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Part I Overview and main indicators

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

Part II Narrative (2014)

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

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

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

Country briefUpdated: 02-2017

Tuvalu has a population of 10 000 (2015), a land area of 26 km2, a coastline of 590 km, and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 900 000 km2. Fisheries contribution to GDP in 2014 was 5 percent estimated as USD 1.9 million. In 2013, exports of fish and fishery products were estimated at USD 18.6 million and imports at USD 0.2 million.

The country places much hope for future economic growth on the fishery resources contained within its large EEZ area. The tuna catches of the foreign fleets are very large and the money generated from access fees is a critically important source of government revenue. Catches by vessels flagged in Tuvalu, which are still small if compared to those by foreign fleets in Tuvalu waters, marked a maximum ever in 2012 at around 17 000 tonnes, decreasing on 2013 to 12 000 tonnes. Approximately the same volume as in 2010. The three major Pacific tuna species (bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin) contributed over 90 percent of total catches with the rest caught by subsistence fisheries. The only form of aquaculture is cage culture milkfish which has been practiced on trial scale for a number of years, producing 2-3 tonnes of food fish annually in recent years. Per capita consumption ranges between 40 and 45 kg/year. A wide variety of techniques are used throughout the group to collect fish, crabs and other invertebrates which are consumed, shared or informally bartered. Fisheries centers have been established on several outer islands with the intention of providing fishers with income earning opportunities.

Foreign vessels, mainly purse seiners and longliners, and to a much lesser extent, pole-and-line vessels, are operating in the offshore zone of Tuvalu EEZ on an industrial scale. There is no Tuvalu flag vessel operating in offshore fishing. Fishery access is a major source of government revenue: in 2015, license and access fees were approximately USD 24 million, 58% of non-aid revenues and 43% of the national budget (Preston G. et al).

The National Fishing Corporation of Tuvalu (NAFICOT) was established by legislation in 1982 as a mechanism to allow Tuvalu to benefit from the commercial exploitation of its marine resources. Coastal fishing is primarily carried out for subsistence purposes, and to a lesser extent, for sales in local markets. The only export-oriented fishing activities are those for bêche-de-mer (amounts are small and sporadic) and for shells for handicrafts.

Tuvalu is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and central Pacific Ocean. Tuvalu is also a party to a number of treaties and agreements relating to the management of regional fisheries as follows:

  • The Treaty on Fisheries Between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America;
  • The Convention for Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets in the South Pacific;
  • The Niue Treaty Agreement concerning in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the South Pacific region;
  • The Nauru Agreement concerning Cooperation in the Management of Fisheries of Common Concern; and
  • The Palau Agreement for the Management of the Western Pacific Purse Seine Fishery.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Tuvalu

Shelf area 4 449km2

Sea Around Us:


Length of continental coastline 24 km

World By Map:


Fisheries GVA (2014) AUD$1.8 million (USD$1.9 million)

Gillett, R. 2016.


Converted from AUD with UN Operational Rates of Exchange 1 Feb2017.

Key statistics


Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2016.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Tuvalu

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2014 2015 2016
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 0.38 0.3 0.1 0.67 0.67
  Capture 0.38 0.3 0.1 0.67 0.67
    Inland ...    
    Marine 0.38 0.3 ... 0.67 0.67
FLEET(thousands vessels) ... ...
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

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


Updated 2014Part II Narrative

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

Production sector

The geography of Tuvalu has a large effect on the country’s fishing activities. The islands of Tuvalu, all low lying atolls, are Nanumea, Nanumanga, Niutao, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, Nukulaelae and Niulakita. Even by Pacific Island standards, Tuvalu is quite isolated. There is presently only air service from Fiji and only Funafuti has a useable landing strip. Some of the other islands lack even a pass in the reef to allow the government passenger/cargo boat to enter the lagoon. Tuvalu’s small land area of only 26 sq. km. limits the prospects for agriculture or other forms of terrestrially based development. The country therefore places much hope for future economic growth on its fishery resources.

There is a large distinction between the two major categories of fisheries in the country: (1) the small-scale subsistence and commercial fisheries of the lagoons, reefs, slopes, and nearby ocean areas, and (2) the industrial1 tuna fisheries that occur in the offshore areas2 of the Tuvalu fishery waters.

Subsistence activities dominate Tuvalu’s small-scale fisheries. A wide variety of techniques are used throughout the group to collect fish, crabs and other invertebrates which are consumed, shared or informally bartered. Fisheries centres were established on several outer islands with the intention of providing fishers there with income earning opportunities, but attaining financial viability was challenging. On the main island, Funafuti, commercial fishing is limited to a small fleet of 4-5 m outboard powered skiffs which mostly fish by trolling for tuna, and by line fishing for reef fish.

Catches by domestic small-scale fishing in Tuvalu are quite small compared to the activities of the industrial foreign-flagged fleets in Tuvalu waters. The catches by those fleets (mostly tuna) are almost 100 times greater than that by small-scale fishing - and the money generated from access fees is a critically important source of government revenue.

Fisheries statistics can be presented in different forms, to cater for different purposes. In the statistics published by FAO (Part 1 above) the presentation follows international conventions and standards followed by FAO and its Member States for reporting catches which are given by the flag of the catching vessel. Accordingly, the fishery production of Tuvalu in 2014 published by FAO (as given in Part 1 and as of the releasing date3 of the Country Profile) was at 7 000 tonnes, all of which was from marine capture fisheries.

(1) In this profile, “industrial fisheries” are defined as fishing activities carried out by vessels that are generally greater than 18 meters and that normally operate more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

(2) In this profile, “offshore” is defined as the area outside the zone normally frequented by small, usually undecked, coastal fishing vessels and is generally greater than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

(3) Fishery Statistical collections are subject to a Quality Assurance process which in some situations may determine the figures revision.

In Table 3 below the Tuvalu fishery production statistics include catch by Tuvalu-flagged vessels (as reported to FAO), catch by canoes and skiffs in Tuvalu operated by Tuvalu nationals and catch from fishing activities in Tuvalu that do not involve a vessel (e.g. reef gleaning). The offshore category in the table is defined as the catch from Tuvalu-flagged industrial-scale fishing operations that are carried out anywhere (i.e. inside or outside of the Tuvalu zone).

Table 3: Tuvalu Fisheries Production (as per FAO reporting standards4)






Tuvalu Flagged Offshore
Volume (tonnes) 123001 1356 887



8201 639747 9511 120 287n/a

The amounts of production given in the above table differ from that shown in Part 1. The table consists of production estimated from a variety of sources (see SPC study below). For the offshore category, the amount given is what the Tuvalu Fisheries Department reported to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (Fisheries Department, 2015).

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

Table 4: Fisheries Production in Tuvalu Waters










     Both Tuvalu and foreign flagged vessels
Volume (tonnes) 123001 135096 898
Value (USD)8201 639747 9511 120 2870131 951 751
Source: Gillett (2016)

Some comment is required to explain the difference between the information in this table and that of the above Part 1 of this profile.
  • Catches can be given by the flag of the catching vessel (as in the FAO statistics given in Part 1), or by the zone where the catch is made (the “offshore foreign based” and “offshore locally based” columns above). These two different ways of allocating catch each have their purposes. Attribution by flag is important for consistency with international conventions, while attribution by zone is important for determining fishing contributions to GDP, and (especially for Tuvalu) managing revenue from license fees for foreign fishing in a country’s zone.
  • As mentioned above, for the Tuvalu flagged offshore vessels there is a difference in what was reported to FAO and what was reported to the Western and Central Fisheries Commission.
  • The estimates of production in the categories of coastal fishing, freshwater fishing, and aquaculture above were made by a study carried out by the Pacific Community in 2015 in which a site visit was made to Funafuti and a large number of fishery and economic studies covering the last two decades were examined.

(4) The international standards for production of fisheries statistics adopted by CWP – Coordination Working Party on Fisheries Statistics, in use by FAO

(5) In the SPC study offshore locally-based is the catch in Tuvalu waters from industrial-scale tuna fishing operations that (a) are based at a port in Tuvalu and (b) generally harvested more than 12 nautical miles offshore.

(6) Offshore foreign-based is the catch in the Tuvalu zone from catch from industrial-scale tuna fishing operations that are based at ports outside Tuvalu. Under international standardized System of National Accounts (SNA 2008), those catches do not contribute to the GDP of Tuvalu.

Marine sub-sector

Catch profile

During the period 2011 to 2014 one Tuvalu-flagged purse seiner and from two to six Tuvalu longliners operated. The production by these Tuvalu-flagged industrial fishing vessels has been quite variable. The purse seine catches in that period ranged from 4 586 to 10 865 tonnes of tuna. The annual longline catches ranged from 221 to 2 042 tonnes of tuna and other pelagic species (Fisheries Department 2016).

In the same period the number of vessels authorized to fish in the Tuvalu zone fluctuated widely (Table 5).

Table 5: Total Number of Offshore Vessels Licensed in Tuvalu

  Longline Purse seine Pole-and-line Fish carrier Bunker Total
2010 135 158 17 6 4 320
2011 96 125 5 0 4 230
2012 108 100 5 18 2 233
2013 33 146 16 7 3 205
2014 43 187 20 29 6 285
Source: Fisheries Department (2015)

Catches by the industrial fishing fleets in the Tuvalu zone in the period 2010 to 2104 ranged between 55 845 tonnes (with an in-zone vale of USD 73 580 290) and 96 893 tonnes (USD 149 125 560) (Gillett 2016).

In terms of trends for the industrial fleets, most variations in catch volume were correlated to the number of vessels fishing. The number of purse seine vessel days spent fishing in the Tuvalu zone is the largest determinant of the magnitude of the catch in the zone. El Niño conditions create relatively favorable purse seining conditions in the tropical central Pacific (e.g. the zones of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Tokelau). 2014 (a mild El Niño year) produced a record fish catch in the Tuvalu zone of almost 100 000 tonnes (FFA 2015).

More speculation is required to comment on any catch trends in small-scale fishing. There is no established statistical system covering this small-scale fishing, so even estimating the total catch is difficult. Over the past few decades there have been numerous studies tempting to gain some insight into the production from Tuvalu’s small-scale fisheries, including those by the Pacific Community, Asian Development Bank, FAO, bi-lateral donors, and others. Additional fishery production information has been obtained from household income and expenditure surveys. The large uncertainty in the estimates by each of the studies masks any differences in production estimates between the studies. Many observers of the Tuvalu fishery situation feel that in the past decade there has been a moderate increase in small-scale fisheries production in the country. A few studies point to the decreased abundance in recent years of resources commonly targeted by small-scale fishing in Tuvalu (Gillett 2016).

Landing sites

None of the catch from industrial fishing is landed in the country. In recent years the single Tuvalu-flagged purse seine vessel has mostly offloaded its fish in Majuro in the Marshall Islands, while the two Tuvalu-flagged longline vessels offload their fish in Suva. The non-Tuvalu flagged purse seiners fishing in the Tuvalu zone sometimes transship their catch in the Funafuti lagoon (about 80 such operations took place in 2015), but mostly transship in the ports of neighboring countries (e.g. Majuro) or offload at the cannery in American Samoa. The foreign longliners usually offload their catch in Suva, Fiji, or an Asian port. (Fisheries Department 2016).

The coastal commercial catch is mostly offloaded in the main island of Funafuti, with much smaller amounts offloaded at villages in the outer islands. Subsistence fishery landings occur at coastal villages throughout the country, roughly in proportion to the distribution of the population.

Fishing practices/systemsThe offshore fisheries catch is made entirely by foreign-based industrial tuna fishing vessels. In recent years the volume of fish by purse seine gear in the Tuvalu zone (close to 100 000 tonnes in 2014) is about 100 times greater than that by longline gear. Although foreign-based pole and line vessels pay access fees to fish in the Tuvalu zone, no such vessels have actually fished in the zone for several years.

Most coastal commercial fishers on Funafuti use a variety of fishing techniques. The decision of which specific technique to use (spear fishing, bottom fishing, netting, trolling) depends on a number of factors, including market conditions, weather, and the phase of the moon.

About 10 to 20 small outboard-powered boats on Funafuti fish commercially, mainly coastal trolling for tuna. Another 10 commercial boats fish occasionally troll.

Most people in Tuvalu are engaged in subsistence fishing almost daily to meet nutritional needs. Men mostly fish from canoes or boats while women glean and collect on the reef flats. Women in some outer islands are more involved in activities such as crab collection, net fishing, night fishing using knives, collecting shells for necklaces and other such activities. In some islands women rarely go fishing, as is the case for Niutao and Nanumea where there are no lagoons. (Vunisea 2004, Gillett 2011).

Main resources

The industrial tuna fisheries operating in the Tuvalu zone target tuna. About 95% of the purse seine catch is skipjack, with smaller amounts of yellowfin and bigeye. The longline fleets catch is about 40% yellowfin, 30% albacore, and 30% bigeye.

The species composition of the catches from coastal fisheries in Tuvalu has not been documented. The fishing techniques that produce most of the coastal catch are likely to be trolling and spearfishing. Troll catches are dominated by skipjack and yellowfin, but also include some mackerel tuna and dogtooth tuna (Wilson 1995). Common species in the Tuvalu spearfishing catch are given in Table 6.

Table 6: Common Species in the Tuvalu Spearfishing Catch

Tuvalu name English name Scientific name Comment
Ume Long-nosed unicornfish Naso unicornis Very important in the spearfishing catch
Maninilakau Orangespine unicornfish Naso lituratus Very important in the spearfishing catch
Pokapoka Unicornfish Naso sp. A black unicornfish
Ponelolo Lined surgeonfish Acanthurus lineatus  
Kapalagi Surgeonfish Acanthurus sp.  
Ulafi Parrotfish Scaridae.  
Laea Parrotfish Scaridae  
Maiava Rabbitfish Siganus sp. Very important in the spearfishing catch
Malau Soldierfish Myripristis sp.  
Source: Gillett and Moy (2006)

Flyingfish are quite important in Tuvalu. Of the 40 species of flyingfish found in the central Pacific, Cheilopogon and Cypselurus are probably the most common genera in Tuvalu.
Management applied to main fisheries

Tuvalu is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The Convention entered into force in June 2004. Much of Tuvalu’s efforts in the management of the tuna fisheries is by participation in the WCPFC, mainly through regional fisheries groupings (i.e. membership in the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)). In recent years Tuvalu has been a more active participant in the WCPFC, FFA, and PNA where it has promoted Tuvalu’s national interests more vigorously. The most significant fisheries management intervention that Tuvalu has participated in has been the PNA Vessel Day Scheme (VDS, Box 1). Tuvalu is committed to implementing a vessel day scheme for longline vessels in early 2017.

Box 1: The Vessel Day Scheme

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

Due to the complicated nature of the new VDS system and the various constraints of the government fisheries agencies of the region (e.g. under-funded, under-staffed), there were some problems in the introduction of the scheme. Now that the introductory phase is complete, it is clear that the VDS has produced substantial benefits for PNA countries. The system is creating competition for a limited number of days, thereby increasing the value of each day. In practice, the value of a fishing day before the VDS was roughly US$1,350, but increased to about US$5,000 in July 2011 and was about US$8,000 in 2014. The PNA Office has indicated that in 2016 a day was worth an average of $10,000, and in some cases up to $16,000.

On a different and less tangible level, another benefit is that the VDS moves fisheries management in the region to a desirable rights-based system. That is, fishing rights (such as vessel days) can be defined, allocated, and traded. By limiting the rights (e.g. a cap on vessel days) scarcity is created and value increased. Consistent with this transition to a rights-based approach, a VDS-style arrangement for management of the tropical longline fishery is being developed.

Source: modified from Gillett (2014)

The VDS is a input-based scheme (i.e. fishing effort is restricted. In recent years some development partners of Pacific Island countries have urged the countries of the region and FFA/PNA to adopt an output based system (catch quota), but Tuvalu and other Pacific Island countries have opposed such a change based on the success of the VDS, the difficulty of making such a change, and problems associated with quota monitoring.

According to a recent article on the Tuvalu Fisheries (Preston et al. 2016), the practical interventions in support of the sustainable management of the tuna fishery in Tuvalu waters by the Fisheries Department include:

  • Ensuring compliance with the provisions of international fishery treaties to which Tuvalu is a party
  • Actively promoting Tuvalu’s national interests through regional tuna fishery management arrangements, including WCPFC, FFA, PNA, and other mechanisms
  • Maintaining fishery licensing and data collection systems for vessels fishing in Tuvalu waters, and monitoring their activities through data collection programmes
  • Monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in the Tuvalu waters to ensure compliance with licence conditions, and to deter, detect and penalise illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing
  • Responding to the requirements of major market states in regard to IUU fishing and fishery product food safety.

As for coastal fisheries management, Johannes (2000) provides some background information on fisheries management at the island level – which is still relevant today. Section l of Schedule 3 of the national government’s Local Government Act, permits island councils “to provide for the improvement and control of fishing and related industries” and “to prohibit, restrict or regulate the hunting, capture, killing or sale of animals, reptiles, bird or fish or any specified kind of animal, reptile, bird or fish.” In short, “conservation in Tuvalu is largely the responsibility of the people of each island”. Johannes provides a description of actions by the various island councils that could be considered fisheries management measures. As an example, the situation at Nukulaelae Atoll:
  • According to Nukulaelae’s Control of Faapuku and Kaumu Bye-law of l984, fishing with nets or spear for faapuku (identified by several fishers as Epinephelus macrospilos) and kaumu (apparently a small spotted grouper) is prohibited June through August.
  • The spawning aggregations of certain reef fish are protected.
  • The Council of Chiefs is said to have banned anchoring on the reef - anchoring over corals tends to smash them.
  • For alternating six month periods the islands on northern and southern halves of the atoll are closed to collecting of seabirds, their eggs, land-crabs, and coconut crabs.

Finekaso (2004) states that historically one of the most important marine resource conservation measures in Tuvalu is the “Li’iga” system whereby there is a total ban on any type of fishing activity in all inshore fishing grounds. This system still survives on the island of Niutao.

With the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme and the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, Tuvalu established its first marine protected area within the Funafuti lagoon in 1996. Many of the other islands in Tuvalu have established such areas – with objectives much broader than just fisheries management (e.g. biodiversity conservation).

The recent activities of the Tuvalu Fisheries Department in support of coastal fisheries management in recent years has included:
  • Working closely with each of the island councils, who are responsible for by-laws and other regulations controlling local fishery management
  • Strengthening relationships between the Fisheries Department, fishers and other stakeholders
  • Carrying out fishery resource assessment and monitoring, to provide the information needed for management
  • Supporting the establishment and enforcement of local conservation areas and other management mechanisms
  • Formulation of management plans for beche-de-mer, sharks and other resources that are prone to extreme overfishing
  • Environmental monitoring to assess and mitigate adverse environmental impacts, including waste management, coastal development and ciguatera fish poisoning

Management objectives

The Marine Resource Act 2006 gives “general principles” for fisheries management and states that fisheries management plans must include the objectives of the management, but the Act does not stipulate any specific management objectives.

The main objectives in the management of Tuvalu’s offshore fisheries, as stated in the current Fisheries Department Corporate Plan (Fisheries Department 2016), are:
  • Securing and protecting Tuvalu’s national rights and interests within the regional purse seine and longline Vessel Day Schemes, whose integrity and development have been promoted by Tuvalu through cooperation with other participating coastal States.
  • Maintaining and improving Fisheries revenues to Tuvalu through the optimum allocation and pricing of Tuvalu’s Vessel Days and associated purse seine and longline licences.
  • Increasing significantly above present levels at sea employment for Tuvalu citizens (fishing vessel crew and fishery observers) through the provision of appropriately trained personnel and the fullest application of local crewing licensing conditions.

Objectives for the management of coastal fisheries in Tuvalu are not as well-articulated as those above for the offshore fisheries – but often involve prevention of fishery resource depletion. Specific management objectives often must be determined by examining interventions. Gillett and Moy (2007) analyze local fisheries management measures in Tuvalu dealing specifically with spearfishing and conclude: “Several of the islands’ restrictions on spear fishing seem to have the objective of reducing fishing pressure, making fish more available to line fishers, and protecting spawning aggregations. There could also be a generational aspect to the management of spearfishing - old men, who mostly fish with lines, disapproving of spear fishing, mostly done by much younger males.”

The objectives of establishing the marine protected areas appear to be repopulating adjacent areas with important fish and invertebrates, in addition to the goal of conserving biodiversity.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

The Fisheries Department which is part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Lands is the government entity charged with fisheries management at the national level. The primary management focus of the Department is on the offshore fisheries. More information on the Department is given in Section 8 below. Island councils are empowered under the Local Government Act to regulate local fishing activities. Examples on management measures on Nukulaelae Atoll are given above in Section 4.2.5.
Fishing communities

The concept of “fishermen communities” has limited applicability to Tuvalu. Most households in the country are involved in coastal fishing activities. The Tuvalu 2012 census (UNFPA 2013) included several questions on whether any member of each household engaged in fishing activities or not. The results show that 75.3% of the sampled 1 761 households participate in some kind of fishing.

It could therefore be stated that all villages in Tuvalu are “fishing communities”.

Inland sub-sector

The inland fisheries sub-sector is almost non-existent in Tuvalu. Tilapia, because it is found in fresh and brackish water, is sometimes considered a freshwater fish. The results of a survey done for climate change adaptation (NAPA 2013), contain some information about Tilapia in Tuvalu. The report states that Tilapia appear to be absent from Nui, Nukufetau and Nukulaelae. Tilapia appear to be eaten on Nanumaga, Niutao and Vaitupu, although on most islands they are used for feeding poultry and pigs.

Tilapia was introduced to Tuvalu in over 50 years ago by SPC. No attempt is made to manage tilapia fishing.

Aquaculture sub-sector

Uwate (1984) lists the older attempts at developing aquaculture in Tuvalu. Past investigations and work have included efforts on baitfish, crabs, milkfish, mollies, mullet, pearl oyster, tilapia, and turtles.

Fisheries Department (2008) states there is keen interest in aquaculture in Tuvalu, which is surprising when the opportunities are contrasted with the relatively abundant wild fisheries resources. The Fisheries Department and island communities have in recent years undertaken a number of aquaculture projects and culture trials including:
  • Construction of a giant clam hatchery
  • Growth trials of Eucheuma seaweed
  • Surveys of potential broodstock for pearl culture
  • Construction of ponds for milkfish culture
These have resulted in any viable aquaculture activities in Tuvalu.

In recent years the only aquaculture activity has been the farming of milkfish at Vaitupu Island. Information on the current production of milkfish at the facility on Vaitupu is not readily available. Various staff of the Fisheries Department indicate that between 200 kg and 1 000 kg were harvested and sold in 2014. (Gillett 2016).

Recreational sub-sector

Although subsistence fishing may have a large social component and be enjoyed by the participants, there is little recreational fishing as a leisure activity for villagers. A few residents of Funafuti (mostly expatriates) have outboard-powered open skiffs that are occasionally used for recreational fishing.

The recreational sub-sector is not actively managed.

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

The fish captured by the offshore foreign flagged fleets in the Tuvalu zone is utilized outside the country. In general, the tuna captured by purse seiners is for canning, while the tuna captured by longliners is for the Japanese sashimi market (mainly high quality bigeye and yellowfin) and for canning (albacore and lower grades of bigeye and yellowfin).

The coastal commercial catch is mainly offloaded in the main island of Funafuti for sale to households on that island, with much smaller amounts offloaded at villages in the outer islands. Some of the outer islands catch is sent to Funafuti for sale to households. Subsistence fishery catches, as the name implies, are mainly for domestic use of the household that made the catch - but some are given away to relatives and friends.

The export of fishery products from coastal fisheries in Tuvalu is very small – and is covered in Section 6.2 below.

Fish markets

The purse seine catch in the Tuvalu zone is mainly for canning, and most of that processing occurs in Bangkok or Pago Pago, American Samoa. This is also the case for the one Tuvalu-flagged purse seiner.

Some of the longline catch is for the fresh fish markets in Asia, and some (from mainly the older vessels) is for canning, mostly in Bangkok or Pagopago. As the Tuvalu-flagged longliners offload in Suva, the high quality tuna is air-freighted to markets in Japan, with the lower grades of fish sold and consumed in Fiji.

Fish from coastal fisheries in Tuvalu are sold through a few small markets on Funafuti. There are also several locations where fish is sold informally on the roadside. Sales are often made by the wives of the fishermen making the catch.

In the outer islands the intention was that “community fishery centres” would have an important role in fish marketing. The centres have not been entirely successful (Box).

Box 2: Community Fishery Centres in Tuvalu

The Government’s most important initiative to support inshore fisheries development in the outer islands has been the construction of Community Fishery Centres, which were intended to provide a marketing, processing and storage facility to absorb the catches of local fishermen. Each Centre would provide a more continuous supply of fish to consumers on the island, with any surplus shipped to Funafuti for sale through the national fishing company. The first Centre was built in Vaitupu with Japanese aid funding in the early 1990s, and further Centres built in Nukufetau and Nanumea in 1997 with Australian aid. These three islands were selected as the most promising locations, due to their relatively large populations and/or their abundant fish resources.

Although it soon became clear that these projects were not financially viable, the Government proceeded with the construction of further Centres of the Australian design in Nanumaga, Niutao, Nukulaelae and Nui. These were built during 2000 and 2001 and were financed by the Government. The problems experienced with the operation of these centres repeats many of the lessons learned in other Pacific Island countries with similar projects over the past 40 years. These have included transport and marketing problems, frequent breakdowns of refrigeration machinery, unexpectedly low and inconsistent supplies of fish, financial mismanagement, and confusion over responsibilities between the local administration and headquarters. Even in the best circumstances – operating with professional managers and handling relatively large volumes of fish for high priced markets – rural Fisheries Centres in the Pacific Islands have never sustained a profitable operation for any length of time.

Over the last few years all the of centres have been turned over to the islands councils to manage and most of them are presently not functioning. With the new initiative of the national government turning some of the foreign vessel access fees over to the island councils, there is some chance that a few of the centres will be re-activated.

Source: updated from Fisheries Department (2008)

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

The importance of fisheries to Tuvalu cannot be overstated: indeed Tuvalu is often characterised as one of a handful of “Fishery-dependent small island states” whose economy, livelihoods, food security and dietary health depend largely on marine resources (Preston et al. 2016).

Role of fisheries in the national economy

A recent study by the SPC (Gillett 2016) attempted to quantify the fishery-related benefits received by Tuvalu. The study gives the available information on the contribution of fishing/fisheries to GDP, exports, government revenue, and employment. With respect to estimates of fishing contribution to GDP:
  • The last official estimation of Tuvalu’s GDP was done in 2013 (for the year 2012). At that time is was estimated that fishing made a contribution to GDP of AUD$3.6 million (USD$3.7 million), or 9.4%.
By contrast, the contribution of fishing to Tuvalu’s GDP was re-estimated using a different methodology by the SPC study in 2016 for the year 2014. It showed a contribution of AUD$1.8 million (USD$1.9 million).

The SPC study also examined payments made to the Tuvalu government for fishing access to the Tuvalu zone. Tuvalu Treasury Department data show that money actually received during the year for access was AUD$13 441 325 (USD$12 001 183) for 2013 and AUD$18 028 933 (USD$14 777 813) for 2014. The statement in Tuvalu’s 2015 report to the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission similarly states: “Fishery access arrangements provide a critical source of revenue for the Tuvalu Government. Revenues in 2014 were approximately US$18 million, which is more than 55% of the Government’s recurrent budget” (Fisheries Department 2015).


The official trade statistics of Tuvalu (e.g the Bi-Annual Statistical Report) do not recognize as an export of Tuvalu the catch of fish which is not brought ashore in the country. This includes the catches of foreign-flagged vessels in the Tuvalu zone or the catches of Tuvalu-flagged vessels anywhere (i.e. inside or outside the Tuvalu zone). The Tuvalu export statistics are different from the trade statistics published by the International Merchandise Trade Statistics Section (IMTSS) of UNSD, also followed by FAO. The Tuvalu Trade statistics are more aligned with the IMF Balance of Payments Manual and the System of National Accounts (SNA 2008). This can explain some discrepancy with figures which can be found in the FAO reported figures.

The exports from coastal fishing in Tuvalu are quite small, and poorly documented. The available recent information on fishery exports (summarized in Gillett 2016) show:
  • In the last two decades beche-de-mer is likely to have been the major commercial fishery export of the country. The last shipment of beche-de-mer was several years ago.
  • The manufacture and export of shell handicrafts (especially necklaces) is substantial, about USD$52 000 annually.
  • The informal export of fish as passenger baggage on departing flights is estimated to be around 50 kg per flight, which, at the prevailing market price for fish, is worth about USD$17 000 annually.

Food security

The National Master Plan for Fisheries Development 2008–2011 (NMR 2008) examines a large number of studies of fish consumption in Tuvalu and states that estimates of per capita fish consumption vary from island to island, but are in the range of 100 to 200 kg per year.

FAO’s “per capita supply of fish” in Tuvalu ranges between 40 and 50 kg per year in the most recent years. Those estimates are based on the country’s fishery production and the net international trade in fish. As all the fish from industrial fishing is exported, Tuvalu’s per capita supply of fish equates to the coastal fishery production plus imports divided by the population. The difference between the FAO per capita fish consumption estimates and that in the National Master Plan for Fisheries Development is probably due to the divergent estimates of coastal fishery production.

An SPC study carried out work on several islands in Tuvalu in 2004 and 2005. An examination of the report of the survey (Sauni et al. 2008), suggests that the methodology used to estimate fishery product consumption is likely to be more rigorous than that used in previous fish consumption studies. Table 7 below extracts some of the consumption information.

Table 7: Fishery Product Consumption from the Tuvalu SPC Work

  Funafuti Nukufetau Vaitupu Niutao
Quantity fresh fish consumed (kg/capita/year) 135.0 (±12.2) 185.3 (±9.3) 162.5 (±13.2) 117.8 (±12.0)
Quantity fresh invertebrate consumed (kg/capita/year) n/a n/a n/a n/a
Quantity canned fish consumed (kg/capita/year) 3... (±0.9) 1.5 (±0.5) 2.1 (±0.5) 3.0 (±0.9)
Total fishery product consumption (kg/capita/year) 185.0 plus invertebrates 186.8 plus invertebrates 164.6 plus invertebrates 120.8 plus invertebrates
Source: extracted from Sauni et al. (2008)

Fish consumption in Tuvalu is very high relative to the rest of the world.


The most recent source of information on fisheries-related employment in Tuvalu is the Tuvalu 2012 census (UNFPA 2013), that used a questionnaire that included several questions on whether any member of each household engaged in fishing activities or not. Households that were involved in any fishing activities were then asked further questions about the fishing methods used, the fishing location and whether the fishing was for subsistence, commercial purposes, or both. The results show:
  • 75.3% of the sampled 1 761 households participated in some kind of fishing. The table below shows the involvement of various types of fishing.
  • 9.2% of households in Tuvalu received income from fish sales: 7.2% in Funafuti and 11.0% in the outer islands.
  • Commercial fishing activities were not common. Less than 4% of households were involved in these activities.
  • Only 17% of total households had a boat, 16% owned an outboard motor while 27% reported owning a canoe.
  • 436 households in Tuvalu (24.7%) were not involved in any kind of fishing activities. Of these households, 301 were from Funafuti and 135 were those living in the outer islands.

Table 8: Fishing Households Participation in Various Types of Fishing

Purpose of fishing

Collecting on reef flatCollecting on lagoon flatCollecting on ocean flatReef fishingLagoon fishingOcean fishing
Mainly subsistence94.192.788.095.092.982.7
Mainly commercial2.
Note: these number are % of fishing households; Source: UNFPA (2013)

The Forum Fisheries Agency tracks employment related to the tuna industry. The table below shows the Tuvalu tuna employment in recent years. The 365 jobs recorded in Tuvalu in 2014 represent about 2.7% of the 17 663 tuna-related jobs in all Pacific Island countries for that year (FFA 2015).

Table 9: Tuna-Related Jobs in Tuvalu

Processing and ancillary 000222
Total 213203205248365365
Source: modified from FFA (2015)

Rural development

In the fisheries sector the major rural development efforts of the government have been the community fisheries centres (box in Section 4.2). Other development schemes on the outer islands have consisted of the promotion of commercial fish drying/salting, improvements in inter-island shipping arrangements, introduction of trochus, and (for some islands) aquaculture trials.

Trends, issues and development

The main trends in the Tuvalu fisheries sector include:
  • Increasing coastal fishing pressure on the main island of Funafuti due to an expanding population
  • Continuing variability of the volume and value of the foreign-flagged tuna catch in the Tuvalu EEZ
  • Increasing offshore licensing revenue in real terms
  • Increasing funding available to the Fisheries Department from external sources (e.g. New Zealand Aid, World Bank, Global Environment Facility) for fisheries management activities
  • Decreasing enthusiasm by donors to promote activities that could increase reef and lagoon fishing effort

Some of the major issues in the fisheries sector are:
  • There is considerable complexity in reducing Funafuti inshore fishing effort; The concept that there are limits to inshore fisheries production is new to many Tuvaluans
  • The perception by some government officials that any controls placed on inshore fishing by the Fisheries Department is contradictory to the Fisheries Department’s fisheries development role.
  • Safety at sea and the loss of lives of fishers while trolling offshore is a major issue.
  • Although Tuvalu is located in one of the most favorable tuna fishing areas in the world, there has been little fisheries industry development in the country.

Constraints and opportunities

A major fisheries-related aspiration in Tuvalu is the development of a domestic tuna industry. However, that desire must be reconciled with the difficulties and expense of operating such an industry from a high cost location such as Tuvalu. Many fisheries specialists visiting Tuvalu over the years have commented on these constraints (Box). Although some of those studies are dated, the main conclusions remain largely valid.

Box 3: Constraints to Fishing Industry Development in Tuvalu

Preston et al. (2016):

  • Tuvalu’s isolation, lack of water and labour, high cost of fuel and electricity, unavailability of materials, supplies and equipment, poor telecommunications and infrequent air and sea transportation make it difficult to envisage onshore development such as canneries or loining plants.
  • Insufficient funding in the past for the Fisheries Department

Gillett and Reid (2005):

  • There should be recognition that the production/export of chilled fishery products requires air freighting, which is both very costly and limited in volume. Unless there are very special conditions, such export is unlikely to be profitable.
  • There should be recognition that the production/export of frozen fishery products is relatively expensive from Tuvalu due high costs of most of the inputs. Cheap local labour is not likely to compensate for these expenses. Unless there are very special conditions, achieving profitability in the export of frozen products will be quite difficult.

FFA (2004):

  • The fact that there could be few or no opportunities for fisheries industry development at the present time should be seriously considered.
  • The difficult transportation logistics to outside markets, lack of support services, high cost of fuel, poor availability of water, little heritage of major commercial activity, high costs of doing business, limited domestic market for by-catch and other factors, all work against the establishment of a domestic tuna industry like those of many Pacific Island countries.
  • While some of these could be addressed by major inputs from the government or donors, such improvement may still not result in the fundamental underlying economics being favourable.

Chapman (2004):

Tuvalu suffers from some deep seated disadvantages in the areas of investment capital (finance), management and technical skills, technology, marketing infrastructure, and shore based infrastructure. The major natural disadvantages and constraints for fishery industry development can be summarised as the lack of:

  • Domestic capital to finance relatively large scale commercial projects;
  • Domestic investors willing to commit finance to risky commercial ventures;
  • Effective means to transport fish to overseas markets;
  • Supporting infrastructure, including comprehensive shore facilities and protected anchorages for smaller artisanal craft;
  • Managerial expertise to successfully guide a commercial venture;
  • Skills and technology in a range of areas needed to underpin a commercial export oriented fishery, including: fishing, processing, storage, and shore based skills such as marketing, accountancy, and repairs and maintenance;

Although there are numerous constraints facing the development of a tuna industry in Tuvalu, there may be smaller-scale development opportunities that can be leveraged through concessionary resource access arrangements (Preston et al. 2016).

For small-scale fisheries development, there may be opportunities to improve the flow of fisheries products from the outer islands (where resources are relatively abundant) to the main island of Funafuti (where most of the commercial demand is located). Through better management of the beche de mer fishery, it is thought that the “boom and bust” cycle can be mitigated.

Tuvalu’s National Master Plan for Fisheries Development 2008–2011 lists additional opportunities. Those that are still relevant are:
  • Invite expressions of interest from fishing companies in a partnership to develop tuna longlining and deep water bottom fishing in the Tuvalu EEZ
  • Engage with pearl culture and aquarium fish export companies
  • Develop and implement a detailed plan for the upgrading of the community fishery centres.
  • Undertake a fish aggregating device deployment programme, for Funafuti and islands without lagoon fishery resources.
  • Develop some simple regulations to conserve the most threatened fisheries resources
  • Establish a giant clam hatchery
  • Develop a shell handicraft project to supply shell cutting and polishing equipment to each island’s fisheries centre for the production of new types of shell handicraft,
  • Establish a Fisheries Advisory Council
  • Support the Tuvalu Fishermen’s Association

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

The major government operational policies in the fisheries sector are given in the Fisheries Department Corporate Plan 2017-2019 (Fisheries Department 2016). These include:
  1. Sustainable management of the tuna fishery in Tuvalu waters, through:
  • Ensuring compliance with the provisions of international fishery treaties to which Tuvalu is a party
  • Actively promoting Tuvalu’s national interests through regional tuna fishery management arrangements
  • Maintaining fishery licensing and data collection systems for vessels fishing in Tuvalu waters, and monitoring their activities through data collection programmes;
  • Monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in the Tuvalu waters to ensure compliance with licence conditions, and to deter, detect and penalise illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing
  • Responding to the requirements of major market states in regard to IUU fishing and fishery product food safety.
  1. Increasing sustainable economic benefits from the tuna fishery, through:
  • Effective negotiation of favourable fishery access conditions with foreign interests
  • Development of joint-venture arrangements between the Government of Tuvalu and selected foreign fishing companies with emphasis on shore-based development
  • Promoting the employment of Tuvaluans as crew on board fishing vessel operating in Tuvalu waters, through training and licence conditions
  • Reform of the National Fishing Corporation of Tuvalu as a vehicle for the Government’s commercial fishery interests
  1. Improved management of coastal fisheries in order to maintain livelihoods, food security and dietary health. This involves:
  • Working closely with the island councils who are responsible for by-laws and other regulations controlling local fishery management;
  • Strengthening relationships between the Fisheries Department, fishers and other stakeholders;
  • Fishery resource assessment and monitoring, to provide the information needed for management;
  • Supporting the establishment and enforcement of local conservation areas and other management mechanisms;
  • Formulation of management plans for beche-de-mer, sharks and other resources that are prone to extreme overfishing;
  • Environmental monitoring to assess and mitigate adverse environmental impacts, including waste management, coastal development and ciguatera fish poisoning;
  1. Supporting the sustainable economic development of Tuvalu’s small-scale fisheries, through:
  • Provision of technical assistance, training and material support to small-scale fishers and fish processors, including for sea safety;
  • Deployment and maintenance of fish aggregation devices in all of Tuvalu’s islands

Research, education and trainingResearch

Many fisheries research projects have been carried out in Tuvalu. The older research is listed in the document “Tokelau and Tuvalu: an atoll fisheries bibliography” (Gillett 1988). The results of many of the research projects are summarized by resource in the “Tuvalu Fisheries Resources Profiles” ( Wilson 1995).

Fisheries research in Tuvalu in the past few decades has included coverage of tuna, tuna baitfish, ciguatera, giant clams, trochus, fish nomenclature, marine ethno-biodiversity, aquaculture potential, specimen shells, beche de mer, pearl oysters, deepwater bottomfish, seabirds, traditional fishing, and turtles.

A review of the Tuvalu Fisheries Department in 2012 stated; “In regard to coastal fisheries, the Department had for too long been focussing on small research and development projects, especially in aquaculture, that had delivered no visible economic or social benefits to Tuvalu” (Preston et al. 2016).

The Department currently operates two fishery research/extension vessels:
  • The FV Manaui, an 18-metre fibreglass vessel provided by the Japanese Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation (OFCF). The Manaui was originally a fish collection vessel for servicing outer island community fisheries centres, but is now used for deployment of fish aggregation devices, transportation of fisheries staff to the outer islands, and charters.
  • The Tala Moana, a 32-metre steel vessel was procured by UNDP using GEF funds allocated to Tuvalu. The vessel is primarily to support activities in which the Department is heavily involved. The Tala Moana was delivered in December 2015 and is better suited to passenger transport and outer-island field work than the Manaui. (Fisheries Department 2016).

Education and training

Education related to fisheries in Tuvalu is undertaken in a variety of institutions:
  • Academic training in biological, economic and other aspects of fisheries is given at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, and to a lesser extent at universities in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
  • Training courses, workshops and attachments are frequently organized by the regional organizations: the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in New Caledonia and by the Forum Fisheries Agency in the Solomon Islands. The subject matter has included such diverse topics as fish quality grading, stock assessment, statistics, seaweed culture, fisheries surveillance, and on-vessel observing.
  • Courses and workshops are also given by NGOs and by bilateral donors.

Foreign aid

The major bilateral donors in the fisheries sector are Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan, Province of China. The major multilateral donors are the European Union and ADB. Assistance has flowed from UN agencies, including FAO, UNDP, ESCAP, and UNCDF. The regional organizations serving Pacific Island countries, including the Forum Fisheries Agency, the South Pacific Commission, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the Forum Secretariat, and the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission have also been active in supporting Tuvalu’s fisheries sector.

Past projects have been concerned with the provision of shore-based plant and equipment (buildings, ice plant, boat harbours and wharves, fishing gear), resource surveys and research (deep bottom fish, aquaculture), the provision of fishing vessels, and assistance with projects involving marketing, training, and statistics.

In the past few years the Fisheries Department has been successful in obtaining support from several major development partners. Preston et al. (2016) summarize that support:
  • The New Zealand-Tuvalu Fishery Support Programme (TFSP) is providing NZ$ 1,036,800 in operational funding over the 5-year period which commenced on 31st May 2014. The TFSP is also providing two technical advisors to the TFD, and will also support the construction of new office facilities for the Department, now expected to be completed in 2017;
  • The World Bank Pacific Regional Oceanscape Programme, approved in December 2014, is providing a total of US$7 910 000 over a 6-year period that commenced on 9th June 2015. These funds will support internal capacity development and training, the procurement of equipment and supplies, consultancy services in technical areas, increased surface patrols within the Tuvalu EEZ, and other activities;
  • The GEF-funded NAPA2 (National Adaptation Plan of Action for Climate Change, Phase 2) project is providing approximately US$2.1 million to support fisheries development and food security activities in Tuvalu’s outer islands over a 4-year period from early 2015. In early 2016 the NAPA2 project also procured a project vessel, the Tala Moana, which is being operated by the Department, and which is used to support a range of TFD activities;
  • The GEF-funded Ridge-to-Reef project was approved in mid-2015 and supports aquatic biodiversity conservation and establishment of marine protected areas in selected outer islands.

Institutional framework

The main government fisheries institution is the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The Marine Resources Act 2006 gives the Minister responsible for fisheries the power to administer the fisheries and make regulations as he sees fit. According to the Act, the Minister “may appoint in writing a fisheries officer and such other officials to discharge fisheries related functions”. In practice, the Fisheries Director reports to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry, who reports to the Minister, and who in turn reports to Cabinet.

In 2012, the Department was reviewed by a New Zealand funded project (Preston et al. 2016) The review concluded that:
  • In regard to coastal fisheries, the TFD had for too long been focussing on small research and development projects, especially in aquaculture, that had delivered no visible economic or social benefits to Tuvalu;
  • In regard to oceanic fisheries, Tuvalu had been a passive player in regional fishery management and access negotiations, ‘standing on the sidelines’ and following the consensus instead of promoting its own national interests for greater economic benefit;
  • Organisationally, the Department was ‘about the right size, but the wrong shape’, with too many staff focussing on issues that were not very important, and insufficient attention being paid to ‘big-ticket’ items.

The Fisheries Department is organised into three separate divisions (Oceanic, Coastal and Operations & Development), overseen by an Administration group comprising the Director, Deputy Director, and several staff with cross-cutting duties (Legal Officer, Information Officer and Economist).

Presently the main focus of the Fisheries Department is on coastal fisheries development and on management of the activities of the foreign fishing vessels that operate in Tuvalu’s EEZ. The Fisheries Department Corporate Plan 2016-2019 (Fisheries Department 2016) states that the Department’s work falls into a broad range of areas:
  • Sustainable management of the tuna fishery in Tuvalu waters
  • Increasing sustainable economic benefits from the tuna fishery
  • Improved management of coastal fisheries in order to maintain livelihoods, food security and dietary health.
  • Supporting the sustainable economic development of Tuvalu’s small-scale fisheries, through:
  • Public awareness and education in all the above areas.

Some of the important activities to be carried out by the Fisheries Department in the next few years are: (Preston et al. 2016)
  • Completion of field survey work in each island and use this information, plus that from the fishery data collection programmes and from other sources, to establish island-by-island fishery management and development plans
  • Strengthening the management of the Funafuti lagoon fishery, especially through working the Funafuti Island Council and Fishermen’s Association to enforce the prohibition on fishing in the Funafuti Conservation Area
  • Working through PNA and WCPFC to find alternatives to the current 3-month FAD closure for the purse-seine fishery, which places a heavy disproportionate burden on Tuvalu
  • Establishing IUU and Fishery Product Food Safety Competenet Authorities, to satisfy the requirements of the EU and other key market states;
  • Reformingthe National Fishing Corporation of Tuvalu) to comply with the requirements of the Public Enterprises (Accountability) act and to act as an effective vehicle for joint ventures or other fishing enterprises in which the Government of Tuvalu has an interest
  • Fulfiling Tuvalu’s commitment to implement the PNA Longline Vessel-Day Scheme

Other important fisheries institutions in Tuvalu are the Funafuti Fishermen Association and the “Falekaupule” on each island. The latter is a traditional body responsible for making decisions regarding development and management of fisheries resources and other matters at the island level.

Box 4: The Main Regional Organizations in the Pacific Islands Involved with Fisheries

  • The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is based in Noumea, New Caledonia. It helps its member countries and territories in matters relating in many areas, including (a) coastal fisheries development and management, and (b) scientific research and catch data compilation on the tuna resources of the region.
  • The Forum Fisheries Agency is based in Honiara, Solomon Islands. It assists its member countries in matters dealing with the management of the region’s tuna resources, including economics, surveillance, and legal aspects.
  • The Parties to the Nauru Agreement have an office in Majuro, Marshall Islands. It is a regional grouping of eight Pacific Island countries whose EEZs collectively account for a significant bulk of the region’s tuna catch. The primary focus of the PNA is to maximise the profitability of the tuna fisheries and ancillary industries within the PNA, develop initiatives to maximise the sustained direct and indirect economic benefits to the Parties, and develop strategic fisheries conservation and management initiatives.

Legal framework

The Fisheries Department Corporate Plan 2016-2019 (Fisheries Department 2016) summarizes the fisheries legislation of Tuvalu. The main law dealing with fisheries in Tuvalu is the Marine Resources Act 2006 (MRA), amended in 2012. Key features of the MRA include:
  • Establishing the objective of ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the living marine resources for the benefit of the people of Tuvalu;
  • The Minister for Fisheries has the authority for the conservation, management, development and sustainable use of the living marine resources in the EEZ of Tuvalu;
  • The Minister must take into account 15 stated principles and measures in the conservation, management, and development of fisheries;
  • The Minister has the power to administer fisheries, make regulations as needed, and appoint a Fisheries Officer and other officials to discharge fisheries related functions;
  • The Minister may declare that a fishery important to the national interest is a “designated fishery” with its own management plan;
  • All vessels engaged in fishing in Tuvalu must have a valid/applicable permit or a license under a multilateral access agreement in accordance with the Act;
  • The transshipment of fish in the Tuvalu EEZ is regulated;
  • Requirements for a Tuvalu fishing vessel operating outside Tuvalu waters are given.

The Marine Resources (Amendment) Act 2012 implements a number of changes to the principal act to accommodate Tuvalu’s international, regional and national rights and responsibilities in fisheries conservation, management and development. The Amendment significantly increased the level of penalties for various types of offence under the Act. The MRA was further revised in 2016, partly to respond to issues raised by the European Commission in regard to Tuvalu’s control of foreign fishing vessels operating in its waters. The revised Act was being finalised for submission to the Tuvalu Parliament at the time this Plan was prepared.

Two regulations have been promulgated under the Marine Resources Act: the Fisheries (Vessel Monitoring System) Regulations (2000) which require the use of automatic location communicators by commercial fishing vessels operating in Tuvalu waters; and the Conservation and Management Measures (PNA Third Implementing Arrangement) Regulations 2009, which contain provisions for implementation of a number of measures agreed by PNA.

Regional and international legal framework

Tuvalu is an active member of the Pacific Island regional organizations involved with fisheries, including the Pacific Community, the Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

Tuvalu is a signatory to the WCPFC Convention, the UN Law of the Sea Convention, and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.



Map courtesy of the Pacific Community

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