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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2017)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

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Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: March, 2018

Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has a population of 104 900 in 2015, a land area of 701 km2, a coastline of 6 112 km and the Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.98 million km2. Fisheries contribution to GDP in 2014 was estimated as USD 31.8 million. Fisheries export value in 2015 was estimated at USD 68 million. In 2016 a total of 6 200 subsistence fishers was estimated along with 250 people working in the deep sea fisheries.

The fisheries sector is an important component in the economy of the FSM. Subsistence fishing is important to most households in the country, and is a critically important component of the food supply in the outer islands. Estimated per capita supply amounted to 48.8 kg in 2013. The money received from licensing foreign fishing vessels represents about 10% of all government revenue and grants.

Locally-based offshore vessels consist of FSM-flagged purse seiners and FSM and Chinese-flagged longline vessels. Total tuna catch by FSM flagged vessels has been increasing in recent years reaching almost 59 000 tonnes in 2015, with about two-thirds of the catch from the purse seiners. Foreign-based offshore vessels consist mainly of purse seiners and longliners mostly from Asian countries. Japanese pole-and-line vessels occasionally fish in the FSM zone.

Coastal fishing is carried out for subsistence purposes and for sale in local markets. Some is sent to family and friends in Guam, Saipan and Hawaii. The production in recent years from coastal marine fisheries has been about 10 000 tonnes, of which about one-quarter is sold.

Aquaculture has been the focus of technical and development attention in FSM for over 30 years. Numerous documents, reports and reviews exist, most of which emphasize the potential of specific forms of aquaculture for development as well as for other purposes, such as reef re-seeding.

FSM is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and central Pacific Ocean. FSM hosts the Secretariat of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Pohnpei.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Federal states of Micronesia

Shelf area:

26 076 km²

Sea Around US:


Length of continental coastline: 6 112 km

World by Map

Fisheries GDP (2014): 10% National GDP

Gillet, 20161

*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate(1) Gillett, R. D. Fisheries in the Economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Pacific Community (SPC), 2016.

Key statistics

Country area700km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area700km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area0km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.0.117millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area3 023 481km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2018. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Federal states of Micronesia

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2014 2015 2016
EMPLOYMENT (thousands)
FLEET(thousands vessels) ... ...
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2017Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sector

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) comprises some 700 islands, ranging in size from large, fertile, high islands to tiny coral islands. These islands stretch about 2 500 km in an east-west direction just north of the equator. The urban centres of each FSM state are all located on high islands where land and freshwater resources are more abundant. These features have major implications for FSM’s fisheries.

The fisheries sector is a major component of FSM’s economy. Subsistence fishing is important to most households in the country and is a critically important part of the food supply in the outer islands. The money received from licensing foreign fishing vessels represents about 20 percent of all government revenue and grants. Fisheries statistics can be presented in different forms to cater for different purposes. In the FSM statistics published by FAO (Part 1 of this profile) the presentation follows the international conventions and standards used by FAO and its Member States for reporting catches, which are given by the flag of the catching vessel. Accordingly, the fishery and aquaculture production of FSM in 2014 published by FAO (as given in Part 1) was 50 615 tonnes.

In Table 3 below, the FSM fishery production statistics include the catch by FSM-flagged vessels, the catch by small boats operated by nationals from Micronesia and the catch from fishing activities that do not involve a vessel (e.g. reef gleaning). The offshore category in the table is defined as the catch from FSM-flagged, industrial-scale fishing operations that are carried out anywhere in the western and central Pacific Ocean (i.e. inside or outside FSM waters).

Table 3: FSM fisheries production in 2014 (as per FAO reporting standards)






FSM-flagged offshore
Volume (tonnes unless otherwise stated) 37 400 pieces plus 8 tonnes


1 725

3 555

40 838



164 800

8 000

5 000 000

8 800 000


The production amounts given in the above table differ from those shown in Part 1. The table gives production estimated from a variety of sources (see SPC study below), whereas the quantities reported in Part 1 are generally those reported to FAO by FSM’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA). The major difference between the amounts in the above table and in Part 1 is in the category “FSM-flagged offshore”. The amount listed in Table 3 for this category is from FSM’s official report to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (Phillip et al., 2015).

A recent study by the Pacific Community (SPC) presented the fishery statistics for FSM in a different way from that of FAO. The SPC study reports the amount of catch in FSM fishery waters, regardless of vessel flag. In the study, the catches are placed in different categories, which is useful for other purposes, such as administration of the foreign fishing that occurs in the fishery waters of FSM. A summary of fishery production from the SPC study is given in Table 4 below.

Table 4: FSM fisheries production in 2014 (as per the SPC study)







locally based2



     Both FSM and foreign-flagged vessels
Volume (tonnes unless otherwise stated)37 400 pieces plus 8 tonnes


1 725

3 555

40 838

124 481

Value (USD)164 800

8 000

5 000 000

8 800 000

85 342 200

228 148 080

Source: Gillett (2016)

Some comment is required to explain the difference between the information in this table and that in Part 1 of this profile.
  • Catches can be given by the flag of the catching vessel (as in the FAO statistics given in Part 1), or by the zone where the catch is made (the “offshore foreign-based” and “offshore locally based” columns in the table above). These two different ways of allocating catches each have their purposes. Attribution by flag is important for consistency with international conventions, while attribution by zone is important for determining fishing contributions to GDP, and managing revenue from licence fees for foreign fishing in a country’s zone.
  • In FSM there is no fisheries statistical system covering the categories of aquaculture and coastal subsistence/commercial fishing. The estimates above were made in a study carried out by SPC in 2015 that examined a large number of fishery and economic studies covering the last two decades. It is likely that the basis of the information for the three categories in the FAO statistics in Part 1 above was a more informal conjecture by a nominated person in FSM’s NORMA.
  • Aquaculture production in FSM includes non-food items, such as coral and giant clams for the aquarium trade, and sponges, which may not be included in the FAO statistics.

(2) In the SPC study, “offshore locally based” is the catch in FSM waters from industrial-scale tuna fishing operations that are (a) based at a port in FSM, and (b) generally harvested more than 12 nautical miles offshore.
(3) “Offshore foreign-based” is the catch in the FSM zone from catch from industrial-scale tuna fishing operations that are based at ports outside FSM. Under the international standardized System of National Accounts (SNA, 2009), those catches do not contribute to the GDP of FSM.Marine sub-sector

Catch profile

The marine fisheries of FSM have two very distinct components, offshore and coastal:

  • Offshore fisheries consist almost exclusively of tuna fishing from vessels that are both locally and foreign based.

  • Coastal fishing is carried out for subsistence purposes and for sale in local markets. Some production is sent to family and friends in Guam, Saipan and Hawaii.

The volumes and values of FSM-based offshore fishing and foreign-based offshore fishing are given in Table 5.

Table 5: FSM-based offshore fishing and foreign-based offshore fishing




Total volume locally based purse seiners and longliners (tonnes)

37 810

26 118

40 838

 Total value locally based purse seiners and longliners (USD)

72 637 000

55 678 700

85 342 200

Foreign-basedVolume all foreign-based fishing in FSM zone (tonnes)

179 077

205 280

124 481

 Value all foreign-based fishing in FSM zone (USD) 309 552 781

346 415 036

228 148 080
Source: Gillett (2016)

The catch by both local and foreign-based offshore vessels is greatly affected by the climatic event known as El Niño. This has a great effect on tuna in FSM, including their recruitment, abundance, distribution and ease of capture. During an El Niño event, the thermocline becomes more distinct and closer to the surface in the western and central Pacific Ocean. This tends to restrict the vertical movement of tuna schools, making them more vulnerable to capture by purse-seine gear than in non-El Niño periods (referred to as La Niña). Importantly for FSM, during El Niño periods the purse-seine fishery moves eastward and tuna catches in FSM tend to decline sharply.

There is considerable uncertainty concerning the levels of catches from the coastal fisheries. Coastal fisheries are not covered by a statistical system. An SPC study carried out in 2015 (Gillett, 2016) used several sources of information to estimate fisheries production:
  • An estimate of fishery production in FSM by the Asian Development Bank in 2008 (Gillett, 2009).
  • Several specialized studies that give aspects of fish production in parts of FSM.
  • SPC population information.
  • A 2015 household income and expenditure survey that was carried out with special attention to fish acquisition.
  • Perceptions of knowledgeable individuals.
The SPC study concluded that coastal fisheries production in 2014 was 5 280 tonnes (1 725 tonnes commercial, 3 555 tonnes subsistence), with a value of USD 5 million for the commercial catch and USD 8.8 million for the subsistence catch.

The lack of a fisheries statistical system for coastal fisheries prevents the identification of quantitative trends in these fisheries. There is, however, a general perception that the important coastal resources are increasingly subject to over-exploitation close to urban areas.
Landing sites

Of the offshore fleets mentioned above, only the locally based longliners land fish in FSM.

Purse-seine tuna catches are not landed in FSM. Depending on the nationality of the vessel, the tuna is either transshipped for transport to a cannery (seiners from Taiwan and Korea), delivered directly to Pago Pago (US vessels), or delivered to a port in Japan (Japanese vessels). Some vessels may make direct deliveries to canneries in the Philippines.

The pole-and-line vessels that occasionally fish in the FSM zone do not land fish in FSM. Those fish are delivered to a port in Japan at the conclusion of each fishing trip.

Landings from the coastal commercial fishery are made mostly at population centres. That fish is generally sold to households where at least one member has formal employment. Subsistence fishery landings occur at villages throughout the coastal areas of the country, roughly in proportion to the distribution of the population. Chuuk State, which has about half of the FSM population, receives about half of the landings.
Fishing practices/systems

FSM and the other countries of Micronesia have had a much longer involvement in offshore fishing than other parts of the Pacific Island region. To understand the current offshore practices of FSM and nearby countries, some understanding of the history of fisheries development is useful (Box 1).

Box 1: Some history of offshore fishing in FSM

After the outbreak of World War I, Japan declared war on Germany in August of 1914 and subsequently wrested control of the German Pacific Island possessions to the north of the equator – now known as Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. After the war Japan was awarded control of these islands by a League of Nations mandate. In the early 1920s, an eight-year survey of the marine resources of the area was followed by subsidies from Japan for the purchase of tuna boats, fishing gear and processing equipment. Japanese tuna fishermen and fishing companies began entering the area in ever-increasing numbers in the early 1930s. The primary interest was pole-and-line tuna fishing and secondarily tuna longlining, with some tuna trolling trials. By the mid-1930s, Japanese tuna fishing was well-developed in the area with 45 pole-and-line vessels based in Palau, 52 in FSM and 19 in the Northern Mariana Islands. Tuna catches in Micronesia reached the highest level of 33 000 tonnes in 1937. Most of the production was processed into a dried tuna product, “katsuobushi”, which was shipped to Japan. There were also at least two tuna canneries in operation. During this period there was little participation by indigenous local residents in the tuna industry. Okinawan fishers crewed the tuna fishing vessels and Japanese operated the processing facilities ashore.

All commercial tuna fishing in the area came to a halt during World War II. Much of the fishery infrastructure and tuna vessels were destroyed by war activity and the Japanese and Okinawan fishers were repatriated after the war. Under a United Nations trustee arrangement, the United States assumed control of the area, but was much less interested than Japan had been in economic development, including fisheries. As part of the terms of surrender, geographic restrictions known as MacArthur Lines were placed on the movements of Japanese vessels, which effectively prevented their tuna fishing in Micronesia. These lines were extended four times and finally the last MacArthur Line was lifted in April 1952. Although Japanese fishing activity in what were then high seas areas gradually returned to the Micronesian region, US government restrictions on economic activity ashore were held in place until the mid-1970s, precluding any return to the fish processing bases developed before the war.

Source: Gillett (2007)

The offshore fleets operating in the FSM EEZ use only three gear types: purse seine, longline, and pole-and-line:
  • Purse-seine vessels tend to fish mostly in the equatorial part of the FSM zone, especially the area near Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro islands. In terms of the number of days spent fishing in the FSM zone by seiners, there is little seasonality between months. There is, however, much inter-annual variation.
  • Fishing patterns are less clear for longline vessels. The only general geographic observation that can be made is that the fishing grounds of the vessels are influenced by the fishing base and the vessels tend to group in company fleets. The small Taiwanese and Japanese longline vessels based in Guam tend to fish in the north of the FSM zone, while those longliners based in Pohnpei (both domestic and foreign) tend to fish closer to Pohnpei in the centre of the FSM zone. It appears that longline activity is at a maximum during the middle of the year (June–August). There is a tendency for less activity six months later, possibly due to the Chinese New Year period and its effect on the operation of Chinese and Taiwanese longliners.
  • A small number of Japanese pole-and-line vessels operate in the zone. These vessels return to Japanese ports at the end of each trip. Although they sometimes fish as far south as the Coral Sea off Australia, they typically fish in the area to the east and north east of the FSM EEZ. Fishing in that zone, if any, tends to be in the north and east of the zone.
Table 6 presents the numbers of vessels licensed to fish in the FSM EEZ by year, by gear type and by nationality.

Table 6: Number of vessels licensed to fish in the FSM EEZ

 LonglinePole and linePurse seine
Chinese Taipei231012   353133
South Korea      282926
United States      403737
Republic of China 2224   121414
Papua New Guinea      35  
Kiribati      8  
FSM31819   10912
Marshall Islands      10  
Philippines        3
New Zealand       11
Source: Phillip and Lebehn (2016)

Subsistence and coastal commercial fishing employ a wide range of fishing gear and techniques in FSM. Such fishing is actually a continuum from purely subsistence to purely commercial fishing, with the latter being much more prevalent close to population centres. The most common coastal fishing techniques are spearing (both by day and with the use of lights at night), trolling from 5 to 6 m outboard-powered skiffs, handlining, gillnetting and castnetting.
Main resources

The marine fishery resources of FSM can be split into two broad categories:

  • Offshore resources, which include tunas, billfish and allied species. They are characterized by an open-water pelagic habitat, potentially extensive movement of individuals, and wide larval dispersal. FSM’s offshore fisheries target three main tuna species: skipjack (historically, about three quarters of the total tuna catch), yellowfin and bigeye. Albacore are also taken incidentally by longline. Other species commonly caught in association with industrial tuna fishing include black marlin, blue marlin, striped marlin, swordfish, sailfish, wahoo and various species of sharks.
  • Coastal resources, which include many groups of finfish and invertebrates. A survey in the 1990s found that in Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap, the number of reef fish species was 205, 351, 445 and 370, respectively. The important families of finfish were: Lutjanidae, Lethrinidae, Serranidae, Scaridae, Labridae, Siganidae, Acanthuridae, Carangidae, Muligidae and Holocentridae. Important non-finfish coastal resources included giant clams, trochus, octopus, mangrove crabs, lobster, beche-de-mer, turtles and seaweeds (Smith, 1992). Most inshore fishery resources are characterized by their shallow-water habitats or demersal lifestyles. Because of their relative accessibility, these resources form the basis of most of the small-scale fisheries in FSM.

In terms of the status of the offshore fish resources, the four major species of tuna in FSM mix freely with those of the neighboring countries in the western and central Pacific. Recent information from the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC, 2016) shows that for:
  • skipjack the stock is currently only moderately exploited and fishing mortality levels are sustainable;
  • bigeye recent analysis indicates that overfishing is occurring for the bigeye tuna stock and that in order to reduce fishing mortality to that at maximum sustainable yield, a large reduction in fishing mortality is required;
  • yellowfin the current total biomass and spawning biomass are higher than at levels associated with maximum sustainable yields. Therefore, yellowfin tuna is not considered to be in an overfished state;
  • albacore there is no indication that current levels of catch are causing recruitment overfishing, particularly given the age selectivity of the fisheries. It should be noted that longline catch rates are declining, and catches over the last 10 years have been at historically high levels and are increasing.
Coral reef biodiversity and complexity are high in FSM and this diversity diminishes notably from west to east within the region. Using stony corals as an example, approximately 350 species are recorded in Yap, 300 in Chuuk, 200 in Pohnpei and 150 in Kosrae (Kronen et al., 2009).

In terms of the status of the coastal fishery resources, there have been studies on specific fishery resources (e.g. sea cucumber, trochus) at particular locations in FSM, but little has been assessed across the country. In general, it can be stated that those fish and invertebrate species that are sought after and are located in areas readily accessible to many fishers tend to be heavily exploited or overexploited.

Rhodes et al. (2011) examined nearshore fisheries management across Micronesia, including FSM. The study showed declines in the coral reef finfishery of Pohnpei due to excess fishing. For Micronesia in general, a number of key socio-economic drivers were found to contribute to marine resource declines: (1) the change from a subsistence to a cash economy; (2) an erosion of customary marine tenure; (3) a lack of political will for protecting marine resources; (4) an absence of effective, responsive fisheries management; (5) increasing population pressures and demand for reef resources, including for export; (6) undervalued reef and pelagic resources; (7) high external commodity costs; (8) unsustainable use of modernized fishing gear; (9) an erosion of traditional fishing ethics and practices; and (10) a paucity of educational and alternative employment opportunities.
Management applied to main fisheries

In FSM, there are three levels of government which have special significance for fisheries management:
  • National government – has jurisdiction over fisheries management in the zone outside 12 miles from islands up to the outermost limits of the EEZ. Fisheries management by the national government follows the Management Plan on Tuna Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia 2015 (see below).
  • State governments – the four states (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap) have jurisdiction over fisheries management in the waters in their respective 12-mile zones. Each state has its own administrative organizations, several agencies involved in fisheries, and its own plans for fisheries development and management.
  • Local governments – in some of the states, local communities have a high degree of autonomy in the management of nearshore fisheries resources.
In terms of supra-national cooperation in the management of offshore fisheries, FSM works:
  • on the sub regional level with the other countries that are members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which is described below;
  • on the regional level, as a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. FSM and the other 26 members of the commission enact tuna management measures at the annual WCPFC meeting. From FSM’s perspective, one of the most important recent measure is the Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
A crucial aspect of the management of the offshore fisheries in FSM is the PNA and its Vessel Day Scheme. The early history of the PNA is given by Tarte (2002):

In February 1982, the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Management of Fisheries of Common Interest was opened for signature. The Nauru Agreement had been negotiated by seven Pacific Island states – Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands. This group of countries (later joined by Tuvalu) is known collectively as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The conclusion of the Nauru Agreement marked the beginning of a new era in Pacific Island cooperation in the management of the region’s tuna stocks. It was an important milestone in the exercise of coastal states’ sovereign rights over their 200-mile EEZs. The PNA group accounts for much of the tuna catch in the Pacific Island region. In 1999, it produced 98 per cent of the tuna catch taken from the EEZs of Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members; 70 percent came from three PNA members: PNG, FSM and Kiribati. The group also accounted for 94 percent of the access fees paid to the FFA Pacific Island states. By controlling access to these fishing grounds, the PNA group collectively wields enormous influence and power.

The most important fishery management tool of the PNA is the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), which is described in Box 2.

Box 2: PNA Vessel Day Scheme

In 2000, a study suggested that the PNA purse-seine management scheme that was then based on vessel numbers be replaced by a scheme based on purse-seine fishing days. The transition was actually made seven years later. In 2007, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement began implementing the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), transitioning from permitting a total number of purse-seine vessels in the region (205) to permitting a total allowable effort (TAE) in number of purse-seine fishing days (44 703 days for 2012; 44 890 days for 2016). Given the volume, value and multi-jurisdictional nature of the fishery, it is arguably one of the most complex fishery management arrangement ever put in place. Its key features are as follows:

  • System of tradable fishing effort (days) allocated to the eight Parties
  • Limit on total effort (the TAE) ~ 45 000 days
  • TAE is allocated to Parties based on zonal biomass and historical effort as PAEs (Party Allowable Effort)
  • Fishing days are sold to fleets for fishing in each EEZ
  • There is a minimum benchmark price for VDS days sold to foreign vessels
  • Fishing days are monitored by a satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
  • VMS monitoring is supported by observers on board all vessels
  • Days are tradable between Parties
  • Scheme costs are financed by levies on vessels

Due to the complicated nature of the new VDS system and the various constraints of the government fisheries agencies of the region (e.g. under-funded, under-staffed), it was expected there would be problems in the introduction of the scheme. This is not to say that the VDS has not produced substantial benefits for PNA countries. The system is creating competition for a limited number of days, thereby increasing the value of each day. In practice, the value of a fishing day before the VDS was roughly USD 1 350, but this increased to about USD 5 000 in July 2011 and days were being sold in 2016 for over USD 12 000.

On a different and less tangible level, another benefit is that the VDS moves fisheries management in the region to a desirable rights-based system. That is, fishing rights (such as vessel days) can be defined, allocated, and traded. Consistent with this transition to a rights-based approach, a VDS-style arrangement for management of the tropical longline fishery is being implemented by PNA.

Source: Havice (2013); Campling (2013); Gillett (2014); Clark and Clark (2014)

The Management Plan on Tuna Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia 2015 states that it is FSM’s high-level fisheries policy. It is a “living document” that contains the mandate for NORMA to deliver services with regard to the effective and sustainable conservation, management, exploitation and development of tuna fisheries in the country. It also ensures the necessary monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement measures to support domestic development aspirations and deter IUU activities in FSM’s fisheries waters. The plan, which is part of the overall FSM fisheries policy, focuses on all fishing activities in FSM’s EEZ and by FSM-flagged vessels fishing in the high seas and other EEZs. This includes longline, purse-seine and pole-and-line fisheries. The plan specifically focuses on the tuna species of skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and billfish, recognizing the last two are not targeted by any gear or specific fisheries. The impacts of fishing on target tunas, bycatch and dependent species, as well as the general marine environment, are also covered under the plan.

As indicated above, the four states of FSM (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap) have jurisdiction over fisheries management in the waters of their respective 12-mile zones. GPA (2001) indicated that coastal fisheries in the four states of FSM were very different with respect to fishery management arrangements, and that in some respects, the management regimes were so dissimilar that the situation resembled four different countries. This statement remains valid today.

Chuuk has historically had the largest state fishery agency in FSM. It is also the state with the most serious fishery management problems. A high and rapidly growing population is creating greater pressure on fishery resources. There are large numbers of boats in the lagoon (reportedly over 2 000). Although many of these are used primarily for transport, many are also used for fishing at least occasionally. Good air connections exist to Guam, which provides a market for a component of the catch. Dynamite fishing is prevalent, and dredging and sand-mining for fill and for building materials are largely uncontrolled. The state’s numerous municipalities (and in some cases, individual reef owners) nominally have some authority to control access to their fishing areas, but these seem to be upheld only in the outer island and more remote parts of Chuuk proper, and are largely ignored close to the population centres. There is no current data on fish catches or production, but anecdotal information suggests that quantities of reef fish are being exported by air to Guam, and strong declines in the abundance of some resources are said to have occurred in some areas.
Kosrae is the state with the least complex fishery management environment. It is a single, small, high island with a relatively small population (who are historically less ardent fishers than those of other FSM states) and limited resources, and is distant from most commercial marketing opportunities. Kosrae’s fishery management problems are mainly related to the smallness of the resource. Harvests of certain key species, such as trochus and crabs, are – or need to be – controlled. Most threats to coastal resources come from land-based developments that cause erosion, increased run-off, pollution or sedimentation. However, Kosrae probably has the best-developed coastal management system of any state, with environmental review procedures being progressively implemented for all coastal development projects. Basic statistics on catches are said to be collected on a regular basis, but these are not analyzed or published.
Pohnpei is something of an intermediate case in terms of resources, degree of exploitation and the extent of fishery management problems. Some production statistics are collected by the state fisheries agency, but these are not analyzed to show trends. The general perception in Pohnpei seems to be that resources are not yet in crisis, but that the time is approaching when management action will be needed, at least on Pohnpei proper. Unfortunately, there is also something of a fatalistic view that management will not be possible until a crisis situation develops. As in other states, enforcement of state fishery laws by state police or conservation officers is largely ineffective, while the absence of traditional reef/lagoon tenure systems on Pohnpei proper may impede the development of community-based management arrangements. A major issue in Pohnpei is land-based development: the island has lost a large proportion of its virgin forest to cultivation and this is thought to have caused increased run-off, sedimentation and chronic reef degradation.
Yap is unique in the degree to which traditional marine tenure arrangement have been preserved both in Yap proper and in the outer islands. Inshore fishery management in the state essentially needs to be community-based because the state constitution and laws recognize that communities and their leaders have authority over access to and use of coastal areas. Relative to other states, Yap has a large resource base and in most areas a small population, so management issues related to overexploitation are generally not pronounced. Nevertheless, some resources, especially of sessile types such as clams and beche-de-mer, or of other species close to the state centre of Colonia, have been seriously overexploited in the past, demonstrating that the traditional system of tenure does not guarantee effective stewardship. For several years, the State Government has been progressively trying to introduce a coastal area management plan that will be implemented through the actions of both government and traditional groups. As elsewhere, sand-mining and dredging are serious environmental problems.
Management objectives

The objectives of offshore fisheries management are set out in two locations:
  • Title 24 of the FSM Code, also known as the Marine Resources Act of 2002, states that management measures should be adopted that promote the objectives of (a) utilizing the fishery resources of FSM in a sustainable way; (b) obtaining maximum, sustainable economic benefits from these resources; and (c) promoting national economic security through optimum utilization of resources.
  • The Management Plan on Tuna Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia 2015 contains the long-term objectives for the purse-seine and longline fisheries:
  • Harvest at the optimum sustainable level, including all WCPFC management limits and measures covering target species, time and area closures, and FAD closures and all PNA hard limits.
  • Further increase industry’s level of participation in the management of tuna resources to benefit FSM citizens.
  • Maintain the long-term viability of domestic fleets.
  • Minimize any adverse environmental effects of the fishing methods and gear used on the marine environment.
  • Promote effective management, conservation and sustainability of fish stocks and the marine environment.
  • Ensure best value is gained from tuna fisheries under subregional, regional and international conventions, treaties and declarations of which FSM is a signatory.
  • Consider support for an endowment fund so as to transfer a portion of licensing fees to support coastal fisheries initiatives, recognizing alternative funding is already available under other sources.
The objectives of fisheries management at lower levels of government are not as well articulated and therefore must be inferred from context. In most of the states, the common objectives appear to be preventing destructive fishing, deterring over-harvesting and protecting endangered species. The objectives of management at the village level mainly revolve around assuring the sustainability of local marine foods.
Management measures and institutional arrangements

In the management of offshore fisheries, the main management measures are the PNA Vessel Day Scheme (Box 2) and various technical limits, which are detailed in the Management Plan on Tuna Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia 2015:

“Technical limits for purposes of managing tuna fisheries, which include, inter alia: (a) commercial tuna fishing is prohibited in territorial areas unless States indicate otherwise; (b) other prohibited areas declared by States and Federal governments; and (c) full compliance of all measures specified under PNA requirements and related initiatives including time and area closures, catch retention and FAD closures.”

As an example of the management measures used at the community level, Table 7 (from Rhodes et al. 2011) lists example traditional management measures in Yap State.

Table 7: Examples of traditional fishery management in Yap State

Component of management Status in 2008

Reef tenure rights (customary control of marine usage area and

resources usage)

-Ownership of reef areas and fishing rights by small groups (estate, or household and associated resources)

-Quasi-private ownership of reef areas and fishing rights, subject to

hierarchical systems of control

Yes, still strong



-Individuals within clan have right to fish any of own clan’s waters,

with no restrictions

-Individuals within clan require permission of chief, or head of the estate or clan



Power of chiefs to enforce traditional, customary, marine tenure laws

Moderate -


Use of closures

-Area (stocks)

-Season (stocks)

-Custom (funeral)



Punishment for infractionsYes
Outsider accessNo

Ethics to avoid waste (take only what will be consumed or not more

than one’s share)


Restrictions to maintain subsistence fisheries

-Chiefs banned boats and outboard motors; only paddling and sailing canoes permitted

-Banned night-time spearfishing and monofilament gillnets

-Line only, no trolling, for tuna





Restrict access to species to ensure supply

-Milkfish, giant clams, sea cucumber, coconut crabs, turtles


Restrict use of fish poisons (Derris sp. root)Yes

Fishing restrictions on species

-Certain species are property of high-ranking people/clans



Fishing methods or gear restrictions

-Certain gear (e.g. fish traps) can only be used by higher-ranking people/groups

-Maintain traditional skills – no boat and motors; only paddle and sailing canoes

in some areas

-Banned use of monofilament gillnets

-Banned use of flashlight spearfishing

-Restricted use of pelagics for bait






Source: Adapted from Rhodes et al. (2011)

The main institutions in FSM involved in fisheries management are covered in section 8 below.
Fishing communities

The concept of “fisher communities” is not very relevant to FSM. People involved in the offshore fisheries do not live in separate communities but rather are widely dispersed around where the vessels are based, mainly around Kolonia on Pohnpei. Coastal commercial fishers are found near all urban areas, but they do not reside in specific communities. Nearly all households in villages (all of which are coastal) are involved in coastal fishing activities. It could therefore be stated that all villages in FSM are “fishing communities”.
Inland sub-sector

FSM has no significant inland fisheries. The larger islands in FSM have freshwater streams and ponds in which freshwater fish and invertebrates are found, but only very small amounts are captured.

There is no management dedicated to the tiny inland fisheries.
Aquaculture sub-sector

Aquaculture has been the focus of technical and development attention in FSM for over 40 years and numerous reports, reviews and evaluations have been produced. In general, those documents authored by aquaculture specialists emphasize the tremendous potential of aquaculture in the country, while those by economists and fisheries specialists (e.g. the 2004–2023 Strategic Development Plan) are not very optimistic as to current and likely future benefits.

The National Aquaculture Center (NAC) was established in Kosrae in 1991 to explore aquaculture potential and to undertake research, demonstration and training. Its primary work involved propagation of giant clams for farming and re-seeding in other states. NAC was reviewed by an Asian Development Bank project in 2001 (Preston, 2001). The report suggested that the government should either divest itself of NAC, or enter into a partnership with another organization better positioned to deliver research and educational and extension outputs, probably based on species other than giant clams. NAC is currently leased by a business that is oriented to exporting cultured coral, cultured giant clams, and aquarium fish.

Amos et al. (2014) indicate that FSM aquaculture activities consist of corals, giant clams, sponges, blacklip pearl oyster and sandfish. To this could be added a small amount of seaweed culture. Currently, all significant FSM aquaculture activities are carried out in Kosrae and Pohnpei States.

An SPC project (Gillett, 2016) recently examined aquaculture production in FSM:
  • Coral culture is being carried out in both Pohnpei and Kosrae. According to the two producers, a crude estimate of annual production in 2014 was about 22 000 pieces (J. Mendiola, M. Selch, personal communication, September 2015). The farm-gate value for that production is about USD 66 000. FSM export records from CITES for the latest year available (2013) show that 3 314 pieces of live coral were exported.
  • Giant clam culture is being carried out in both Pohnpei and Kosrae. According to the two producers, a crude estimate of the annual production in 2014 is about 12 000 pieces (J. Mendiola, M. Selch, personal communication, September 2015). The farm-gate value for that production is about USD 60 000. FSM export records from CITES for the latest year available (2013) show that 11 321 pieces of live giant clams were exported.
  • The pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) has been cultured since 1994 on the remote FSM atoll of Nukuoro. The farm is community-based (owned and operated by the municipal council) and has received funding and technical support since its inception. Wild spat is collected to supply the farm. According to a Pohnpei State fisheries officer with involvement in the Nukuoro farm, about 1 600 pearls were actually sold in 2014 (I. Fred, personal communication, September 2015). Pearl shells are also sold, perhaps 8 tonnes per year. The farm-gate value of that pearl and shell production was about USD 34 000.
  • Sponges are cultured in Pohnpei. Annual production is about 1 800 sponges per year. (J. Mendiola, personal communication, September 2015). The farm-gate price of that production is estimated to be USD 4 800.
  • Sandfish and seaweed culture is currently at a very small scale in FSM and the amounts harvested in 2014 were not significant.
Table 8 summarizes FSM’s aquaculture production in 2014.

Table 8: FSM aquaculture production in 2014

 Volume (pieces and tonnes)Farm-gate value (USD)
Corals22 00066 000
Giant clams12 00060 000
Pearls and pearl shells1 600 and 8 tonnes34 000
Sponges1 800 4 800
Total37 400 pieces and 8 tonnes164 800
Source: Gillett (2016)

There is little management specifically directed at aquaculture in FSM. Aquaculture operations must follow all applicable general regulations, such as those for building in coastal areas and water management.
Recreational sub-sector

Although subsistence fishing may have a large social component and be enjoyed by the participants, recreational fishing is not a major activity for local residents. In Pohnpei, there is a fishing club with about 50 members, many of whom are expatriates. A few hotels in FSM offer fishing activities (many trolling outside the reef) to their overseas guests.

There is no active management of the recreational sub-sector.
Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

In general, FSM coastal fisheries production is for local consumption, with small amounts of finfish airfreighted to Guam, Saipan and Hawaii. Beche-de-mer is exported to China. Although FSM produces an average of 200 tonnes of trochus per year, there is no local processing. In the past 20 years, there have been three trochus button blank factories (all on Pohnpei), but all have ceased operation – thought to be due to irregularity in the supply of raw material and relatively high labour costs.

In contrast, post-harvest aspects of the offshore fisheries mainly involve external trade. The catch from the various purse-seine fleets operating in FSM is almost all for canning, but there is considerable variation in the mechanisms used to get the catch to the canneries:
  • Japanese purse seiners return to Japanese ports to offload their catch and do not transship in FSM or other Pacific Island countries.
  • US purse seiners offload their catch at the canneries in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and do not usually transship in FSM.
  • Taiwanese and Korean seiners (and those vessels of other national fleets owned by Taiwanese/Korean interests) usually transship their catch in an FSM port or in a port in a neighboring country, mostly Papua New Guinea or Marshall Islands.
The majority of fish landed in FSM by locally based longline vessels – most of which are based in Pohnpei – is air-exported to Japan via Guam. The amount of fresh tuna exported depends on the number of longline vessels fishing in the country. The Chinese longliners occasionally switch bases to the Marshall Islands to the east and Palau to the west, depending on fishing conditions and local government policies. The foreign-based longliners fishing in FSM mainly unload in Guam or in their home ports in Asian countries.

Tuna transshipment4 is a very important aspect of the FSM tuna industry. In June 1993, Pacific Island countries instituted a ban on in-zone transshipments of fish, except at authorized ports. This was intended to facilitate monitoring of catches, increase port usage and generate revenue. In subsequent years, a large amount of tuna has been transshipped through FSM ports. This results in benefits to FSM from various port charges. In addition, overall payments to the private sector for services and supplies, such as food, accommodation, rental cars and minor repairs, are substantial. A report by NORMA to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (Phillip and Lebehn, 2016) indicated that in 2015:

  • a total of 9 278 tonnes of tuna were transshipped in FSM ports by national and distant water purse-seine vessels. The Korean fleet had the highest number of transshipments;
  • longline transshipments in 2015 totalled 3 439 tonnes in Pohnpei and 423 tonnes in Kosrae.
(4) In this report, “transshipping” refers to the transfer of tuna from one vessel to another without special handling or processing. Accordingly, the offloading of sashimi-quality fish, which entails grading, some processing and boxing, is not considered transshipment in this report.
Fish markets

Products from coastal fisheries are marketed in various ways:

  • In the outer islands where subsistence fishing prevails, fish landings may exceed demand and excess catch may be given away or informally bartered in return for favours or obligations. Surplus catch may also be preserved using simple techniques such as smoking, salting and drying.
  • The catch from artisanal fisheries is mostly marketed in the four main population centres where local demand for fresh fish is strong and generally exceeds supply. There are no central, domestic fish markets, and the catch is sold directly to consumers, retail outlets and restaurants. In practice, each centre has two or three smaller markets that operate privately as re-sellers.
  • In Pohnpei, the road system now links the inhabited areas of the island with the population centre, as a result of which many people commute to work. This in turn has led to numerous, small fish markets springing up around the island. A fisheries study in Pohnpei (Rhodes et al., 2011) found that 521 tonnes of reef fish are caught and sold in Pohnpei each year.
  • A number of attempts have been made to improve access to markets for outer island fishers. Such schemes, whether sponsored by government or private entrepreneurs, have met with only limited success, constrained by low production levels, erratic or unsuitable shipping services and inadequate catch-handling infrastructure at the fishing sites.
  • Finfish and invertebrates are exported to Guam and Saipan by air freight, but no regular supply lines exist and most goes to the expatriate Micronesians living there.
In the offshore fisheries, almost all of the purse-seine catch is canned and consumed in North America and Europe. The longline catch is mainly for the fresh fish markets in Japan and the USA. Fish from locally based longliners which are not of export quality (about 20 percent of landings) are sold locally, either to processors who produce value-added products for export, or to restaurants and on the local market.
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

A recent study by SPC (Gillett, 2016) attempted to quantify the fishery-related benefits received by FSM and other Pacific Island countries. The study gave the available information on the contribution of fishing to GDP, exports, government revenue, employment and nutrition. Unless otherwise noted, the information in this section is from that study.Role of fisheries in the national economy

The official FSM GDP estimates are contained in the FY 2014 statistical compendium (Graduate School, 2015). The compendium was prepared by the Graduate School USA, Pacific Islands Training Initiative, Honolulu, Hawaii, in collaboration with the FSM Office of Statistics, Budget and Economic Management, Overseas Development Assistance, and Compact Management. Fisheries aspects of the GDP were obtained from the compendium and are presented in Table 9.

Table 9: Fisheries contribution to GDP (USD million)

  FY 2009 FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Fisheries contribution to GDP







GDP at purchasers’ prices 278.5 295.6 310.4 325.8 315.7 318.1
Fisheries as percent of GDP







Source: Graduate School (2015)

The contribution of fishing to GDP was re-estimated by the SPC study for the year 2014. It showed a contribution from fishing of USD 47.2 million or 14.8 percent of GDP. The major difference between this estimate and the official estimate is that the official one includes shore-based services and excludes the operations of some locally based, industrial fishing vessels. The SPC methodology more closely follows the standardized System of National Accounts (SNA 2009).

Access fees for foreign fishing activity form an important source of FSM government revenue. Table 10 shows the fees for recent years.

Table 10: Access fees as a percentage of government revenue

  FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Access fees cash (USD million) 17 727 18 811 26 384 35 050 47 518
Government revenue (USD million) 201 488 202 833 217 766 200 905 227 111

Access fees as

percent of government revenue

8.8% 9.3% 12.1% 17.4% 20.9%
Source: Modified from Gillett (2016)

There is no existing requirement in FSM for exporters to complete an export declaration form for the Customs Department. Therefore, to estimate fishery exports, the FSM Statistics Division uses a variety of data sources. For offshore fish exports, these sources include NORMA, the National Fisheries Corporation and staff estimates. Data sources for coastal fish exports are quarantine records and airlines’ freight records for Chuuk State. The Statistics Division’s policy for inclusion/exclusion of fish exports is that they should be included in exports if the exporting company is considered part of the FSM economy. Accordingly, the Statistics Division has deemed that the catch of the locally based longliners is not an export of FSM. FSM exports of fishery products for 2013 and 2014 are given in Table 11.

Table 11: FSM exports of fishery products in 2013 and 2014



2013 (kg)

Value 2013 (USD)


2014 (kg)

Value 2014 (USD)
Purse-seine tuna 14 105 931 21 501 445 18 797 325 18 211 276
Longline tuna 0 0 0 0
Reef fish 154 038 1 302 160 124 103 1 040 484
Crab/lobsters 6 230 35 657 12 029 248 176
Trochus shell 0 0 0 0
Live clams 4 003 173 744 196 853
Other marine products 8 033 124 253 3 734 99 401
Total 14 278 235 23 137 259 18 937 387 19 600 190
Source: Statistics Division (unpublished data)

From the table above, the nominal value of all exports of fishery products in 2014 (USD 19.6 million) can be compared to the country’s total exports for 2014 of USD 26.6 million. Fishery products therefore represented 73.7 percent of FSM exports in 2014.

In contrast, the FAO data presented in Part 1 of this profile shows that the value of fishery exports from FSM in 2014 was USD 54 721 000. Because the FAO data uses information from importing countries, it is likely to be more accurate than the data from the SPC study.

FAO data shows USD 9 185 000 of imports of fishery products in 2014.
Food security

Gillett (2009) examined past estimates of fish consumption in FSM. The various studies gave annual per capita consumption in the range of 72 to 114 kg per person per year. The same study estimated that the consumption of domestic and imported fishery products (including leakage from tuna transshipment operations) in the mid-2000s was 142 kg per person per year.

Bell et al. (2009) used information from household income and expenditure surveys (HIES) conducted between 2001 and 2006 to estimate patterns of fish consumption in Pacific Island countries. The HIES were designed to enumerate fish consumption based on both subsistence and cash acquisitions. For the whole of FSM, the annual per capita fish consumption (whole weight equivalent) was 69.3 kg, of which 92 percent was fresh fish. For rural areas, per capita consumption of fish was 76.8 kg, and for urban areas, 67.3 kg.

For 2014, Gillett (2016) estimated coastal subsistence fishery production of 3 337 tonnes and non-exported coastal commercial fisheries production of 1 693 tonnes. Total non-exported coastal production was therefore 5 030 tonnes. With an FSM population of 102 908, that equates to an annual per capita consumption of domestic coastal fishery products of 49.9 kg.

SPC’s PROCFish Programme studied four locations in FSM – two in Yap State and two in Chuuk State. Kronen et al. (2009) indicated that the average annual per capita consumption of fresh fish at those sites was about 63 kg.

Rhodes et al. (2015) give information on fish consumption on Pohnpei, expressed as edible amounts (i.e. food actually consumed, as opposed to the whole weight equivalent used in the above studies). They estimated that the annual per capita consumption of reef fish, pelagic fish and non-fresh fish on Pohnpei ranged from 94 to 126 kg. This consumption rate does not consider imported fishery products, local sales of tuna from locally based offshore fishing, or leakage from tuna transshipment operations.

The FSM Statistics Division collects employment information from the Social Security Administration and government payrolls. Table 12 (Graduate School, 2015) shows nominal and relative employment in the fishing industry. This could be considered equivalent to the number of formally employed wage earners in the fishing industry, and would not include those who are self-employed or working for a small fishing business, unless taxes and social security are paid.

Table 12: Employment in the fishing industry

 FY 2009FY 2010FY 2011FY 2012FY 2013FY 2014
Number of people employed in fishing industry261327294247269250
Total employ-ment in FSM15 96916 06315 73314 95614 95015 537
Fishing as a percent of total employ-ment1.7%2.1%1.9%1.6%1.8%1.7%
Source: Graduate School (2015)

The 2013/2014 HIES (Statistics Division, 2014) contains some fisheries employment information:
  • 1.8% of total wage and salary income comes from fishing
  • 12.9% of households are involved in subsistence fishing
  • The net monthly value of subsistence fishing is USD 18 per household.
FFA has a programme that collects information on tuna-related employment in a standard form. Table 13 shows tuna-related employment in FSM in recent years.

Table 13: FSM tuna-related employment (2010–2014)

Employment in tuna processing and ancillary183151976566
Local crew on tuna vessels474449--49
Source: FFA (2015b)

Rural development

An important characteristic of the social situation in FSM is the large difference in prosperity between urban residents (largely supported by government spending) and the subsistence-oriented communities in the outer islands. Income distribution in FSM is more unequal than in other countries of the region (Abbott, 2004). Fisheries development, at least in the short- and medium-term, is unlikely to rectify the situation as most of the formal employment in the fisheries sector is near urban areas. The difficulties of transporting perishable fisheries products to urban areas equate to few commercial fisheries development opportunities in the outer islands. Unrestricted emigration to USA has had a large impact on entrepreneurial skills.

Aquaculture has been highlighted by national and state governments as having the potential to provide significant benefits to FSM, including local job creation. However, the results to date have been disappointing. Any impact of aquaculture on rural development is likely to come from the production of non-perishable products such as pearls.
Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunities

Major constraints for the fisheries sector include:
  • the fully exploited nature of many of the inshore resources, especially those close to urban markets;
  • difficulties for small-scale fishers in accessing offshore fishery resources;
  • difficulties associated with marketing products from the remote areas where abundance is highest to the urban areas with the largest markets;
  • challenging business conditions in the country;
  • lack of local capital for private sector investment in offshore fisheries, and the poor track record of previous government investment;
  • relatively expensive labour and a reluctance on the part of FSM citizens to accept work in offshore fishing;
  • unrestricted emigration to USA, which has had a large impact on domestic entrepreneurial skills;
  • the high price of FSM services and necessity of importing many of the goods used by the tuna industry, which make FSM a high-cost location, with the industry not necessarily compensated by proximity to the tuna resources.
A growing constraint for coastal fisheries is the siltation of nearshore reefs caused by coastal development and run-off. Box 3 highlights this issue.

Box 3: Coastal development and run-off

Over the past 20 years, the availability of large amounts of funding for infrastructure improvements under the Compact of Free Association with the US has led to increased dredging, road construction and land clearing. For example, in fiscal year 2007, USD 6.1 million was allocated to the infrastructure sector. Sedimentation from these land-based activities, as well as from agriculture, has contributed to the degradation of nearshore coral reef ecosystems in all four states. Housing developments for residential and business purposes along the coast also contribute a great deal to the problem of sedimentation. Coastal development is one of the biggest stressors to the coral reefs of Pohnpei, with more than 50 dredge sites and mangrove clearings (artificial channels) surrounding the coast. According to the Yap Environmental Protection Agency, large volumes of dredged coralline materials are regularly used for construction projects.
Source: Adapted from George (2008)

Opportunities in the fisheries sector include:
  • the presently under-utilized assets of failed government fisheries companies, which could provide a significant foundation for a private sector firm. Despite past unsuccessful attempts at privatization, if the buildings, cold storage and dock facilities could be expeditiously cut loose from government control, these could be the basis, or at least a component, of generating substantial economic activity by the private sector;
  • improving the attractiveness of FSM ports to foreign fishing vessels, which could result in a large expansion of on-shore expenditure by foreign fleets;
  • the increasing global demand for tuna products;
  • greater use of partnerships (community, government, NGOs) in the management of coastal fisheries, which could improve the sustainability of coastal fisheries.
Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

McCoy (2014) reviewed the background to the development of an FSM tuna fisheries policy (Box 4).

Box 4: History of FSM tuna fisheries policy

During the 1990s, no less than nine policy studies, initiatives, workshops, consultations or summits were aimed all or in part at defining the FSM fisheries policy. A policy emerged in 1997 that was subsequently adopted with some changes by the FSM Congress. The elements of the policy contained a mixed bag of strategies for fisheries development, strategies for fisheries management, and a goal of fisheries management. Much of this “policy” consisted of an incomplete list of strategies to support unspecified objectives. A more comprehensive two-volume planning document was produced and approved in 2003: The Federated States of Micronesia’s Strategic Development Plan 2004–2013. It contains policy statements and related actions critical to achieving development in oceanic (i.e. tuna) fisheries that are still relevant 10+ years after its adoption. These policy statements were enhanced somewhat by the results of a National Tuna Management and Development Workshop in 2011. Consultations with government officials and others from the four states took place during October–November 2013 to discuss tuna industry development, the desires of the four states in furthering that development, and their understanding of how such development could be realized. The results of those state consultations along with previously identified policy statements formed the basis of a policy options document discussed in depth at a National Tuna Fisheries Development Policy Workshop held in Pohnpei, 22–24 January 2014. That workshop deliberated on a range of policy options and agreed on a draft policy.
Source: Adapted from McCoy (2014)

The National Tuna Fisheries Development Policy Workshop, which included participants from the private sector, agreed on several policy subjects (Table 14). Each of those subjects was associated with a policy statement and several strategic objectives and actions.

Table 14: Policy subjects and policy statementsagreed at National Tuna Fisheries Development Policy Workshop

Policy subjectPolicy statement
Investment in tuna fisheriesInvestment in the FSM tuna fisheries industry leading to increased economic activity in FSM is actively encouraged
Public tuna fisheries enterprisesEncourage public enterprise efficiencies through relevant corporate and business development strategies
National participationNational participation and increased employment in tuna fisheries-related activities are supported and encouraged
Regulatory environmentRegulatory constraints to commercial activity are to be identified and reviewed
Economic and social benefitsEconomic and social benefits are prioritized in considering strategies for tuna resource exploitation
Domestic basing and transshipmentDomestic basing and transshipment by foreign licensed vessels are encouraged

On a different level, the Management Plan on Tuna Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia 2015 states: “The plan is part of the overall FSM Fisheries Policy”. In this regard, the following “guiding principles” of the plan could be considered indicative of the tuna fisheries policy:
  • The tuna resource is shared with other countries in the region and is finite.
  • The precautionary approach to fisheries management is most appropriate.
  • Management measures will promote the objective of optimum utilization.
  • Effective management requires participation in, and compliance with, regional and international measures.
  • Surveillance and enforcement are important tools of management.
  • Surveillance of state waters is important to resource management and should be supported.
  • Tuna stock assessment is not exact and there may be differing scientific opinions on the status of resources.
  • Special attention should be given to bigeye resources.
  • Principles guiding tuna fisheries management are generally applicable to non-target species affected by tuna fishing.
As for the coastal fisheries policies, the FSM 2004–2023 Strategic Development Plan states that the following policy themes are apparent for coastal fisheries:
  • An increasing focus on resource management strategies encompassing traditional practice and protected areas.
  • An increasing focus on ensuring resource exploitation is carefully managed and priority access is accorded to subsistence and low-level artisanal activities rather than to commercial fisheries.
  • An increasing focus on aquaculture activities at the subsistence and artisanal levels.
  • An increasing focus on community participation in management.
A review of the above Strategic Development Plan (CCIF, 2013) states: “Most of the fisheries economic development efforts focus on developing domestic extraction and processing of offshore resources (e.g. tuna). Nearshore fisheries and coastal marine resources are viewed as small-scale community livelihood opportunities rather than as areas that require management interventions.”

With respect to the private sector, there are no formal policies. Coastal fisheries activities are driven to a large extent by the short-term interplay between local market prices and production costs, with little emphasis by fishery participants on long-term formal strategies. In regard to offshore fishing, the domestic private sector suffered huge losses in the previous decade and is reluctant to make further investments, preferring instead to offer services to locally based foreign vessels and vessels that transship.
Research, education and trainingResearch

Tuna research has a long heritage in FSM – over 75 tuna research and exploratory projects have been carried out in the Micronesian area since the 1920s. These projects have been undertaken mainly by the Japanese and US Governments, as well as by Pacific Island regional organizations. Three major tuna tagging programmes were carried out in FSM and surrounding countries by SPC in the late 1970s, late 1980s and late 2000s. Logsheet catch and effort data covering the major Japanese fleets prior to 1979 is available from the Fisheries Agency of Japan. Since the inception of the SPC regional tuna fishery database in 1979, FSM has been carrying out a relatively comprehensive observer programme. One of the objectives of this programme has been to verify the accuracy of logbook data. Overall assessments of FSM’s tuna resources are done periodically by SPC.

Although a scientific research policy for FSM’s tuna fisheries has not been formalized into a document, the major elements of such a policy can be construed from past and present activities:

  • Making significant efforts to obtain reliable tuna resource assessments, including double-checking these assessments.
  • Maintaining in-house tuna research expertise in the form of a tuna biologist.
  • Operating a very active observer programme that allows for data verification.
  • Utilizing high-quality, external scientific expertise.
  • Recognizing that for tuna conservation efforts to be effective, FSM should promote and be actively involved in regional and international research efforts.
The fisheries research policy is very different at the state level. There appears to be general lack of awareness or understanding of the marine resource base that is available to support coastal fishery development. Few assessments have been carried out of inshore resources, and comparative information from elsewhere has not been extrapolated to the FSM situation. Much of the earlier research is summarized in a report on FSM’s marine resources (Smith, 1992). In general, at the political level there is an over-optimistic view of the degree to which the coastal resources of the states can support commercial development, and lack of appreciation of the need for, and benefits of, fisheries research.

Kronen et al. (2009) summarized coastal fisheries research including: monitoring and stock assessment of specific resources; development-oriented research to identify new grounds or techniques with commercial fishing or aquaculture potential (clam farming or sponge aquaculture); baitfishing; depletion experiments; grouper spawning aggregations; turtle tagging and assessment; trochus reseeding; stock assessment (beche-de-mer, pearl shells, spiny lobster); recording of traditional fishing knowledge; investigations of inshore plankton; and fish poisoning studies.
Education and training

Education related to fisheries and marine resources in FSM is provided by a variety of institutions:
  • Basic aspects of fisheries science are taught at the College of Micronesia–FSM, with the main campus on Pohnpei and branches in each of the states.
  • The College of Micronesia–FSM also includes the Fisheries and Maritime Institute, which delivers four fisheries modules: (1) Basic fishing knowledge, (2) Practical longline fishing, (3) Fishing gear design, instruments and machinery, and (4) Marine resources management/Financial management.
  • Academic training in biological, economic and other aspects of fisheries is given to FSM students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva, although FSM is currently not a member of USP.
  • Training courses are frequently organized by the major regional organizations involved in fisheries: SPC in New Caledonia and FFA in the Solomon Islands.
  • Courses and workshops are also given by NGOs and by bilateral donors, such as those by Japan.
  • Many government fisheries officers and other professionals have received advanced degrees in fishery-related subjects at overseas universities, especially those in Guam, Hawaii, mainland USA and Australia.
Foreign aid

Several donors and agencies have provided assistance to FSM in the fisheries sector in recent years. They include the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, SPC, FFA, FAO, World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Pacific Regional Environment Programme, South Pacific Project Facility of the International Finance Corporation, Republic of Korea, the Australian Agency for International Development, the Nature Conservancy and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Areas that have received donor support in recent years include tuna industry development, aquaculture, fisheries wharves, community-based management, fishing vessels and marine biodiversity conservation.
Institutional framework

FSM’s National Oceanic Resources Management Authority (NORMA) is the government’s regulatory and management arm within the FSM 200-mile EEZ. NORMA5 began operation on January 1 1979 at the same time as legislation entered into force establishing the FSM 200-Mile Extended Fishery Zone. The mission of the Authority is to be “an effective guardian and manager of the marine resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Federated States of Micronesia for people living today and for generations of citizens to come”. The Authority works to: (a) ensure that these resources are used in a sustainable way; (b) obtain the maximum sustainable economic benefits from the resources; and (c) promote economic security for the nation through their use.

The Authority consists of five members/Directors, appointed by the President subject to the advice and consent of Congress. Four of the five are appointed after consultations with the four states and one is appointed at-large.

The Executive Director of NORMA has full responsibility for the operation of the office and is assisted by the Deputy Director in meeting his/her obligations. The position is appointed by the Authority and serves under the conditions it sets. The Executive Director and Deputy Director together form the Executive Management of NORMA, which has broad responsibility for (a) providing information, advice and, where appropriate, recommendations to the NORMA Board for decisions on policy, management and financial matters; (b) implementing the decisions of the Authority and reporting to the President and Congress on the affairs of NORMA; and (c) formulating, reviewing and promoting fisheries management measures within the EEZ.

According to the latest, publicly available NORMA annual report, NORMA has three functional divisions:
  • The Management and Development Division (MDD) is tasked with a range of duties and responsibilities varying from day-to-day administrative office matters to implementation of the fishing agreements that the Authority has with its fishing partners. MDD is responsible, among other things, for receiving applications for and issuing fishing permits pursuant to fishing access agreements entered into by NORMA.
  • The Research Division (RD) is the largest of NORMA’s divisions and carries out some of its most significant programme activities. RD’s core function is management of NORMA’s National Fisheries Observer Programme (NFOP), which is the second largest NFOP in the Pacific Islands region. NFOP has trained and employed over 60 observers from throughout FSM to collect and verify key scientific data while on board fishing vessels.
  • The Statistics, Compliance and Technical Projects Division (SCTD) supports a number of NORMA’s programme activities, from data collection and management to monitoring, control and surveillance. SCTD also engages in national and regional trade-related discussions where fisheries are concerned. A key component of SCTD is the national Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). The VMS is an important tool for fisheries management as it allows the Authority to see vessels wherever they operate. NORMA’s VMS is supported by a mirror system housed at the Maritime Surveillance Wing of the National Police.
Other national government agencies with fishery responsibilities are:
  • the National Fisheries Corporation (NFC) – a public corporation established by the FSM Government in 1984. The aim of the corporation is to develop and promote a profitable and long-term commercial fishery in FSM. In addition to NFC’s own industry development programmes, the corporation works closely with the individual states in joint fishery projects;
  • the Fisheries Section of the National Government Department of Economic Affairs, which provides national and state governments with technical services and support for development and management of marine resources, including non-living resources. The section is also responsible for administration of the National Aquaculture Centre in Kosrae;
  • government agencies with a range of roles in fisheries, including the:
  • Congress, for approval of access agreements involving 10 or more vessels;
  • Justice Department, for coordination of surveillance and enforcement activities;
  • Foreign Affairs Department, for fisheries aspects of bilateral and multilateral treaties, and attendance at regional fisheries management meetings;
  • Office of the President, for Cabinet meetings (NORMA’s Executive Director is a Cabinet member), approval of travel and appointment of NORMA board members
  • Finance Department, for NORMA budget matters and all disbursements except for fishery observer activities.

At the FSM state level, various government agencies are involved in marine resource use and management, including the:

  • Pohnpei Marine Resources Division
  • Pohnpei Economic Development Authority
  • Kosrae Marine Resources Division
  • Chuuk Department of Marine Resources
  • Yap Marine Resources Management Division
  • Yap Fishing Authority

As FSM is a collection of numerous small islands, with a population highly dependent on marine resources, virtually everybody in the country is a stakeholder in fisheries due to its contribution to nutrition, employment and support to government.

The major private-sector association involved in tuna fisheries is the National Offshore Fisheries Association. The Association was established in 2002 and its members are companies involved in longlining, purse seining, vessel servicing and operation of shore facilities.

The Conservation Society of Pohnpei has an active marine programme. It helps to establish and manage marine protected areas and combines elements of traditional marine resource management with modern scientific methods to empower local communities to protect Pohnpei’s fragile marine biodiversity.

Important internet links related to fisheries in FSM include:
(5) It was then known as the Micronesian Maritime Authority (MMA).

The major regional institutions involved with fisheries are the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), located in Honiara, and the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea. Other players are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Office in Majuro, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Suva, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia, and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva. The characteristics of those institutions are given in Table 15.

Table 15: Pacific Island regional organizations involved in fisheries

  FFA SPC Other regional organizations with fishery involvement
Main area of emphasis Providing management advice on tuna fisheries and increasing benefits to Pacific Island countries from tuna fishing activities. Most aspects of coastal fisheries and scientific research on tuna. Fisheries are only one aspect of SPC’s work programme, which also covers such issues as health, demography and agriculture.

PNA – subregional grouping of countries where most purse seining occurs;

SPREP – environmental aspects of fisheries;

USP – School of Marine Studies (SMS) involved in a wide range of training;

PIFS – major political initiatives, some natural resource economics; leads trade negotiations with EU, which have a major fisheries component

Inter-regional relationships

The FFA/SPC relationship has had ups/downs over the years. It has been most difficult in early 1990s, but tremendous improvement in mid/late 1990s.

An annual colloquium has helped the relationship. Staff who have moved between the two organizations have made a noticeable improvement in understanding.

Much of the success/benefits achieved by FFA/SPC cooperation depends on the personalities of FFA’s Director/Deputy and SPC’s Director of the Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems.

At least in theory, all regional organizations come under the umbrella of PIFS. Their activities are coordinated to some degree by the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), which has a Marine Sector Working Group that meets at least once per year, but is limited by lack of resources for follow-up.

FFA originally provided secretariat services to the PNA, but the PNA broke away from FFA in 2010. Currently, there are some sensitivities in the relationship, but it appears to be improving.

Main strengths Direct contact with its governing body many times per year results in a high degree of accountability. Mandate of tight focus on tuna eliminates considerable dissipation of effort. Noumea being a pleasant place to work, there is considerable staff continuity. The Oceanic Fisheries Programme often sets the standard for tuna research in the world. Documentation of work is very good.

Because PIFS is under the national leaders, it is considered the premier regional organization.

PNA has achieved considerable success and credibility in such areas as raising access fees, 100 percent observer coverage, eco-certification, high seas closures, and controls on FADs.

USP is centrally located in the region and SMS has substantial infrastructure.

SPREP has close ties to NGOs active in the marine sector.

Membership Australia and New Zealand, plus Cook Is., FSM, Fiji Kiribati, Marshall Is., Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Is., Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu Includes the major metropolitan countries, all Pacific Island countries, and the French/UK/US territories; the most inclusive of any regional organization.

PNA: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Is, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Is. and Tuvalu.

USP: Cook Is., Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Is., Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Is., Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

SPREP: 21 Pacific Island countries and territories, plus Australia, France, New Zealand and USA.

PIFS: same as FFA

Source: Adapted from Gillett (2014)

The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean entered into force in June 2004, and established the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). FSM is a member of the commission, along with 26 other countries. WCPFC has its headquarters in Pohnpei, FSM, and has held 13 annual meetings to date.

Legal framework

FSM is a confederation of four states. Distribution of powers between the central and state level of government is dealt with in the Constitution. With regard to fisheries, the distribution of power is largely determined on a geographical basis. Article IX, section 2(m), of the Constitution stipulates that the National Government is empowered “…to regulate the ownership, exploration, and exploitation of natural resources within the marine space of the Federated States of Micronesia beyond 12 miles from island baselines.” Conversely, state governments have jurisdiction over fisheries in the territorial sea and internal waters. Fisheries laws and regulations reviewed in this section are those adopted by the central level of government and thus apply to fisheries in the EEZ. Laws and regulations governing fishing activities in the territorial sea and internal waters are found in the code of each state.

With respect to national legislation, FSM enacted the Marine Resources Act of 2002 (Public Law 12-34). The major features of the 122-page document are as follows:

  • No domestic fishing, commercial pilot fishing, foreign fishing or such other fishing or related activity is allowed in the exclusive economic zone unless it is in accordance with: (1) a valid and applicable permit issued under authority conferred by this subtitle; or (2) a valid and applicable licence issued by an administrator pursuant to a multilateral access agreement.
  • The Authority is authorized to enter into fisheries management agreements for cooperation in, or coordination of, fisheries management measures in all or part of the region, or for the implementation of a multilateral access agreement. Such agreements may, among other things, at the Authority's discretion, include provisions for the following:

  • authorization of a person, body or organization to perform functions required by a multilateral access agreement, including, but not limited to, the allocation, issuance and denial of fishing licences valid in the region or part thereof, including the exclusive economic zone;
  • an observer programme;
  • a port sampling programme;
  • fisheries monitoring and control;
  • any other matter relating to fisheries management.
The Marine Resources Act of 2002 has been amended several times in recent years:
  • 2005: to enable the waiver of permit fees in certain circumstances
  • 2007: to establish a two-term limit for members of NORMA
  • 2014: to require that all vessels land their bycatch
  • 2015: to restrict shark finning
  • 2015: to allow the disposal at sea of bycatch after recording.
Subsidiary legislation implementing the previous Title 24 of the FSM Code, particularly the Reefers and Fuel Tankers Licensing Regulations of 1990 and the Domestic Fishing and Local Fishing Vessel Licensing Regulations of 1991, remains in force.

National conservation and management measures relevant to fisheries are in Title 23 of the FSM Code.
  • Chapter One addresses conservation of marine species. It prohibits fishing using destructive methods, including the use of explosives, poisons or chemicals. It also sets limits on the taking or killing of hawksbill sea turtles and regulates the taking of sponges. Penalties for violation of its provisions are inadequate, with a fine up to USD 100 and/or six months imprisonment.

  • Chapter Two provides for the protection of endangered species of fish, shellfish and game, but there is a provision for taking of these species for subsistence food or traditional uses, provided such taking does not further endanger the species involved.

Each of the states has its own legislation dealing with fisheries management and development. These include:
  • Chuuk State: Fisheries Act
  • Kosrae State: Marine Resources Act of 2000
  • Pohnpei State: Marine Resources Conservation Act 1981 and Fisheries Protection Act 1995
  • Yap State: Public Law 06-01-07


Map courtesy of SPC

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