Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page



This area is well known for experiencing large changes in the abundance and species composition of its main fish resources (Csirke and Sharp, 1984; Sharp and Csirke, 1983). This tends to have major social and economic impacts at national and regional level and, moreover, since the area is the second highest contributor to world fish production (in 2002 it produced more than 16 percent of the world marine captured fish and almost 11 percent of the total world fish production), the effects of these changes have a noticeable effect on global fisheries trends and projections.

Within the region, the Peruvian anchoveta, the South American sardine and the Chilean horse mackerel complex provide a most striking example of how these changes in abundance and species composition can affect local fisheries and national economies. The most important, highly variable and best studied species in the area is the Peruvian anchoveta (IMARPE, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2000; Tsukayama, 1983; Zuta, Tsukayama and Villanueva, 1983; Pauly and Tsukayama, 1987; Pauly et al., 1989;Csirke, 1980, 1988, 1989).

There are two main distinct stocks of Peruvian anchoveta in the area (Tsukayama, 1966; Jordán, 1971; IMARPE, 1973), the northern-central Peruvian stock that is found between 3° and 15°S, and the southern Peru-northern Chile stock that is found between 16° and 24°S (GTE IMARPE-IFOP, 2003), with a smaller third substock being proposed for the southernmost part of the species range at 37°S (Serra, 1983). The Peruvian stock is by far the most abundant and important, with average biomass usually in the range of 3 to 16 million tonnes (Tsukayama, 1983; Pauly and Palomares, 1989; Csirke et al., 1996). The southern Peru-northern Chile stock has been estimated to reach biomass in the order of 3 to 6 million tonnes (GTE IMARPE-IFOP, 2003). Most of the catches of Peruvian anchoveta correspond to the northern-central Peruvian stock that is generally found within Peruvian waters and is usually exploited solely by Peruvian fleets. However, in some particularly cold years and under the influence of a stronger flow of the Humboldt-Peru current, part of the stock may migrate north, into Ecuadorian waters where eventually it can also be reported in commercial catches. In 2002, 6.7 million tonnes or 70 percent of the total anchoveta catch (within the 70–80 percent estimated for previous years) were produced by the northern-central Peruvian stock. The remaining is produced by the southern Peru-northern Chile stock, that is exploited by fleets from these two countries.

The anchoveta fishery developed in the 1960s and early 1970s on the basis of an overoptimistic perception of the real sustainable abundance of these stocks provided by peak non-sustainable catch rates. The fishery grew rapidly and during several consecutive years. It expanded its fishing capacity substantially and managed to remove a total annual catch well in excess of the recommended ceiling of 8 to 9million tonnes per year from the main northern-central Peruvian stock (Schaefer, 1967; Boerema et al., 1967; Gulland, 1968; Csirke et al., 1996; Csirke and Gumy, 1996; IMARPE, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974). Catches peaked at 13.1 and 11.2 million tonnes in 1970 and 1971, just prior to the 1972–1973 collapse. While heavy fishing did play a major role in the collapse of the Peruvian anchoveta fishery in the early 1970s (IMARPE, 1974; Zuta, Tsukayama and Villanueva, 1983; Jordán, 1983), it is recognized that the 1972–1973 “El Niño” was also a primary cause of recruitment failure and stock decline (Csirke, 1980). The lack of adequate management action to drastically reduce fishing pressure did the rest, contributing to aggravate and prolong the decline. The anchoveta stock was already depleted and catches were already fairly low when the much stronger 1982–1983 “El Niño” hit the area. That is why the 1982–1983 “El Niño” did not have as severe an impact on the total regional fish production, although it did reduce the Peruvian anchoveta stock to its historical minimum. The fortunate coincidence of favourable environmental conditions and a much reduced fishing capacity and, consequently, reduced fishing effort, allowed the stock to recover and catches to increase in the following years (Csirke et al., 1992, 1996).

During the early 1990s the stock and the anchoveta fishery recovered to their pre-1972 collapse sizes, but regrettably this also included the expansion of fishing capacity well beyond what was needed and advisable given the characteristics of abundance and variability of the anchoveta stock and other bio-economic considerations. By 1995 the fishing capacity (including fishing vessels and fish meal processing factories) was estimated to be at least 30 percent greater than needed and advisable (Csirke and Gumy, 1996). Apparently the fishing capacity continued to increase, although at a slower pace. In the meantime the anchoveta stocks suffered another serious depletion in 1997–1998. Fortunately, all seems to indicate that the two stocks of Peruvian anchoveta have recovered from the severe depletion that followed the years of heavy fishing and the adverse environmental conditions associated with the strong 1997–1998 El Niño. Fishing capacity and fishing pressure remained high during this “El Niño” event, while the biomass and resulting catches were drastically reduced due to loss of somatic growth, poor recruitment, changes in behaviour and a southern stock migration to avoid the warmer conditions in the north. During the autumn and spring of 1998 the Peruvian anchoveta was estimated to have reached a very low total biomass, of 1.2 to 2.7 million tonnes for the whole Peruvian coast, as estimated by hydroacoustic surveys (Castillo, Gutiérrez and Gonzales, 1998; IMARPE, 1998; Gutiérrez, 2000). From the above, it can be estimated that the main northern-central Peruvian stock reached a biomass close to 15 percent of its average and 50 percent of what is considered its minimum safe limit, but shortly after the stock had a surprisingly fast recovery.

Particularly favourable environmental conditions, good recruitment, coupled with a careful management and surveillance scheme have apparently contributed to the fast recovery in the post 1997–98 El Niño years (Bouchon et al., 2000; Ñiquen et al., 2000). The two stocks of anchoveta are now reported as recovered from the El Niño 1997–1998 depletion and while there are still some potential concerns over potential overfishing, particularly due to the gross excess of fishing capacity, it is hoped that the two stocks will evolve to and be maintained at a safer fully exploited level. However, given the existing excess fishing capacity (estimated to be 40 percent higher than advisable) and the anchoveta known high natural variability and vulnerability to heavy fishing, particular measures need to be adopted to prevent overfishing.

The South American sardine was overexploited and has virtually disappeared from some areas. At least three substock units are described for this species (Parrish, Serra and Grant, 1989), the northern stock, found from 1°S to 15°S off Ecuador and Peru, with a probable separate substock around Galapagos Islands; the central stock, found from 15°S to 25°S off southern Peru and northern Chile, and the southern stock(s) off Coquimbo (30°S) and off Talcahuano (37°S) in Chile. Serra and Tsukayama (1988) describe the stock off Talcahuano in a separate stock. At periods (or regimes) of high abundance the most abundant stocks have been the northern (Ecuador-Peru) stock, with a biomass peaking at 10 million tonnes in 1987, and the central (southern Peru-northern Chile) stock, peaking at 9million tonnes in 1980.

The first recorded sudden increase in biomass and particularly high catches of both stocks started more or less simultaneously in the early 1970s (IMARPE, 1974; Serra and Zuleta, 1982; Salazar et al., 1984; Zuzunaga, 1985) following the 1972 collapse of the Peruvian anchoveta. This lasted for almost two decades, but now the abundance of both stocks of South American sardine has declined to very low levels, allowing catches of only a few tens of thousand tonnes per year. It is noteworthy that the total catches on the southern Peru - northern Chile stock started to decline earlier, already since 1985, while those on the northern stock (Peru-Ecuador) started to decline in 1990. There are clear indications that in both cases the decline in catches were preceded, three or four years earlier, by declining trends in recruitment and total biomass. Also, in both cases, a relaxed management allowed fishing pressure to build up rapidly and remain high, even while biomass and recruitments were entering into negative trends (Csirke et al., 1996; GTE IMARPE-IFOP, 1994, 1999, 2003). The decline of these stocks was due to a combination of overfishing that prededed and accelerated an abundance decline caused by an environmentally driven long-term “regime change” (Kawasaki, 1983; Lluch-Belda et al., 1989, 1992; Schwartzlosse et al., 1999). This declining phase of a longer term regime is likely to maintain the stocks at low abundance for some years. These stocks are fully exploited even if fishing pressure and total catches are drastically reduced, and given the natural low abundance “regime” even limited catches are likely to cause overexploitation of the stocks if not properly monitored and controlled.

The Chilean jack mackerel has a wide distribution in the area and because of its extensive migrations it is difficult to establish distinguishable stock units, although the possible existence of two or more subpopulations have been proposed (Serra, 1991; Arcos and Grechina, 1994). Fishing pressure on this species has built up rapidly in part of its distribution range, and the stock is considered to be fully exploited or overexploited, particularly given the expansion of fishing pressure in some areas.

A large, although variable proportion (65 to 95 percent) of the annual catches of this species are obtained off Chile, where a drastic decline of the catches in the late 1990s lead to the establishment of tight management measures based on the application of a non-transferable individual quota system. Even if catches tended to stabilize, there are concerns about the state of the stock and the sustainability of the fishery, particularly as recent fishing effort might be overexploiting the stock (Barría et al., 2003; Perez and Buschmann, 2003). Catches of Chilean jack mackerel in Peru are much lower and variable than in Chile, but have been increasing in recent years. The state of the stock in Peruvian waters is uncertain, although is likely to be also overexploited, or fully exploited. The Peruvian Government has recently established that jack mackerel, together with chub mackerel and South American sardine, can only be used for direct human consumption (PRODUCE, 2002). This apparently has the aim of promoting the local fish food market, as well as reducing the fishing pressure on this species. Efforts are being made nationally to manage these fisheries. However, due to its extended coastal and oceanic distribution, the jack mackerel seems a species for which further regional cooperation could lead to longer lasting and improved conservation and management in its entire range. The chub mackerel is mostly caught as bycatch in the jack mackerel fishery, and while there is less information regarding its abundance and general state, it is clear that it is also highly variable but far less abundant than the jack mackerel. Nevertheless, exploitation rates of chub mackerel are expected to be low and the stock is probably moderately exploited.

The eastern Pacific bonito gave some signs of recovery in the early 1990s, most likely due to the recovery of the Peruvian anchoveta, its main food source. However, the severe 1997–1998 El Niño, associated with some heavy fishing as bycatch in the anchoveta and other fisheries has apparently caused again the depletion of this stock. At present this species is only occasionally reported, when available, as targeted or as bycatch by the Peruvian small-scale fisheries (Estrella et al., 2001). Yellowfin tuna had a peak biomass in 2001 and lower in 2002, and is considered fully exploited. Preliminary estimates of skipjack biomass show a high peak in 1999, a low in 2001 and relatively strong recruitments were expected to increase the biomasss in 2002–2003 and most likely is moderately exploited. Bigeye tuna biomass estimations are less certain, and according to IATTC (2004) spawning biomass has been declining and it is probably fully to slightly overexploited.

The situation of other small pelagics varies. The Araucanian herring is considered to be overexploited (Cubillos, Bucarey and Canales, 2002). The Pacific thread herring and Pacific anchoveta are most likely fully exploited in most of the distribution range. They are mainly used to produce fishmeal and oil. In Colombia the Pacific anchoveta is managed under a system of annual quotas and spawning bans (Beltrán and Villaneda, 2000; CPPS, 2003; FAO, 2003).

Amongst the demersals, the South Pacific hake has also shown a large recruitment variability associated with changes in environmental conditions such as “El Niño” (Samamé, Castillo and Mendieta, 1985; Espino, Castillo and Fernández, 1995). There are two distinct stock units corresponding to different subspecies of South Pacific hake: Merluccius gayi peruanus found from 0°S to 14°S off Ecuator and Peru and Merluccius gayi gayi, found from 19°S to 44°S off Chile (FAO, 1990). The Peruvian stock reached its highest estimated abundance in 1978, with a biomass of 700 000t, with a second high peak with 640 000t in 1994. Since then the biomass declined to a most recent 102 000t (IMARPE, 2003, 2004a). The Chilean stock had an estimated increasing trend during 1968–2000 with a maximum peak biomass of 1.4 million tonnes in 1996 and around 1 million tonnes in 2000 (Payá, 2003). The management of both South Pacific hake stocks are now based on the application of non-transferable individual quotas. The Chilean stock of South Pacific hake is considered to be fully exploited (Cerda et al., 2003; Pérez and Buschmann, 2003), although there is some concern about its possible overexplotation. On the other hand the Peruvian stock was overexploited for several years and was recently severely depleted. By the end of 2002 this led the Peruvian Government to decide on a total ban of this fishery and after nearly two years of closure, the stock is giving signs of recovery (IMARPE, 2004b).

This case of collapse (and now hopeful recovery) of the Peruvian stock of South Pacific hake provides some interesting lessons to be learnt. One is that the immediate effects and longer term consequences of increasing fishing effort and of possible changes of environmental signals should be properly identified and handled accordingly in the assessment and management process. In the case of the Peruvian hake fishery it has been noted that, while catch rates were maintained high mostly due to increasing fishing efficiency and increasing fishing effort, what were clear signs of overexploitation (such as the reduction of the distribution areas of different age groups, disappearance of larger and older individuals and a declining mean size at capture) were mostly attributed to being the result of temporary inter-decadal environmental changes. In addition, a relaxed management coupled with overoptimistic assessments in the late 1990s contributed to driving the stock to very low spawning biomass (Espino, Samamé and Castillo, 2001; Lleonart and Guevara, 1995; IMARPE, 2003, 2004b). Once the signs of severe decline were too obvious to ignore, a concerted response by the industry and the Government, which included the convening of an International Panel of Experts to seek advice and the strict adherence to the expert's recommendations (IMARPE, 2003, 2004b) had, apparently, contributed to reverse what otherwise would have been just another case of fishery failures.

Other demersal stocks such as the Patagonian grenadier is giving signs of heavy exploitation (Payá et al., 2002) and is considered to be fully to overexploited. The southern hake is considered fully or overexploited due to the high catch of juveniles and its low turnover rate (Payá et al., 2000). The Patagonian toothfish is considered as moderately exploited, while most of the commercially exploited stocks of toothfish and congers are most likely fully exploited, with some giving signs of overexploitation (Pérez and Buschmann, 2003).

Squids are ecological opportunists whose dynamics resemble that of desert locust, and their abundance can fluctuate widely from one generation to the next (Rodhouse, 2001). This area is able to sustain large population of squids, and the jumbo flying squid is particularly abundant in some years, and catches and fishing pressure have been building up rapidly. The jumbo flying squid has a wide distribution in the eastern Pacific, from California, USA, to southern Chile (Nigmatullin, Nesis and Arkhipkin, 2001), with some catches reported as far north as off Oregon in 1997 and off Alaska in 2004. There are no clear indications of possible population subgroupings, mainly because of its active and extensive migratory behaviour. There has been a striking increase in abundance of jumbo flying squid since 1999, and the stock has extended its distribution and availability southward from Peru to Chile (IMARPE, 2004c). The active and veracious predatory behaviour of this species have been a source of concern for Peruvian and Chilean authorities and fishermen, mainly due to the probable impact on the abundance of other high-value species in the area. Although catches have increased rapidly, the stock is probably only moderately exploited.

Other invertebrates, such as tropical and more temperate water shrimps tend to be fully to overexploited. Some local populations of sea urchins, clams, scallops and other shellfishes have been overexploited and even depleted in some areas, while others are moderately or very lightly exploited (Rabí, Yamashiro and Quiroz, 1996; Beltrán and Villaneda, 2000; Pérez and Buschmann, 2003).

Except for tunas and other highly migratory species and for the Chilean jack mackerel prior to 1992, all the main fish stocks in this area are exploited by national fleets operating within their own EEZs or by land-based foreign fleets operating under a licence or fisheries agreement with a coastal state. This to some extent simplifies the assessment and management of fisheries as well as the allocation of responsibilities for the conservation and use of living marine resources in the area. In fact, while there is a more regional approach as far as the assessment and management of tuna fisheries is concerned, all other major fisheries in the area are assessed and managed nationally. Nevertheless, there is a well-established tradition of regional cooperation regarding general fisheries research issues, and coastal states might cooperate with neighbouring and/or distant-water fishing countries on a case-by-case basis when dealing with the assessment and management of fish stocks that extend beyond their own EEZs.

Most of the tuna fisheries in the area are assessed and managed by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC, that applies a combined scheme of fishing effort controls, catch quotas and closed seasons to regulate fishing in its area of influence, which includes and extends well beyond the north-western part of Area 87. Together with the IATTC, other regional organizations such as the Permanent Commission for the Southeast Pacific (CPPS, and the Latin American Organization for the Development of Fisheries (OLDEPESCA, have been exploring alternatives to modify and expand the existing arrangements for the assessment and management of fisheries, particularly for tunas and other highly migratory species in the wider eastern Pacific area. The Galapagos Agreement ( /espa/acuerdodegalapagos.html) promoted by the CPPS and signed in August 2000, is one of the efforts in this direction.

The CPPS, of which the four coastal states facing Area 87 are members, plays an active role in dealing with regional maritime issues, including coordinating activities regarding regional and international legislation, research and training, oil pollution, protection of the marine environment, oceanography and fisheries. Other international, regional or subregional organizations such as the European Community (EC), FAO, IATTC and OLDEPESCA also support or have supported regional or subregional efforts on research, assessment and management of fisheries in the region.

Most of the main fisheries in the area are under a national fisheries management scheme, although their efficacy and the amount of research and administrative efforts devoted to their implementation varies greatly with time, with the type of fishery and from country to country. Limiting access through fishing licences or fishing permits, the setting of total annual catch quotas, individual non-transferable quotas, closed seasons, temporary or more permanent closed protected areas, and minimum size limits at first capture, are amongst the management tools most frequently used and are often combined by national fisheries management administrations to regulate fishing in their areas of influence. Since 1995 Chile has also introduced a regime access (“Areas de Manejo” or Management Areas) through which exclusive access rights are granted to artisanal fishermen organizations for the exploitation and use of benthonic resources in pre-established areas within five miles from the coast or in inland waters ( This apparently has resulted in the recovery of some local coastal stocks that were depleted and has generally produced an increase of both the biological productivity and economic returns in comparison to areas where free unlimited access is allowed.


Alheit, J. & Bernal, P. 1999. Effects of physical and biological changes on the biomass yield of the Humboldt Current Ecosystem. In K. Sherman & Q. Tang (eds). Large Marine Ecosystems of the Pacific Rim. Assessment, Sustainability and Management, pp 251–267 Blackwell Science Inc. USA.

Arcos, D. & Grenchina, A.S. 1994. Biología y Pesca Comercial del Jurel en el Pacífico Sur. Instituto de Investigación Pesquera, Talcahuano, Chile, 203p.

Arntz, W.E. & Fahrbach, E.J. 1996. El Niño: experimento climático de la naturaleza. Fondo de Cultura Económica. Ciudad de México. México, 312p.

Arntz, W., Landa, A. & Tarazona, J. (eds). 1985. El Niño, su impacto en la fauna marina. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao . Volumen Extraordinario: 222 p.

Barría, P., Aranís, A., Mora, S., Böhm, G., Serra, R., Martínez, C., Catasi, B., Reyes, H., Muñoz, G. & Gómez, A. 2003. Diagnóstico de la pesquería chilena del jurel (Trachurus symmetricus murphyi ). In E. Yánez (ed). Actividad pesquera y de acuicultura en Chile, pp. 123–141. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

Beltrán, C.S. & Villaneda, A.A. 2000. Perfil de la pesca y la acuicultura en Colombia. Instituto Nacional de Pesca y Acuicultura - INPA, Subdirección de Investigaciones. Santa Fé de Bogota, D.C. junio de 2000. (

Bernal, P.A., Robles, F.L. & Rojas, O. 1983. Variabilidad física y biológica en la región meridional del sistema de corrientes Chile-Perú. In G.D. Sharp & J. Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No.291(3):683–711.

Boerema, L.K., Saetersdal, G., Tsukayama, I., Valdivia, J.E. & Alegre, B. 1967. Informe sobre los efectos de la pesca en el recurso peruano de anchoveta. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 4(Vol.1): 133–186.

Bouchón, M., Cahuín, S., Díaz, E. & Ñiquen, M. 2000. Captura y Esfuerzo pesquero de la pesquería de anchoveta peruana (Engraulis ringens ). Boletín Inst. Mar Perú 19(1–2): 109–116.

Castillo, R., Gutiérrez, M. & Gonzales, A. 1998. Biomasa de la principales especies pelágicas en el mar peruano a fines de otoño 1998. Crucero Bic José Olaya Balandra 9805–06 de Tacna a Máncora. IMARPE, Informe No.137

Cerda, R., Pavez, P., Urbina, M., Arancibia, L., Melo, T. & Yáñez, E. 2003. Aspectos del manejo de la merluza común (Merluccius gayi Guichenot 1848) en la unidad de pesquería centro-sur. In E. Yánez (ed.). Actividad pesquera y de acuicultura en Chile, pp. 221–232. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

Chavez, F., Ryan, J., Lluch-Cota, S.E. & Ñiquen, M. 2003. From anchovies to sardines and back: multidecadal change in the Pacific Ocean. Science, 299: 217–221.

CPPS. 2003. Octava Reunión del Grupo de Trabajo CPPS/FAO sobre evaluación de recursos y pesquerías artesanales en el Pacífico Sudeste. Valparaíso, Chile, 15–17 de octubre de 2003. (

Csirke, J. 1980. Recruitment in the Peruvian anchovy and its dependence on the adult population. In A. Saville (ed.) The assessment and management of pelagic fish stocks. Rapp.P.-V. Réun. CIEM, 177: 307–313.

Csirke, J. 1988. Small shoaling pelagic fish stocks. In J.A. Gulland (ed.). Fish population dynamics, pp. 271–302. 2nded. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 422 p.

Csirke, J. 1989. Changes in the catchability coefficient in the Peruvian anchoveta (Engrauliis ringens )fishery. In D. Pauly, P. Muck & I. Tsukayama (eds). The Peruvian upwelling ecosystem: dynamics and interactions, pp. 207–219. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 18: 438p.

Csirke, J. 1995. Fluctuations in abundance of small and mid-size pelagics. In C. Bas, J.J. Castro & J.M. Lorenzo (eds). International Symposium on Middle-Sized Pelagics, pp. 481–490. Sci. Mar., 59 (3–4): 660 p. + Erratum In Sci. Mar., 60(2–3).

Csirke, J. & Gumy, A.A. 1996. Análisis bioeconómico de la pesquería pelágica peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 15(2): 25–68.

Csirke, J. & Sharp, G. 1984. Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(Vol.1): 102p.

Csirke, J., Bombín, L.M., González de la Rocha, J., Gumy, A.A., Jensen, N., Medina-Pizzali, A.F., Ruckes, E. & Shawyer, M. 1992. La ordenación y planificación pesquera y la reactivación del sector pesquero en el Perú. Informe del Programa de Cooperación FAO/Govierno de Noruega. FI:GCP/INT/466 /NOR, Informe de Campo 92/15: 92p.

Csirke, J., Guevara-Carrasco, R., Cárdenas, G., Ñiquen, M. & Chipollini, A. 1996. Situación de los recursos anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) y sardina (Sardinops sagax) a principios de 1994 y perspectivas para la pesca en el Perú, con particular referencia a las regiones norte y centro de la costa peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar. Perú 15(1): 1–23.

Cubillos, L.A., Bucarey, D.A. & Canales, M. 2002. Monthly abundance estimation for common sardine (Strangomera benticki) and anchovy (Engraulis ringens) in the central-south area off Chile (34°S–40°S). Fisheries Research, 57: 117–130.

Dioses, T. 1995. Análisis dela distribución y abundancia de los recursos jurel y caballa frente a la costa peruana. Inf. Prog. Inst. Mar Perú, 6: 35

Espino, M., Castillo, R. & Fernández, F. 1995. Biology and fisheries of Peruvian hake (Merluccius gayi peruanus ). In J. Alheit & T.J. Pitcher (eds). Hake, Fisheries, ecology and markets, pp. 339–363. Chapman & Hall, London.

Espino, E., Samamé, M. & Castillo, R. 2001. La merluza peruana ( Merluccius gayi peruanus ): biología y pesquería. Instituto del Mar del Perú, Callao, Peru, 120p.

Estrella, C., Palacios, J., Avila, W., & Medina, A. 2001. Informe Estadístico de los recursos hidrobiológicos de la pesca artesanal marina por especies, artes, meses y lugares de desembarque durante el segundo semestre del 2000. INFORME Inst. Mar Perú No 164, 163p.

FAO. 1990. FAO species catalogue. Gadiform fishes of the world. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No.125, Volume 10: 442p.

FAO. 2003. Resumen Informativo sobre la pesca por países: la República del Ecuador. FID/CP/ECU, Abril de 2003. (

Gulland, J.A. 1968. Informe sobre la dinámica de la población de anchoveta peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 6(Vol.1): 305–346.

Guillén, O. 1983. Condiciones Oceanográficas y sus fluctuaciones en el Pacífico sur oriental. In G.D. Sharp & J. Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(3): 607–658.

Gutiérrez, M. 2000. Estimados de biomasa hidroacústica de los cuatro principales recursos pelágicos en el mar peruano durante 1983–2000. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, 19(1–2): 139–156.

GTE IMARPE-IFOP, 1994. Evaluación conjunta de los stocks de sardina y anchoveta del sur de Perú y norte de Chile. Informe Técnico, Grupo de Trabajo IMARPE-IFOP sobre pesquerías de pequeños pelágicos. Tercer Taller, Callao, 9 al 20 de Mayo 1994 (mimeo): 37p. + tablas y gráficos.

GTE IMARPE-IFOP. 1999. 6° Taller. Evaluación conjunta de los stocks de sardina y anchoveta del sur del Perú y norte de Chile. Grupo de Trabajo IMARPE-IFOP sobre pesquerías de pelágicos pequeños. Callao, 8 al 19 de noviembre de 1999. Informe Final. 47p. + anexos

GTE IMARPE-IFOP. 2003. 9° Taller. Evaluación conjunta de los stocks de anchoveta y sardina del sur del Perú y norte de Chile. Grupo de Trabajo IMARPE-IFOP sobre pesquerías de pelágicos pequeños. Callao, 17 al 21 de noviembre de 2003. Informe Final. 39p. ([email protected]; [email protected])

IATTC. 2004. Atunes y peces picudos en el Océano Pacífico Oriental en 2003. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Comisión. 72a Reunión, Lima-Perú, 14–18 de junio de 2004. Documento IATTC-72-04, 87p.

IMARPE, 1970. Informe del cuadro de expertos sobre dinámica de la población de la anchoveta peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 2(6): 324–372.

IMARPE, 1972. Informe sobre la segunda reunión del panel de expertos en dinámica de la población de la anchoveta peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 2(7): 373–458.

IMARPE, 1973. Tercera sesión del panel de expertos sobre la dinámica de la población de la anchoveta peruana. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 2(9): 525–599.

IMARPE, 1974. Informe de la cuarta sesión del panel de expertos de la evaluación del stock de anchoveta peruana. Bol.Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 2(10): 605–671.

IMARPE. 1998. Crucero 9811–12 de Evaluación Hidroacústica de Recursos Pelágicos: Isla Lobos de Tierra a Sama - B/C Olaya - L/P Imarpe IV. Informe Ejectuvio del Crucero 9811–12: 21p. .pdf

IMARPE. 2000. Trabajos expuestos en el Taller Internacional sobre la anchoveta peruana (TIAP) 09–12 mayo 2000. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, 19 (1): 1–204p.

IMARPE. 2003. Informe del panel internacional de expertos “Evaluación de la merluza peruana”. IMARPE, Callao, Peru, 18–21 marzo 2003, por J. Castro, H. Lassen & J. Lleonart. Informe Interno, 46p.

IMARPE. 2004a. II Panel Internacional de expertos para la evaluación de la merluza peruana (15–22 de marzo, 2004). (

IMARPE. 2004b. Informe del panel internacional de expertos “Evaluación de la merluza peruana”, IMARPE, Callao, Peru, 15–22 de marzo 2004, por E. Ferrandis, F. González, H. Lassen y J. Lleonart. Informe Interno, 46p. ([email protected]).

IMARPE. 2004c. Anuario Científico y Tecnológico IMARPE, Enero–Diciembre, 2001. Vol. 1.

Jordán, R. 1971. Distribution of anchoveta (Engraulis ringens J.) in relation to the environment. Invest. Pesq. 35: 113–126.

Jordán, R. 1979. Recursos pesqueros y medio ambiente marino en el Océano Pacífico Oriental. Rev. Com. Perm. Pacífico Sur, 10: 189–208.

Jordán, R. 1983. Variabilidad de los recursos pelágicos en el Pacífico sudeste. In G.D.Sharp & J.Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April, 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(3): 113–130.

Kawasaki, T. 1983. Why do some pelagic fishes have wide fluctuations in their numbers? - Biological basis of fluctuation from the viewpoint of evolutionary ecology. In G.D. Sharp & J. Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(3): 1065–1080.

Klyashtorin, L.B. 2001. Climate change and long-term fluctuations of commercial catches: the possibility of forecasting. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, No. 410. FAO, Rome, 86p.

Lleonart, J. & Guevara, R. 1995. Ordenación de la pesquería: Peru. Estado de la merluza, otras especies demersales y especies costeras. FAO Programa de Cooperación Técnica, FI:TCP/PER/4451, Documento de campo No.2, 90p.

Lluch-Belda, D., Crawford, R.J.M., Kawasaki, T., MacCall, A., Parrish, R.H., Schwartzlose, R.A. & Smith, P.E. 1989. World wide fluctuations of sardine and anchovy stocks: the regime problem. S. Afr. J. Mar. Sci., 8: 195–205.

Lluch-Belda, D., Schwartzlose, R.A., Serra, R., Parrish, R., Kawasaki, T., Hedgecock, D. & Crawford, R.J.M. 1992. Sardine and anchovy regime fluctuations of abundance in four regions of the world oceans: a workshop report. Fish. Oceanogr., I,4: 339–347.

Nigmatullin, Ch.M., Nesis, K.N. & Arkhipkin, A.I. 2001. A review of the biology of the jumbo squid Dosidicus gigas (Cephalopoda: Ommastrephidae). Fisheries Research, 54: 9–19

Ñiquen, M., Bouchón, M., Cahuín, S. & Díaz, E. 2000. Pesquería de anchoveta en el mar peruano. 1950–1999. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, 19(1–2): 117–123.

Parrish, R.H., Serra, R. & Grant, W.S. 1989. The monotypic sardines, sardina and sardinops: their taxonomy, distribution, stock structure and zoogeography. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 46(11): 2019–2036.

Pauly, D. & Palomares, M.L. 1989. New estimates of monthly biomass, recruitment and related statistics of anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) off Peru (4–14°S), 1953–1985, p 189–206. In D. Pauly, P. Muck, J. Mendo & I. Tsukayama (eds). The Peruvian upwelling ecosystem: dynamics and interactions. Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE), Callao, Perú; Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), GmbH, Eschborn, Federal Republic of Germany; and International Center for living Aquatic Resources Management, manila Philippines. ICLARM Conference Proceedings, 18: 438.

Pauly, D. & Tsukayama, I., 1987. The Peruvian anchoveta and its upwelling ecosystem: three decades of change. Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE), Callao, Perú; Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), GmbH, Eschborn, Federal Republic of Germany; and International Center for living Aquatic Resources Management, Manila, Philippines. ICLARM Studies and Reviews, 15: 351.

Pauly, D., Muck, P., Mendo, J. & Tsukayama, I. 1989. The Peruvian Upwelling Ecosystem: Dynamics and Interactions. Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE), Callao, Perú; Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), GmbH, Eschborn, Federal Republic of Germany; and International Center for living Aquatic Resources Management, manila Philippines. ICLARM Conference Proceedings, 18: 438.

Payá, I., 2003. Asesoría biológica para el manejo de la pesquería de merluza común (Merluccius gayi gayi ): Evaluación del stock y análisis de riesgo. In E. Yánez (ed.). Actividad pesquera y de acuicultura en Chile, pp. 189–207. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

Payá, I., Pool, H., Aguayo, M., Ojeda, V. & Céspedes, R. 2000. Estrategias de explotación en merluza del sur y congrio dorado en la zona sur austral bajo incertidumbre del tamaño y rendimiento sustentable del stock. (citado en: Pérez, A y Buschmann A. 2003. Sustentabilidad e Incertidumbre de las principales pesquerías Chilenas. Publicaciones Oceanía, Santiago de Chile). Informe Final Proyecto FIP-IT 97–14.

Payá, I., Rubilar, P., Pool, H., Céspedes, R., Reyes, H., Ehrhardt, N., Adarme, L. & Hidalgo, H. 2002. Evaluación de la merluza de cola y merluza tres aletas. (citado en: Pérez, A y Buschmann A. 2003. Sustentabilidad e Incertidumbre de las principales pesquerías Chilenas. Publicaciones Oceanía, Santiago de Chile). Informe Final Proyecto FIP 2000–15, 163p.

Pérez, A. & Buschmann, A. 2003. Sustentabilidad e Incertidumbre de las principales pesquerías Chilenas. Publicaciones Oceana, Santiago de Chile. 163p.

PRODUCE, 2002. Anuario Estadístico 2002. Oficina General de Tecnología de la Información y Estadística, Ministerio de la Producción, Lima, Perú. 227p. (

Rabí, M., Yamashiro, C. & Quiroz, M. 1996. Revisión de la biología y pesquería del recurso chanque Concholepas concholepas (Bruguiere, 1789) (Mollusca: gastropoda: Muricidae) Inf. Prog. Inst. Mar Perú, 31: 3–23.

Rasmusson, E.M. & Carpenter, T.H. 1982. Variations in tropical sea surface temperature and surface wind fields associated with the Southern Oscillation/El Niño. Mon. Wea. Rev., 110: 354–384.

Rodhouse, P.G. 2001. Managing and forecasting squid fisheries in variable environments. Fisheries Research, 54: 3–8

Salazar, C., Martínez, C., Mendieta, J. & Böhm, G. 1984. Evaluación del recurso sardina española (Sardinops sagax musica) de la zona norte de Chile, por análisis de Población Virtual. Invest. Pesq . (Chile), 31: 3–16.

Samamé, M., Castillo, J. & Mendieta, A. 1985. Situación de las pesquerías demersales y los cambios durante “El Niño”. In W. Arntz, A. Landa & J. Tarazona (eds). “El Niño”. Su impacto en la fauna marina, pp. 153–158. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Vol. Extraord. 222p.

Schaefer, M.B. 1967. Dynamics of the fishery for the anchoveta Engraulis ringens, off Peru. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Callao, 5(Vol.1): 265–304.

Schwartzlose, R.A., Alheit, J., Bakun, A., Baumgartner, T., Colte, R., Crawford, R.J.M., Fletcher, W.J., Green-Ruiz, Y., Hagen, E., Kawasaki, T., Lluch-Belda, D., Lluch-Cota, S.E., MacCall, A., Matsuura, Y., Nevarez-Martínez, M.O., Parrish, R.H., Roy, C., Serra, R., Shust, K.V., Ward, M.N. & Zuzunaga, J. 1999. Worldwide large-scale fluctuations of sardine and anchovy populations. S. Afr. J. Mar. Sci., 21: 289- 347.

Schweigger, E. 1964. El litoral peruano (segunda edición). Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal, Lima, Perú, 435p.

Serra, R. 1983. Changes in the abundance of pelagic resources along Chilean coast. In G.D. Sharp & J. Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(3): 255–284.

Serra, R. 1991. Important life history aspects of the Chilean jack mackerel, Trachurus symmetricus murphyi. Invest. Pesq., Chile, 36: 67–83.

Serra, R. & Tsukayama, I. 1988. Sinopsis de datos biológicos y pesqueros de la sardina Sardinops sagax (Jenyns, 1842) en el Pacífico suroriental. FAO Sinopsis sobre la pesca 13.

Serra, R. & Zuleta, A. 1982. Antecedentes biológico pesqueros de los recursos pelágicos de la pesquería de la zona norte, con énfasis en la sardina española. Subsecretaría de Pesca, Santiago, Chile. Informe interno.

Sharp, G.D. & Csirke, J. (eds). 1983. Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(Vols2&3): 1–1224

Strub, P.T., Mesías, J., Montecino, V., Rutlant, J. & Salinas, S. 1998. Chapter 10. Coastal ocean circulation off western South America, coastal segment (6, E). In A.Robinson & K. Brink (eds). The Sea . John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tsukayama, I. 1966. El número de branquispinas como carácter diferencial de sub-poblaciones de anchoveta (Engraulis ringens Jenyns) en la costa del Perú. In Memorias 1er. Seminario Latino-Americano sobre el Océano Pacífico Oriental, pp. 139–145. Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Perú.

Tsukayama, I. 1983. Recursos pelágicos y sus pesquerías en el Perú. Rev. Com. Perm. Pacífico Sur, 13: 25–63.

Valdivia, J. 1978. The Anchoveta and El Niño. Rapp.P.-v. Réun. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer., 173: 196–202.

Yañez, E., Barbieri, M.A. & Silva, C. 2003. Fluctuaciones ambientales de baja frecuencia y principales pesquerías pelágicas chilenas. In E. Yánez (ed.). Actividad pesquera y de acuicultura en Chile, pp. 109–121. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

Zuta, S., Tsukayama, I. & Villanueva, R. 1983. El ambiente marino y las fluctuaciones de las principales poblaciones pelágicas de la costa peruana. In G.D.Sharp & J. Csirke (eds). Proceedings of the expert consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources, San Jose, Costa Rica, 18–19 April 1983. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 291(3): 179–254.

Zuzunaga, J. 1985. Cambios del equilibio poblacional entre la anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) y la sardina (Sardinops sagax) en el sistema de afloramiento frente al Perú. In W. Arntz, A. Landa & J. Tarazona (eds). “El Niño”. Su impacto en la fauna marina, pp. 107–117. Bol. Inst. Mar Perú, Vol. Extraord. 222p.


by Robert D. Gillett *


This section covers an area of the Pacific Ocean that streches across the Eastern half of FAO statistical area 71 and the Northern part of FAO statistical area 77 that constitutes a distinctive fisheries region (Figure B16.1), with numerous islands countries and territories members of the South Pacific Commission (SPC). The review in this sector is largely based on an earlier FAO report on the area (Gillett, 2002).

Figure B16.1 - EEZs of Pacific Island countries and territories, and the SPC statistical area

Figure B16.1

The political entities of the Pacific Islands are characterized by large exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and mostly very small land areas. The total area of the region's EEZs is estimated to be 30569000. km., equivalent to about 28 percent of the world's EEZ area. The land area is 552789 km2, of which 461690 km2(84 percent) is in Papua New Guinea.

In general, the islands increase in size from east to west. Most islands rise steeply from the deep ocean floor and have very little shelf area. Coral reefs characteristically surround the islands, either close to the shore (fringing reef) or further offshore (barrier reef), in which case a coastal lagoon is enclosed. The area includes many atolls, which are the remnant barrier reefs of islands that have subsided. Some of the more recent islands in the area lack coral reefs. Mangrove forests often border the inshore waters, especially of the larger islands, and provide habitat for the juveniles of many important food fish.

Because of the relatively small size of most islands, major bodies of fresh water are not widespread in the sub-region, with substantial rivers and lakes only being found in some of the larger islands of Melanesia. The small land areas of most islands create limited freshwater and nutrient runoff, resulting in low enrichment of the nearby sea. The ocean waters of the area are usually clear and low in productivity. Upwelling occurs in the boundaries between currents and in other localized areas, and have important implications for the harvesting of marine resources.

The dispersed nature of the region's land among this vast area of water has several consequences for fisheries management. In regard to inshore resources, the presence of numerous patches of land and their associated coastal and coral reef areas, separated by large distances and sometimes abyssal depths, means that many species with limited larval dispersal can be effectively managed as unit stocks. On the other hand, management of shared stocks of highly migratory species such as tunas can only be effective if carried out on a multi-national basis. The presence of extensive areas of international waters (high seas) among the region's EEZs greatly complicates the region's fishery management efforts.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC, formerly the South Pacific Commission,, as a service to its member governments, regularly compiles detailed statistics for the oceanic fisheries. Most of this chapter is based on theses statistics and other estimates produced in various forms by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose statistical area grouping (Figure B16.2) do not correspond to the SPC region (Figure B16.1) nor to the FAO statistic areas.

Several different geographic areas are used to describe the “region” for fisheries purposes. In roughly descending size, the areas are: the central and western Pacific ocean, the US South Pacific Tuna Treaty area, SPC statistical area, FAO statistical area 71, SPC area, and the EEZs of Pacific Island FFA-member states. Since 1999 SPC usually reports regional tuna information for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Accordingly, unless otherwise noted the regional tuna catches given below are for the WCPO.

Figure B16.2 Boundaries of the Western and Central Pacific as used by FFA

Figure B16.2

Fishery Resources

The region's fishery resources can be broadly split into two main categories: oceanic, and coastal or inshore.


Pacific Island fisheries can be categorized in several ways. One of the most commonly used is the scale of the operation:

It has been estimated that there are about 25000 non-motorized and 17000 motorized fishing vessels operating in the Pacific Islands (McCoy, 1991). These range from simple canoes to sophisticated purse seiners over 70 m in length, many of which are equipped with helicopters.

The distinction between subsistence and commercial fishing is becoming increasingly blurred in many areas as monetization of rural economies proceeds and growing amounts of marine produce are traded for cash. In addition, the region's principal coastal fishery export products (trochus and bêche-de-mer) are produced in a manner which resembles subsistence rather than commercial fishing.

Tuna is the most important fishery, as it produces almost ten times more than all the other fisheries of the region combined in volume and over seven times more in value (Table B16.1). The landed value of tuna catches from the region was estimated at about US$375 million in 1982 (Clark, 1983), US$1.2 billion in 1993 (World Bank, 1995), US$1.6 billion in 1994 (FFA, 1995), US$1.7 billion in 1995 (FFA, 1996), and $1.9 billion in 1998 (Van Santen and Muller, 2000).

Table B16.1 Estimated production volume and value of Pacific Island fisheries, 1999 (from Gillett et al., 2001)

CategoryVolume (t)Value (US$)
Industrial tuna1 074 1131 900 000 000
Prawn9469 043 618
Commercial83 9141 79 914 623
Subsistence24 32781 800 664
Total11 83 3002 170 758 905

Regional fisheries cooperation

Fisheries cooperation, fostered by the regional organizations, is a prominent feature of the Pacific Islands. The region has three organizations with major involvement in fisheries matters and several others with peripheral involvement:

Figure B16.3 - Tuna catches in the Western and Central Pacific 1971–2001 ('000t)

Figure B16.3

Source SPC

In addition, there are regional programmes important to fisheries at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the South Pacific Applied Geo-Science Commission (SOPAC), and the Forum Secretariat.


Resource status

About 1.6 million tonnes of tuna, as well as an unknown amount of by-catch, have been caught in the western and central Pacific each year in the 1990s. According to the SPC Standing Committee on Tuna and Billfish (Lewis and Williams, 2002), the estimated total tuna catch for 2002 was 2005 000t, the highest total catch on record after 1998 2 037 602t with four main tuna species in the catch (Figure B16.3)

Skipjack tuna contribute two thirds of the WCPO catch of the four main tuna species. The best available estimates indicate that the 2002 skipjack catch was approximately 1.32 milliontonnes (the highest on record), with purse-seine fleets providing the majority of this catch (70 percent). Available indicators (purse seine, pole-and-line) show variable catch rates over time in the fishery.

Yellowfin tuna catch increased since the 1980s, when the purse-seine fishery began its significant expansion in the WCPO. Since 1990, the catch ranged from 320 000t (1996) to 500 000t (1998). In 1999, poor market conditions for purse-seine caught fish resulted in reduced purse-seine fishing effort and catch. In addition, the longline yellowfin catch for 1999 of 52 580t was the lowest for nearly 30 years. The overall catch for 2002 was 446 000t, the majority of it produced by purse seiners. Catch rates for purse-seine fleets continue to be variable and show no clear trend in the available time series of data.

Bigeye tuna accounts for a relatively small portion (6 percent) of the total tuna catch in the WCPO, its economic value is substantial (approximately US$1 billion annually). The estimated total Pacific catch reached a peak of 221 288t in 2002 with 96 062t and 73 821t in the WCPO and EPO respectively.

Figure B16.4 Location of the Warm Pool (within 29°C isotherm) and US purse-seine tuna catches during (top) La Niña and (bottom) El Niņo events (from Lehodey et al., 1997)

Figure B16.4

South Pacific Albacore tuna landings, estimated at 51 473t in 2001, was slightly less than in 1998 when catches reached 52 414t in 1989. In 2001 record catches reached 45 708t for longline, and 5 765t for trolling-lines. Albacore catch in several Pacific Island countries continued to increase over the last ten years, with individual records in 2001 for Fiji (7 791t), Samoa (4 820t), French Polynesia (4 261t) and American Samoa (3 253t). These catches constitute around 45 percent of the total South Pacific albacore catch in 2001.

In general, the major tuna stocks on which the fishery is based are not believed to be overexploited at present. Moreover, SPC scientists believe that skipjack catches could be increased. There is, however, some evidence for a declining trend in bigeye catch rates.

Like most other fishing methods, industrial tuna fishing results in the capture of non-target species, or by-catch, including: marlins, sailfish, mahimahi, wahoo and other species which are valued by sports fishermen; sharks which are the subject of growing concern due to their vulnerability to over-fishing; and marine reptiles, marine mammals, and sea birds which may be endangered or formally protected in some jurisdictions.

There is a growing concern over the by-catch in the tuna fisheries of the region. Reasons for this include attention to obligations in international treaties and in non-binding international agreements, increasing involvement of environmental non-government organizations in the issue, and the closure in 2000 of the swordfish longline fishery in Hawaii. It is generally agreed that a better knowledge of the situation, to be obtained primarily through increased observer coverage, is an important foundation upon which future management measures should be based.

Figure B16.5 - Tuna catches in the Western and Central Pacific by gear type ('000t)

Figure B16.5

Much of the tuna purse seine catch in the region is caught in the equatorial region. This area of warm surface water has become known as the Western Pacific Warm Pool.

The Western Pacific warm pool

The Western Pacific Warm Pool is one of the 56 biogeochemical provinces defined by Longhurst (1995) and corresponds to the definition of a Large Marine Ecosystem (LME), i.e. a zone of 200000 km2. or more, characterized by distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity and trophically dependent populations (Figure B16.4). LMEs have been described as regional units for the management of fisheries in accordance with the principles of UNCLOS, and can provide a framework for the achievement of UNCED commitments (Lehodey et al., 1997).

This is a zone of low productivity which can extend over 80° of longitude and has the warmest surface waters of the world's oceans. It produces virtually 100 percent of the purse-seine catch, 90 percent of the pole-and-line catch and 60 percent of the longline catch of tunas in the region. The pool's boundaries are dynamic, moving in response to oceanographic features. The warm pool can undergo spectacular displacements of over 40° of longitude (nearly 4000 km) in less than 6 months as part of the ElNiño/ La Niña phenomenon. Tuna abundance and yields are also displaced east-west by the same phenomena, and the geographic location of catches of the US purse-seine fleet can be accurately predicted several months in advance based on both the east-west movements of the 29°C isotherm, and variation in the Southern Oscillation index (a measure of the difference in barometric pressure between the eastern and western Pacific rims).

The Warm Pool appears to encompass a functional ecological unit which includes fish stocks, their prey, predators, and various physical factors, and which is of global significance. Apart from the highly visible commercially exploited elements of the ecosystem, there are many other trophic levels of plankton, fish, sharks, marine mammals and birds. The sustainable utilization of the Warm Pool's resources could be enhanced if the various components of the ecosystem were to be studied and managed as a coherent whole rather than in isolation from each other.

Oceanic fisheries

There are four major tuna fishing areas in the world. That of the Pacific Islands (in excess of 1 million tonnes annually), the eastern Pacific (average annual tuna catches of about 525 000t), west Africa (385 000t), and the western Indian Ocean (450 000t). The Pacific Islands fishery dwarfs the other three in volume (Figure B16.5) and because a large component of the catch is for the high value sashimi market, the relative value of the Pacific Islands tuna is even higher.

Industrial tuna fishing is carried out mainly by distant water fishing nations including China, Japan, Taiwan Province of China, Korea, Philippines and USA. The Forum Fisheries Agency, a regional fisheries organization based in the Solomon Islands, has estimated that in August 2000 there were 949 foreign fishing vessels licensed in the region, made up of 716 longliners, 194 purse seiners, and 39 pole-and-line vessels.

These vessels pay fees for fishing in the exclusive economic zones of Pacific Island countries. In many cases, these fees make up a substantial portion of all government revenue. Estimates of access fees paid to Pacific Island countries in 1999 are shown in Table B16.2.

Table B16.2 Estimated access fees in '000US$

 LonglinePurse seinePole/lineTotal
Japan5 1289 1991 40515 732
USA016 693016 693 026
Korea Rep.3 4926 25009 742
Taiwan Prov. of China2 09910 642012 741
FSM Arrangement105790579 357
Others904 20004 290
Total11 30947 5631 40560 277

1An arrangement providing for preferential access for purse seiners of Pacific Island member countries. Source: Gillett et al . (2001).

In the 1970s and 1980s, few Pacific island nations were fishing on a large-scale for tuna. Recently, their participation in tuna fishing has increased with the advent of small-scale longline fisheries for sashimi-quality yellowfin and bigeye tuna. The nominal catch attributed to Pacific Island nations has also grown with re-registration to countries in the region of longline and purse seine vessels from Asia.

In the WCPO the main industrial fishing methods are purse seine, longline, pole-and-line and troll. The majority of the catch is harvested by vessels from Asia and the United States. In 2002, 56 percent by weight was taken by purse seine gear, with the portion by pole and line vessels and longliners being 17 percent and 12 percent respectively (Figure B16.6). Trolling and artisanal methods harvest the remainder.

Although the purse-seine fishery took over three-quarters of the total catch volume in 1998, it accounted for only about 59 percent of the total value, while the longline fishery, with only 11.5 percent of the volume accounted for 27.5 percent of the value (Van Santen and Muller, 2000). The final destination of most purse-seine caught tuna is canneries, while longline tuna is mainly destined for the higher-value sashimi market in Japan. There are five tuna canneries in the region: two in Pago Pago in American Samoa, and one each in Levuka in Fiji, Noro in Solomon Islands, and Madang in Papua New Guinea.

The tuna fisheries provide income to Governments of the region and employment for Pacific Islanders, but has the potential to provide much more. Less than 0.25 percent of the catch from the regional tuna fishery enters the domestic food supply of Pacific Island countries, even though a substantial amount of fish is discarded at sea due to being undesirable species or the tuna being too small. Fees paid for access to tuna resources by distant-water fishing nations equate to less than 4 percent of the catch value, and only a small proportion of crews of the industrial tuna vessels operating in the region are Pacific Islanders. Increasing the benefits they derive from tuna resources is a development objective of many countries in the region.

Fisheries management

The new legal regime of the seas and the declaration of 200-mile EEZs gave Pacific Island countries more power and responsibility to manage their fishery resources. The collective size of their EEZs and a strong regional approach to management have allowed a progressively increasing control over the region's international fishing activities.

Despite the high value of the tuna fishery, many of the benefits that it generates have historically flowed out of the region, efforts by Pacific Island states have focussed mostly on trying to improve this situation by forcing licence revenues upwards and, more recently, on promoting greater domestic participation in the fishing industry and associated service activities, including increasing local employment. Much of this has taken place on a regional basis, mainly through the Forum Fisheries Agency.

Current management arrangements include a multilateral treaty with the USA, the Niue treaty on regional surveillance, harmonized minimum terms and conditions for bilateral access agreements, a ban on catch transhipment at sea, strong biological and compliance observer programmes, and the introduction of a compulsory satellite-based vessel monitoring system.

In recent years management has also focussed more on resource sustainability. This has been prompted by the growth in both effort and catches (especially in some areas) and by the requirements of the Implementing Agreement (IA) for UNCLOS. The region's first conservation-oriented management move was the Palau Agreement for the Management of the Western Pacific Purse-Seine Fishery. The Arrangement entered into force in November 1995 and placed a ceiling on the number of purse-seine licenses that could be issued by the seven Pacific Island countries party to the agreement.

Figure B16.6 - Tuna catches in the Western and Central Pacific by gear type ('000t)

Figure B16.6

Source SPC

In the past few years most Pacific Island countries have developed tuna management plans. These plans, mostly developed with assistance of the Forum Fisheries Agency using Canadian funding, have been effective catalyst in many countries raising awareness on tuna management issues.

After four years of complex negotiations between the coastal states of the WCPOand states fishing in that region, the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean was opened for signature in September 2000 The objective of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean. For this purpose, the Convention establishes a Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The Convention applies to all species of highly migratory fish stocks within the Convention Area, except sauries.


Coastal fisheries resources are of fundamental importance in the Pacific Islands. Much of the region's nutrition, welfare, culture, employment, and recreation are based on the living resources in the zone between the shoreline and the outer reefs of the region. The continuation of current lifestyles, the opportunities for future development, and food security are all highly dependent on coastal fisheries resources.

Although dwarfed in both volume and value by the offshore tuna fisheries, the region's coastal fisheries provide most of the non-imported fish supplies to the region and hence have a crucial role in food security. Coastal fisheries harvest a very diverse range of finfish, invertebrates and algae. This is done by thousands of subsistence, artisanal and commercial fishers throughout the region. Unlike the tuna fishery, virtually all the coastal catch is taken by Pacific Islanders themselves, with very little access by foreign fishing vessels.

Statistics on coastal fisheries are not readily available, and those that are available are often unreliable. The present production estimates are typically “guesstimates” produced by agricultural censuses, household surveys, or nutrition studies. Visser (2001) reviewed the fisheries statistics in the region and concluded that subsistence fishing is almost never included in national fisheries statistics and artisanal fisheries are at best only partially covered the administrative centers and extrapolated over the whole nation.

In order to encourage an improvement in the information on the coastal fisheries of the region, Dalzell, Adams, and Polunin, (1996) using a wide variety of sources available at the time, made a concerted effort to estimate coastal fishery landings in each Pacific island country. Gillett and Lightfoot (2002) updated those estimates for the 14 independent countries of the region (Table B16.3).

Consumption of Coastal Fish

If Papua New Guinea, with its largely inland population is excluded, the regional per capita consumption in coastal areas, is about 35 kg annually, quite large in comparison to other regions. For some countries (e.g. Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau) dependence on fish from the coastal zone as a food source is among the highest in the world. In some outer island areas, per capita fish consumption is estimated to be more than 200 kg per year. According to FAO data, fish (of which the vast majority is from coastal areas) represents 38.7 percent of the total animal protein intake in the Pacific Islands region. This is much greater than the average world fish intake to 16.1 percent.

Table B16.3 Estimated annual coastal fisheries production in Pacific Island countries
(Dalzell et al., 1996, Gillett and Lightfoot, 2002)

 Fisheries production (t)
American Samoa21552267
Cook Islands79580875
Fed. States of Mirconesia5 0005 00010 000
Fiji21 6009 32030 920
French Polynesia3 6912 3526 043
Kiribati10 0006 00016 000
Marshall Islands2 8004443244
New Caledonia2 5009813 481
Northern Marianas2 8251412 966
Palau1 2508652 115
Papua New Guinea26 0005 50031 500
Pitcairn Islands808
Samoa4 2932 8767 169
Solomon Islands13 0003 20016 200
Tonga28634 14 1737 036
Tuvalu8802201 100
Vanuatu2 7002302 930
Wallis & Futuna621296917
Total1 02 00842 17514 41 483

* Estimates in bold are those updated in 2001.

In general, Pacific Islanders have a strong tradition of eating fish and this preference often takes precedenceover economic considerations, especially in Micronesia and Polynesia. Fresh fish will frequently be purchased even though it is more expensive than the alternatives, often imported mutton flaps, turkey tails, or canned meat. It is also important to note that this food-related importance of coastal resources appears to be increasing. Table B16.4, gives the results of three studies which suggest an increasing trend.

Table B16.4 Historical estimates of coastal fisheries production and fish supply

PeriodCoastal fisheries production
Per capita fish supply fromcoastal fisheries (kg)Source
196031 4203 15010.0Van Pel (1961)
Late 1970s55 1304 41012.5Crossland and Grandperrin (1979)
Early1990s108 2426 06817.8Dalzell and Adams (1994)

Subsistence fisheries

Subsistence fisheries of the Pacific Islands region captures about 102 000t per year, or about 70 percent of the total harvest from coastal areas. In some countries over 80 percent of the coastal catch is from the subsistence sector. In all Pacific Island states these fisheries make extremely important contributions to household food security, dietary health and import substitution. The contribution of subsistence fisheries to gross domestic product is actually quite large in a number of Pacific Island countries (Gillett and Lightfoot, 2002). In Samoa “non-monetary fishing” represents about 5 percent of GDP and in Tuvalu “non-market fishing” is about 7 percent.

A recent Regional Economic Review (World Bank, 2000a) concluded that the value of annual subsistence production of finfish and shellfish in protein equivalent was US$6.7 million in Fiji, US$19 million in Kiribati, 13.9 million in the Solomon Islands, and US$14.7 million in Vanuatu.

Despite this economic importance, governments in the region characteristically have not focused much attention on the subsistence fisheries sector. Studies, development initiatives and management efforts of the government fisheries agencies are usually oriented to the commercial fisheries sector. Much of what is known about subsistence fisheries of the region arises from the attention of NGOs, academics, women's programmes, nutrition workers, and regional/international organizations.

Subsistence fisheries generally involve a large variety of species, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans, algae, and other groups. For example, Zann (1992) reports that in Western Samoa the subsistence fisheries make use of 500 species. In a recent study (World Bank, 2000b), residents of coastal villages in five countries in the region were invited to identify what they considered were the major coastal resources (Table B16.5).

Table B16.5 Main coastal resources in selected Pacific Island countries

CountryMain coastal resources
(descending order of importance)
FijiFinfish, beche-de-mer, octopus, seaweed, lobster, mud crab, and various bivalve molluscs.
TongaFinfish, octopus, lobster, beche-de-mer, turbot, giant clams, seaweed, and anadara.
SamoaFinfish (especially surgeonfish, grouper, mullet, carangids, rabbit fish), octopus, giant clams, beche-de-mer, turbo, and crab.
Solomon IslandsFinfish, beche-de-mer, trochus, giant clam, lobster, turbot, and mangroves
PalauFinfish, giant clams, mangrove crab, lobster, turtle, and beche-de-mer.

Subsistence fishing tends to be most important in rural areas, but as rural economies become increasingly monetized the amount of fish being traded for cash grows and there is a gradual move away from fishing for home consumption or to meet social obligations, and towards fishing as a means of generating cash income. Typical characteristics of subsistence fisheries in the Pacific Island are: specialized knowledge often passed down through generations, labour intensive operations sometimes involving the entire community, sharing of the catch amongst the community, social restrictions/prohibitions, and specialization of activity by gender.

Characteristically, women are involved in inshore fishing activity, such as reef gleaning and invertebrate collection, and the preparation of food from the products of fishing activities. Men are usually involved in the more strenuous work of fishing further offshore, for large species of fish, and in diving activities. However, several observers of the Pacific Island subsistence fisheries situation estimate that fishing activity by women actually results in a greater amount of family food than produced by men.

Although there has been several development projects attempting to strengthen the marketing aspects in subsistence fishing communities, the success has usually been limited. Regarding the fish marketing situation in many Pacific Island countries Carleton (1983) concludes that “the basic structure of the subsistence sector is not conducive to the regular supply of fish to urban communities in sufficient quantities to satisfy demand.”

Commercial coastal fisheries

Compared to the subsistence fisheries, the coastal commercial fisheries are smaller and take a more restricted range of species, although it may still be substantial. For example, over 100 species of finfish and 50 species of invertebrates are included in Fiji's fish market statistics. Total commercial fishery products from the region include reef and deep slope fish (about 43 percent of total weight), coastal pelagic fish (18 percent), shell products (trochus, green snail and pearl shell) (9 percent), crustaceans (8 percent), sea cucumber (7 percent), and estuarine fish (6 percent).

Much commercial production from coastal areas in the Pacific Islands is exported. In general, the region exports high value commodities (Table B16. 6), while importing mainly inexpensive food supplies, such as canned mackerel. Much of the traditional export commodities are actually harvested by “subsistence” type fishers, processed in some cases, and then sold on to middlemen for subsequent further processing and re-sale in bulk quantities.

Fisheries development effort in the region have largely been oriented to export products. With the increased global demand for fishery products and subsequent price rise, the incentive to export will increase. As this trend continues, there is some cause for concern. Some of the export-oriented fisheries have interfered with traditional sources of food (e.g. giant clam exports) and have even been destructive (live fish trade to Asia). In some cases the benefits of export fisheries are concentrated into a few individuals, while the adverse side-effects may be experienced by many (e.g. the export of live coral). Information on the quantity of exported fishery products is often insufficient to gauge the benefits of the fishery or assess the sustainability of these export fisheries.

Commercial coastal fishing operations can be tipically small-scale (e.g. women in many countries who glean reefs for a few hours and sell most of what they have obtained) or more large-scale, such as fishing for Tonga bottom fish in which the fishers are out for week-long trips in vessels up to 15 meters in length. In general, the larger the scale, the more likely that the fishers are employees of a non-fishermen who own the vessel. Most of the typically small vessels fishing for flying fish in the Cook Islands are operated by their owner, some of the catamarans fishing in Western Samoa are owned by non-fishing businessmen, while most of the active snapper boats in Tonga are not owned by the people that crew them.

Table B16.6 Estimated annual exports of major coastal fisheries commodities from the
Pacific islands region (data from SPC)

Sea cucumber1 500t (dried, equivalent to 15 000t live weight)
Trochus shell2 300t of shell
Pearl shell400t (mainly spent farmed shell)
PearlsAbout 1t, with a value of more than US $ 100 million
Deep-water snappers (mainly Tonga)300t
Giant clam (mainly Fiji)20t of adductor muscle
Live groupersUnknown but growing
Aquarium fishSmall in tonnage but relatively large in value

During the past decade, the commercialization of coastal fisheries has increased considerably. The commercial coastal catch in the Federated States of Micronesia increased by almost an order of magnitude in the 1990s. A mid-1990s survey of coastal fishing on the major island of Fiji showed that the commercial catches were considerably higher than that estimated from an extrapolation of the results of a survey done during the previous decade.

Some of the more notable resources and associated new developments in coastal fisheries of the Pacific Islands include:

Trochus : Although the natural range of Trochus niloticus is limited to the western part of the region, the gastropod has been transplanted to almost all Pacific Island countries. The annual harvest of Trochus niloticus in the region in recent years was about 2300 metric tonnes with an export value of about US$15 million. Although this is not great in purely financial terms, the local impact is substantial. Because little or no equipment is used in the collecting of trochus and because the shells may be stored for long periods prior to shipment to market, trochus is one of the few commercial fisheries feasible for remote communities. In several Pacific Island countries trochus provides an important source of cash income at the village level, especially since the demise of the copra industry.

Sea cucumber : About 20 species are currently exploited in the region, primarily for export to Asia. Like trochus, villagers can process sea cucumber into a non-perishable product which can be stored for extended periods awaiting opportunistic transport to markets. “Pulse fishing” is often used to describe the fishery, with periods of intense exploitation followed by a sharp fall in the abundance of the resource with associated difficulty in maintaining commercial exploitation, and then a longer dormant period in which the resource is able to recover. For example, in Papua New Guinea over 500t of sea cucumber was harvested annually in the early 1990s, but a few years later the abundance was so low that complete export ban was being considered.

Shallow water reef fish : In most of the Pacific Islands finfish found in relatively shallow water (< 50 m) are the basis of much commercial fishing. About 300 species representing 30 to 50 fish families comprise the majority of the catch. Yields in the region have been estimated to be between five and fifty kg per hectare per year (Wright, 1993). The export of shallow water reef fish is not a major formal activity, as most of the overseas shipments of these fish are made by Pacific Islanders as airline baggage during visits to Guam, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.

Deep-slope snappers and groupers : These fish are found on slopes 100–400 meters in depth off most Pacific Islands. Since they have a high price in overseas markets and are underexploited in most countries, deep-slope snappers and groupers attracted considerable development interests in the 1970s and 1980s. Many operators have subsequently converted to small-scale tuna longlining, with only Tonga harvesting substantial amounts of snappers and grouper at present.

Lobsters : The commercial lobster fishery in the region is based on three species of the genus Panulirus, one of which, P. ornatus, supports a fishery of up to 400 tonnes a year in the area between Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. In the rest of the region, a remarkably large number of export-oriented lobster fishing efforts have been attempted, but most have failed due to rapid depletion of what initially appeared to be a substantial resource.

Aquarium fish : Aquarium fish collectors target on a large number of species, with the major families being butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae), damselfish (Pomacentridae), surgeonfish (Acanthuridae), and angelfish (Pomacanthidae). Most aquarium species have the characteristics of relatively small size, bright coloration, and good survival in captivity. Collection operations have been established in most Pacific Island countries in the past 20 years. An appealing aspect is that these fish are rarely taken for food in the Pacific Islands and therefore this fishery does not interfere with subsistence activities. The nominal reported FOB export value of aquarium fish from some countries in 1999 are: Fiji US$178000, Marshall Islands US$473000, Vanuatu US$16500, Cook Islands US$73500, and Kiribati US$1160000. The relatively recently-established aquarium fish businesses in the Kiribati and the Marshall Islands now account for 78 percent and 95 percent of all fishery exports from those countries respectively.

Live food fish : Starting in Palau in the mid-1980s, many live food fish ventures have operated in the Pacific Islands, especially the western part of the region. The target species, typically groupers (Serranidae) and coral trout (Plectropomus spp.), are exported to markets in large Asian cities. Although there is considerable interest in several countries developing this lucrative fishery, there have been numerous problems in the past with the use of cyanide and the unsustainable targeting of spawning aggregations. Although the fishery is attracting considerable attention in the region, there are no estimates of the volume or value of the trade of live fish in the Pacific Islands.

Sport game fishing : This a specialized form of small-scale commercial fishing which is growing in importance in the region. The target species range from large coastal pelagics to bonefish. Sport fishermen, especially tourists bring money in hard currency to pay for vessel charter, accommodation, provisions and shore-side recreation. There are presently sport fishing operations in most Pacific Island countries. Another aspect of this fishing is the international tournaments held annually in most countries of the region

Management of coastal fisheries

The importance of coastal resources is matched by the range of challenges facing them. The most serious problems are:

A less obvious problem affecting coastal resources is the loss of biodiversity. Many commercially important species (e.g. sea cucumber, pearl oysters) have been overfished to the point that it is no longer economic to harvest them in many areas. Worse still, there is concern that some coastal species might have been harvested to the point of near biological extinction. These includes the coconut crab, some species of giant clams, most species of turtles, and mangroves in some island groups.

In former times most coastal communities in the Pacific Islands had some type of management of adjacent marine resources. This was often in the form of community leaders restricting access by outsiders, as well as through various kinds of harvest bans for residents. The current thinking is that those mechanisms worked reasonably well in the context in which they were used, but it should be noted there have been a multitude of other changes in management conditions, including:

The net result of these changes appears to be a marked decreased in effectiveness of the former systems of coastal resource management.

Although there is considerable variation between Pacific Island countries, the general pattern is that, during the colonial period, centralized forms of resource management were introduced to most Pacific Island countries by the mainly expatriate fishery administrators. Adams (1997) states that the first 50 years of the 20th century were characterized by government indifference to marine issues. Starting in the mid-1950s most Pacific Island governments introduced various forms of centralized coastal resource management, most typically through various restrictions (gears, seasons, quotas, areas) stipulated as regulations under national fisheries laws. Although the new central regimes were often supported by legal systems, there was little technical backup or enforcement activity, especially in the areas away from urban centers.

Centralized management was also characterized by the fairly optimistic assumption that, through biological and economic studies of coastal resources, it would be possible to optimize the benefits from a fishery. In general, the advances in those studies did not match government capability or desire to implement.

Starting in the early 1970s, both fisheries managers and the environmental community began using marine protected areas as management tools. Recognizing the difficulties associated with restriction-oriented coastal management, there have been many decades of efforts to encourage inshore fishers to diversify into deep-slope or offshore fisheries (bottom fish/tuna). There is also a long history of aquaculture promotion in the region and one rationale for this that the culture of marine organism could lead to reduced pressure on coastal resources. Campaigns to raise the awareness of coastal residents are another widely-used management tool, particularly by environmental agencies.

Among fishery managers there is growing recognition that, to improve effectiveness, much of the management of coastal fisheries resources must be exerted at community level. This trend is also noticeable among the conservation community, where the initial failure to establish conventional marine protected areas has led to heightened efforts to involve communities in formulating and following conservation agreements. There are, however, large differences between Pacific Island countries with respect to community coastal fisheries resource management, in terms of political will, legal basis for lower level initiatives, available funding, and actual community management activities.

There is also a growing awareness that the realities of fisheries statistics in the region dictate that a different approach is required for the information to manage fisheries. There is a increasing realization that the challenge of collecting stock assessment data on widely-dispersed, multi-species tropical reef fisheries is so great as to be effectively insurmountable. For instance, Johannes (1998) has estimated that it would take 400 scientists man-years just to provide a basic, statistically-valid estimate of reef fish abundance around Indonesia's coast. Tropical countries cannot afford such research, and even if they could it would be grossly cost-ineffective. In the face of such challenges, fisheries managers are beginning to look at the prospects of dataless management, does not mean management without information.

In the Pacific islands, dataless management has been carried out for centuries, in the form of customary marine tenure. In most cases modern, science-based fishery management methods have failed to produce better results than traditional systems, and in many the outcome has been resource failure.

Customary marine tenure does not necessarily optimize fishery production, and may lead to differences in management arrangements from one locality to the next. However it is generally perceived that it will be easier and more cost-effective to have communities to enforce their own management rules than it is to carry out centralized policing.

In a recent World Bank study, coastal fisheries management was examined at 31 locations in the Pacific Islands. One of the important conclusions was there is an urgent need to reduce overall fishing effort. Although many of the communities surveyed had adopted restrictions to fishing by outsiders, few were effective in regulating their own harvest. Further efforts are needed to raise the awareness of traditional leaders of the benefits to restricting fishing effort, and especially the most efficient fishing technologies (Bettencourt and Gillett, 2001). That study also made observations on fisheries management regulations, and concluded that some of these rules work better than others. Three types of rules were perceived by communities as having the best compliance:


Adams, T. 1997. The interface between traditional and modern methods of fishery management in the Pacific Islands. Draft paper for: Ocean and Coastal Management, South Pacific Commission, Noumea.

Bettencourt, S.& Gillett, R. 2001. Learning from Communities: Coastal Resource Management in the Pacific Islands. In: Proceedings of the International Coral Reef Symposium, Bali, Indonesia, October 2000.

Carleton, C. 1983. Guideline for the Establishment and Management of Collection, Handling, Processing, and Marketing Facilities for the Artisanal Fisheries Sector in the South Pacific Commission Area. Working Paper 6, 15th Regional Technical Meeting on Fisheries, South Pacific Commission, Noumea.

Clark, L. 1983. A Study on Fees and other economic Benefits from Foreign Fishing Access to the Fishery or Exclusive Economic Zones of the States Participating in the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency. Report 1983/2, FFA, Honiara.

Crossland, J. & Granperrin, R. 1979. Fisheries Directory of the South Pacific Commission region. Sout Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia.

Dalzell, P., Adams, T. & Polunin, N. 1996. Coastal Fisheries in the Pacific Islands. Volume 34, Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review. UCL Press.

FFA. 1995. Director's Report 1994–1995. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara.

FFA. 1996. Director's Report 1995–1996. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara.

Gillett, R.D. 2002. Pacific island fisheries: regional and country information. Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. RAP Publication 2002/13, 168 pp.

Gillett, R., McCoy, M., Rodwell, L. & Tamate, J. 2001. Tuna: A Key Economic Resource in the Pacific Islands - A Report Prepared for the Asian Development Bank and the Forum Fisheries Agency. 95 pp.

Gillett, R. & Lightfoot, C. 2002. The Contribution of Fisheries to the Economies of Pacific Island Countries. Pacific Studies Series, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Forum Fisheries Agency, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 218 pp

Johannes, R. 1998. The case for dataless management of marine resources: examples from tropical nearshore fisheries. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 13(6).

Lehodey, P. 1996. Defining a Large Marine Ecosystem in the Western Equatorial Pacific. pp. 101–110 IN Anon. ACP-EU Fisheries Research Initiative. Proceedings of the Third Dialogue Meeting, Caribbean and Pacific and the European Union. Belize City, Belize, 5–10 December, ACP-EU Fish. Res. Rep., (3)

Lehodey, P., Bertignac, M., Hampton, J., Lewis, A. and Picaut, J. 1997. El Niño southern oscillation and tuna in the western Pacific. Nature, 389: 716–718.

Lewis, A., & Williams, P. 2002. Overview of Western and Central Pacific Ocean tuna fisheries, 2001. Working paper 15, 15th meeting on the Standing Committee on tuna and billfish. Honolulu, Hawai.

Longhurst, A. 1995. Seasonal cycles of pelagic production and consumption. progress in Oceanography, 36(2):77–167. Cited in Lehodey, P. 1996.

McCoy, M. 1991. Survey of Safety at Sea Issues in Pacific Island Artisanal Fisheries. Field Document 91/3, FAO/UNDP Regional Fisheries Support Programme, Suva, Fiji.

SCTB. 2000. Report of the Thirteenth Meeting of the Standing Committee on Tuna and Billfish. South Pacific Commission, Noumea.

Van Pel, H. 1961. A guide to the South Pacific fisheries. South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia.

Van Santen, G. & Muller, P. 2000. Working apart or together - the case for a common approach to management of the tuna resources in the exclusive economic zones of Pacific island countries. Number 10, Pacific Island Discussion Paper Series, World Bank, Washington.

Visser, T. 2001. Status of Fishery Statistics in the South Pacific. Pacific Islands Workshop on Fishery Statistics, Food and Agriculture.

World Bank. 1995. Pacific Island Economies - Building a Resilient Economic Base for the Twenty First Century. Country Department III, The World Bank, Washington DC, United States of America.

World Bank. 2000a. Cities, Seas, and Storms: Managing Change in Pacific Island Economies. Volume 3 - Managing the Use of the Oceans, Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands Country Unit, The World Bank.

World Bank. 2000b. Voices from the Village - a Comparative Study of Coastal Resource Management in the Pacific Islands. Pacific Island Discussion Paper Series No.9, Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands Country Unit, The World Bank.

Wright, A. 1993. Shallow Water Reef-Associated Finfish. In: A.Wright and L.Hill (ed.) Nearshore Marine Resources of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva.

Zann, L. 1992. The Inshore Resources of Upolu, Western Samoa. Field Report number 2, FAO/UNDP Project SAM/89/002, Apia, Western Samoa.

* Gillett, Preston and Associates Inc.

B17. Southern Ocean
FAO Statistical Areas 48, 58 and 88

by Ross Shotton *


The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica and represents approximately 15 percent of the world's water area. It extends from the coast of the continent northwards to the Antarctic Convergence, a physically and biologically distinct frontal zone where the cold water of the Southern Ocean encounters, and flows under, the warmer and more saline sub-Antarctic water of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The position of the Antarctic Convergence varies seasonally and geographically, but is generally located near 50°S in the Atlantic and Indian sectors of the Southern Ocean and near 60°S in the Pacific sector. The Southern Ocean (Figure B17.1) is divided into three statistical areas: Area 48 (Atlantic Antarctic) between 70°W and 30°E, Area 58 (Indian Ocean Antarctic) between 30°and 150°E, and Area 88 (Pacific Antarctic) between 150°E and 70°W. Each area is further divided into subareas and divisions.

Figure B17.1 - The Southern Ocean (Areas 48, 58 and 88)

Figure B17.1

The Southern Ocean is characterized by an eastward flowing Antarctic Circumpolar Current and a series of clockwise-rotating gyres that contribute to a westward flowing East Wind Drift along the Antarctic coast. The Southern Ocean has three distinct ecological zones: an ice-free zone to the north, an extensive seasonal pack-ice zone between approximately 55–60° and 70–75°S, and a permanent pack-ice zone adjacent to the continent. Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, is abundant in the seasonal pack-ice zone where it provides the staple food for many species of whales, seals, birds and fish which inhabit the region.

Figure B17.2 - Annual nominal catches ('000 t) by ISSCAAP species groups in the Southern Ocean (Areas 48, 58 and 88)

Figure B17.2

Source FAO

The marine living resources of the Southern Ocean have been harvested since 1790 when sealers first hunted fur seals for their pelts. By 1825, some populations of fur seal had been hunted close to extinction, and sealers begun hunting elephant seals and some species of penguins for their oil. Whaling in this area begun in 1904 and all seven species of whales found in the Southern Ocean were extensively exploited. Large-scale fishing did not begin until the late 1960s.

The harvest of marine living resources in the Southern Ocean is managed under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) established in 1946, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals ratified in 1978, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) established in 1982 (see for further information).


Close to 9.0 million tonnes of krill and fish were taken cumulatively from the Southern Ocean from 1969–1970, when records of commercial fishing began, to the end of 2001–2002 (the fishing year in the Southern Ocean is 1 July to 30June of the following year). Most nominal catches (80.5 per cent) were taken in Area 48, that is Atlantic Antarctic between 1976–1977 and 1991–1992 (Figure B17.2 and Table D16), and the dominant species was krill (Figure B17.3). Next most important was the Indian Antarctic zone with 19.0 percent of the catch. But by 2002, these numbers had changed to 93 percent for the Atlantic zone, 6 percent for the Indian zone and nearly 1 percent for the Pacific zone. Important commercial species in the past included lanternfish (myctophids - principally Electrona carlsbergi ); mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari ), marbled rockcod (Notothenia rossii) and Patagonian rockcod (Patagonotothen guntheri ), but these resources have been severely fished down. The major fishery is now for the valuable Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides and D. mawsonii) which in 2002 represented 63 percent of total catch by weight, excluding krill.

The commercial harvest of krill began in 1972, and annual catches from 1980 to 1992 exceeded 300 000t in most years, then decreased to 80000–130 000t in recent years (Figure B17.3). At its peak of 528 200t in 1982, the fishery contributed approximately 13 percent of the global annual catches of crustaceans, and the subsequent lower catches (126 000t in 2002) reflect a decrease in landings, not overfishing. The fishery has operated mainly in Area 48, around the South Shetland Islands (Subarea 48.1) and South Orkney Islands (Subarea 48.2) in summer and adjacent to South Georgia (Subarea 48.3) in winter.

Reported catches in the fishery for marbled rockcod peaked at 399 700t in 1969–1970, and then declined precipitously to 101 560t in 1970–1971, and 2 740t in 1971–1972 as the stock was overfished and the fishery collapsed (Figure B17.3). Mid-water trawling for mackerel icefish started in the early 1970s, and this fishery was characterized by peaks of intense fishing (219 340t in 1978 and 162 600t in 1983) followed by periods of low catches and possible localized depletion from mid 1970s to late 1980s.

Figure B17.3 - Annual nominal catches ('000t) of selected species in ISSCAAP Groups 33, 34 & 46, Southern Ocean (Areas 48, 58, 88)

Figure B17.3

Source FAO

Figure B17.4 - Annual nominal catches ('000t) of selected species, Southern Ocean (Areas 48, 58, 88)

Figure B17.4

Source FAO

In recent years, fisheries in the Southern Ocean have targeted krill in Area 48, toothfish and icefish in Areas 48 and 58 (Figure B17.4). Exploratory fishing has occurred for squid (Martialia hyadesi) and crab (mostly Paralomis spp.) in Area 48. The earlier exploratory fishing for Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni ) in Area 88 has developed into a small, but commercial-scale, fishery.


A moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced 1987, and extensive whale sanctuaries were established in the Indian Ocean in 1979 and Southern Ocean in 1994. Commercial whaling within these sanctuaries is prohibited. The recovery of whale stocks and the effectiveness of the moratorium and sanctuaries are being evaluated by the IWC. There are indications that some species of whale are recovering, but the low abundance of some of the largest species has made total numbers difficult to estimate from sightings data. Several hundred Minke whales out of an estimated 700000 are currently taken annually in this area by Japan for research. Otherwise, recovery of the southern whale stocks proceeds slowly depending on species. Management of whales in the Antarctic, and elsewhere is the responsibility of the International Whaling Commission.

The commercial harvest of seals is regulated under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. Annual catch limits were set for crabeater seals (175000 individuals), leopard seals (12000 individuals) and Weddell seals (5000 individuals), and the taking of fur seals, elephant seals and Ross seals for commercial purposes is prohibited. No commercial harvest has taken place in recent years.

In 1982, Parties to the Antarctic Treaty established CCAMLR under an international convention based on an ecosystem-wide approach to the conservation of marine living resources in the Southern Ocean, with conservation defined to include rational use. The conservation principles set down in the Convention require that exploited populations must not be allowed to fall below an abundance close to that which ensures their greatest net annual increase, depleted populations must be restored to such abundance, and the risks of changes to the marine ecosystem that are not potentially reversible over two or three decades must be minimized. Importantly, ecological relationships between harvested, dependent and related species must be maintained.

These stringent principles embody an ecosystem approach to the management of living resource and set the CCAMLR Convention apart from other regional marine resource management regimes. Management of fishing must not only aim to conserve the targeted species but take into account the impact of fishing on those animals that prey on, and compete with, the targeted species. In its broadest interpretation, the Convention requires that management action should take account of the impact of activities on all living organisms in the Antarctic ecosystem or sub-systems.

The status and management of the marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean is reviewed annually by the twenty-three member countries of CCAMLR based on information gathered from the fisheries and fishery surveys, the Scheme of International Scientific Observation aboard fishing vessels, and CCAMLR's Ecosystem Monitoring Program. Fishery resources are reassessed, and the management regime is defined by Conservation Measures which regulate all existing, new and exploratory fisheries, and fishing for research purposes within the CCAMLR Convention Area (Areas 48, 58 and 88).

Complementary management measures are also in force in territorial waters adjacent to Prince Edward and Marion Islands (South Africa), and Crozet Islands and Kerguelen Islands (France) in Area 58. Of particular interest has been the recent creation of the world's largest fully protected marine reserve in the Australian sub-Antarctic. The 6.5 million-hectare Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve would ensure that one of the globe's last pristine ecosystems remained intact. It surrounds the uninhabited Heard and McDonald group, and includes two large zones of the Southern Ocean. The Heard reserve is intended to protect the habitat and food sources of seals, penguins, and albatrosses, as well as marine life.


Krill is central to the food chain in the Southern Ocean, and its circumpolar standing stock is generally estimated around 500 million tonnes, although there remains a large uncertainty over the production estimates for krill. The recent annual catches of krill of 84000–118 705t, over the last decade with the higher figure reported for the 2001–2002 season, are well below the precautionary catch limits set by CCAMLR of 1.5 million tonnes in Area 48 (with a maximum of 620 000t per subarea), and 1.225 million tonnes in Area 58 (775 000t in Division 58.4.1 and 450 000t in Division 58.4.2).

The decline in krill catches in 1992 (Figure B17.3) was attributed to economic factors, a shift in fishing effort from krill fisheries to finfish fisheries, and the break-up of the Soviet Union which until then had dominated the fishery - its decline was not due to overfishing. Any resurgence of the krill fisheries would depend on advances in harvesting and processing technology and possibly the development of pharmaceutical products based on krill.

Krill fisheries are closely monitored because vessels target krill aggregations on the shelf or at the shelf break, in many cases close to the breeding sites of land-based krill predators such as penguins. Concern has been expressed within CCAMLR that krill catches in those areas may affect predators by locally depleting their food source. The interaction between krill fisheries and land-based krill predators is being researched under CCAMLR's Ecosystem Monitoring Program. Equally of concern has been the potential impact of global warming upon the extent of ice-sheet coverage in the Antarctic and its possible affect upon krill life history behaviour.


Patagonian toothfish is harvested under regulated and assessed fisheries in Area 48 (Subarea 48.3) and Area 58 (Subareas 58.6 and 58.7, and Divisions 58.5.1 and 58.5.2). Annual catches over the past 10 years have ranged from 5 613t to 17 575t, peaking in the fishing season of 1998–99; for the most recent season of 2001/02, reported catches was 12 057t (Figure B17.4). Catches outside the CCAMLR convention area were 9 017t during this season compared with 25 054t during the preceding season. Most of this catch was reportedly taken in FAO Statistical Areas 52, 57 and 87. Several new and exploratory fisheries have also been identified, some targeting both Patagonian toothfish and Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the southern sectors of Areas 58 and 88. Toothfish is taken by longline, except in Divisions 58.5.1 and 58.5.2 where it is taken by trawl.

Strict regulations are in force to minimize the incidental capture of seabirds and marine mammals. These include using streamer lines, using thawed bait to ensure that bait sinks as quickly as possible, setting longlines at night with a minimum of deck lighting, prohibiting the discharge of offal during line setting, and prohibiting the use of net monitor cables in the trawl fisheries.

Catch limits and areas of operations for toothfish fisheries are defined by the Conservation Measures. For the 2002/03 fishing season, TACS for toothfish (Dissostichus spp.) were set at 7 810t for Area 48.3; for Area 58.5.2. (Heard and MacDonald is) a TAC of 2 879t was recommended. In several of the other Convention areas it was found not possible to offer management advice or it was recommended that the fishery be closed or remain closed (CCAMLR, 2002).

The large illegal and unregulated fishing for toothfish which has taken place in recent years is of great concern, particularly in Area 58, but is now reported as possibly happening in Areas 88.1 and Area 51. This destructive activity threatens stocks of toothfish through over-fishing, and populations of seabirds through incidental capture and mortality during longlining. Controlling such fishing is critical to fulfilling CCAMLR's objectives.

CCAMLR's Scientific Committee has recognized the need to include accurate estimates of the Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) catch of fish species in their Convention Area and recognize that including the estimate IUU catch as part of the TAC will substantially reduce the yield that would be available for legal fishing operators. It was recognized that estimating the IUU catch would be difficult and would require expertise beyond that solely available in the CCAMLR Scientific Committee.


Stocks of icefish are believed to undergo large natural variations in abundance, and commercial fishing for this species is restricted to peaks in abundance. Despite this, there has been no sign of any recovery of this stock which though it recorded a catch of 162 598t in 1983, has averaged an annual catch of only 1 324t over the last decade, a period in which catches were less than 100t in three of those years. Pre-recruit trawl surveys are conducted regularly to estimate the abundance of icefish; this information forms the basis of the management advice. Directed fishing on icefish in Area 48 was prohibited in the 1991–1992 and 1994–1995 fishing seasons. The catch limit for 2000/01 was set at 5 557t for Subarea 48.3, though it did not appear this amount of catch would be achieved. Thus a TAC was set for 2002/03 of 2 181t. In Area 58.5.1, Kerguelen Islands, the fishery was kept closed and in Area 58.5.2 (Heard and McDonald Islands) the TAC was set at 2 980t, an increase from 885t for the preceding season.

Other species

Commercial fishing for three other groups of target species is currently permitted under CCAMLR Conservation Measures within Area 48 (Subarea 48.3). Annual catch limits were set at 109 000t for lanternfish during 1999/00, but no catches have been reported of this species.

CCAMLR also reviews information relating to bycatch species. The major species of interest include macrourids, skates and rays, in addition to bycatch of the primary managed species, i.e. toothfish and icefish. Data are available for bycatch species taken both by trawl and by longline. CCAMLR (2002) reports that in Subareas 88.1 and 88.2 thepercentage of macrourids and skates has ranged from 1 to 27 percent and 1 to 15 percent respectively. During the 2001/02 season, catches of Macrourus whitsoni and elasmobranchs accounted for 12 percent and 2 percent respectively of the total catch. In general, macrourids constitute about 10 percent of the total catch in most areas and elasmobranchs less than 10 percent. CCAMLR has introduced operational fishing rules that require vessels to shift their place of operation if the amount of bycatch exceeds a threshold level. For example, in Subarea 88.1 during the 2001/02 season, the “move-on” rule was triggered by macrourids in up to 20 percent of longline sets and by elasmobranchs in up to 4 percent of trawl sets.


CCAMLR. 2002. Report of the Twenty-first Meeting of the Scientific Committee (Hobart, Australia, 21–25 October 2002). SC-CCAMLR-XX1. 75pp.

* FAO, Marine Resources Service, Fishery Resources Division

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page