the small-scale rural fisheries. The catch is comprised mostly of Lutjanids (snappers), Serranids (groupers and rock cods), Lethrinids (emperors), Scombrids (mackerels) and Carangids (trevallies). 

Specific management goals for the small-scale commercial fisheries have not been articulated, but it can be assumed that the objectives of management interventions are consistent with those given in the Fisheries Act 1989. That is, that the resources are to be “managed, developed and conserved so as to ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of those resources are not endangered by over-exploitation and are utilised at a level that shall ensure their optimum sustainable yield”. 

To attain the above objectives for the small-scale commercial fisheries, the major strategies are applied:

  • Cooperation between the national Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the provincial authorities in management interventions, especially in assisting provincial authorities in the preparation of plans for the management and development of fisheries in its provincial waters.

  • The use of a national fisheries management and development plan for fisheries outside the jurisdiction of provincial waters.

  • The use Fisheries Management and Development Fund to promote effective management.

  • Point of export enforcement for restrictions dealing with commercially exported fishery commodities.

  • Licensing any foreign involvement with the small-scale commercial fisheries (applicable mainly to the live fish trade). 

The Fisheries Act 1998 gives the measures that may be taken to manage these fisheries:

  • open or closed seasons;

  • the closure of areas in which fishing may be prohibited;

  • prescribing the minimum mesh sizes for nets employed, and minimum species sizes;

  • prescribing the number of fishing vessels, the types of fishing gear employed in any fishery or fishery management area in provincial waters;

  • prohibiting specified methods of fishing that are harmful to fisheries and the environment, or the use of specified types of fishing gear in provincial waters;

  • the establishment and protection of marine reserves; 

In practice, all of the above measures are presently used in the management of the small-scale commercial fisheries of the Solomon Islands.  The effectiveness of the various measures is strongly related to the ease of enforcement of the specific measure.  

A recent World Bank survey of coastal resource management in the in the Solomon Islands made conclusions on the effectiveness of the various management measures.  For those national laws which can be enforced and are enforced through buyers and/or exporters (ie. trochus minimum sizes, ban on export of crocodile skins) the effectiveness is good.   Measures associated with marine turtles appear to have the worst effectiveness. 

With respect to the institutional arrangements for management of the small-scale commercial fisheries, the national government has established certain principles of fisheries management to be used throughout the Solomon Islands in the Fisheries Act 1989.  Each Provincial Assembly may make ordinances not inconsistent with the Act or any regulations made under the Act, for the regulation of fisheries within its provincial waters.  There is joint national/provincial enforcement of legislation.  Some fishery resources (such as turtles and crocodiles) are managed by the Environment and Conservation Department. 

At the national level the stakeholder input into the management arrangements is through the Fisheries Advisory Council and through the elected representatives to parliament.  There are various forms of stakeholder input at the provincial level, depending on the functioning of the provincial fishery services and as stipulated in provincial legislation.  

Information for management decisions is obtained in a variety of ways.  These include:

  • Specialized research projects focused on specific fisheries (e.g. research on the live fish trade);

  • Visits by fisheries officers to specific fisheries

  • Customs Department export database;

  • The licensing database of the Fisheries Division;

  • Voluntary submissions by processors/exporters;

  • Parliamentary proceedings and subsequent research .  

Subsistence fisheries

The subsistence fisheries of the Solomon Islands exploit a wide variety of species, most of which are located on the reef, nearshore marine areas, and in inter-tidal mangrove areas. Finfish, various gastropods, giant clam, and lobster, are the major species groups exploited by the subsistence fisheries. 

Although there is no specific government articulation of objectives in the management of subsistence fisheries, it is generally understood that safeguarding the resources to enable them to continue their contribution to the food supply of villagers is the key objective. 

The management strategy is to allow customary fishing rights holder to manage the exploitation of resources in areas under customary jurisdiction, which is almost all of the inshore areas of the country outside of Honiara.  The specific management measures vary from area to area, but many of the systems involve community leaders restricting access by outsiders, as well as various kinds of harvest bans for residents.  Reduction fishing effort to prevent over-exploitation of resources is often, but not always, the intent of these measures. 

It is generally thought that customary management works reasonably well in the Solomon Island context. The measures used are usually able to protect village fishery food supplies from the major threats. It also should be noted that, given the realties of what the national government is able to provide, there are few viable alternatives to customary management.  The major difficulty encountered with customary fisheries management in the Solomon Islands concerns threats which cannot be addressed at the site level, such as the downstream effects of logging.   

Enforcement of customary management is generally carried out by the residents of the management area concerned. The enforcement is generally more effective when directed at outsiders, as opposed to residents of the area concern.  The government is also involved; the Fisheries Act 1989 states: “When it is proved that customary fishing rights have been breached the court may order compensation to be paid to the customary fishing rights holders”. 

As customary management arises from within the communities, it is sensitive to local stakeholders concerns.  The degree of direct stakeholder input into management decisions can vary considerably between communities.  

Generally, information for management is acquired by direct observation of the abundance of the species concerned.  In many case the village fishers have harvested the important fishery resources for several generations and are well aware of changes in abundance.  The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is moving towards a role of providing scientific/technical advice to customary rights holders to enable more effective management.   


The basic fisheries law is the Fisheries Act 1998.  Major features of the Act are:

  • Establishment of a Fisheries Advisory Council;

  • Establishment of a Fisheries Management and Development Fund which receives funding from foreign fishing vessel access fees;

  • Requirement for a national Fisheries Management and Development Plan ;

  • Establishment of principle that provinces are responsible for the management of reef, inshore and fresh water fisheries;

  • Requirement for licenses for commercial fishing vessels;

  • Requirement for licenses and access fees for foreign fishing vessels;

  • Prohibition of fishing using explosives;

  • Requirement for written permission for aquaculture activity and for the export of live fish;

  • Requirement for a license and record keeping by fish processing establishments. 

The most important subsidiary legislation is the Fisheries (Local Fishing Vessels) Regulations which specify the obligations of a master of a licensed fishing vessel, including a ban on fishing within five hundred metres of low water mark, within one nautical mile of any village or fish, without permission in writing. 

Other fisheries-relevant legislation are:

  • Delimitation of Marine Waters Act (1978) and subsequent amendments
  • Declaration of the Archipelagos of the Solomon Islands dated 20 August 1979
  • Declaration of Archipelagic Baseline dated 20 August 1979
  • Fisheries (Foreign Fishing Vessels) Regulations 1981
  • Fisheries (United States of America) (Treaty) Act (1988)  


Aside from basic infrastructure, the main government investment in fisheries is the ownership of Solomon Taiyo Ltd.  Since February 2001 when the Japanese joint venture partner withdrew, the company has been entirely owned by the government.  The major assets in mid-2001 were the tuna cannery at Noro and 10 operational pole/line tuna fishing vessels. 

Most major private sector investments in the Solomon Islands, including those in the fisheries sector, have been made by foreign investors, often working through joint ventures.  The tuna longline companies, trochus processing factories, and the aquarium export business are examples of the important fisheries investments.  

The is little information on subsidies in fisheries in the Solomon Islands.  The various fisheries centers around the country which service fisheries and assist in marketing have generally operated at loss, and could therefore be considered a form of subsidy to rural commercial fishers.  


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

The population of the Solomon Islands in 2000 was 447,900.  Depending on migration and changes in fertility, the 2025 population is expected to be between 788,300 and 876,300, or about 1.86 times the present population.  

There have been several attempts to estimate per capita fish consumption in the Solomon Island.  During the last two decades most of these estimates indicated an annual per capita consumption2 of between 32 and 40 kg for the entire country.  

If is assumed that annual per capita consumption is 36 kg, then the Solomon Islands consumed about 16,000 mt of fish in 2000.  If the population expands 1.86 times between 2000 and 2025 as indicated above, and per capita fish consumption remains the same as in 2000, about 30,000 mt of fish will be required in 2025.


Fisheries Division 

The management of living marine resources in Solomon Islands is the responsibility of the newly-formed Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The Ministry is organized in five functional units, as shown in the diagram. 


The Ministry is headquartered in Honiara. Some of the country’s eight provincial governments also have fisheries departments or officers who work in conjunction with the national Fisheries Division.  

Other fisheries institutions 

There is currently no established commercial fisheries organizations in the Solomon Islands. However there is a history of small artisanal fisheries cooperatives and associations. 

The Fisheries Act 1998 establishes a fisheries advisory council which consists of from five to seven members appointed by the Minister from among persons appearing to him to have ability and experience in matters relating to fisheries. Council advises the Minister on matters relating to the conservation, protection and development of fisheries in Solomon Islands and such other matters as are referred to it by the Minister. 

INTERNET LINKS has information on Solomon Island fisheries and links to other sites dealing with the Solomon Islands. 




Recent civil disturbances have had a major effect on the fisheries situation in the country. Severe ethnic tensions have occurred, mainly between the original inhabitants of Guadalcanal people and people from Malaita Island who have re-settled on Guadalcanal.  In 1999 the situation degenerated into sporadic violence. In 2000 many fishing enterprises closed, air service to the country was suspended, institutions were plundered, and fishery exports declined substantially. As many of the difficulties are not likely to be permanent in nature, this paper (unless otherwise noted) portraits the situation to have occurred during the 1990s.



Whole fish weight equivalent