FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. Dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement.

Part I Overview and main indicators

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

Part II Narrative (2017)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • 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 briefPrepared: May, 2018

Samoa has a population of 195 000 (2016), a land area of 2 935 km2, a coastline of 447 km, and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 129 000 km2. Fisheries’ contribution to GDP in 2014 was 3.5 percent of national GDP. In 2015, exports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 13.4 million and imports at USD 8.6 million.

Fish and fishing is important to Samoa, both economically and socially. Over 30 percent of all exports of the country consisted of fishery products. About a quarter of all households received some income from fishing. Total fisheries production was estimated at about 8 700 tonnes in 2015, the bulk of which came from capture fisheries. The production from freshwater aquaculture ponds amounted to 13 tonnes of Nile tilapia. Per capita consumption of fish and fisheries products amounted to 48.5 kg/year in 2013, accounting for about 24 percent of animal protein. In 2015, 21 long liners, most under 12 meters LOA were reported along with 53 bottom / trolling vessels under 12 meters LOA. In 2015, 18 women and 68 men were reported as full-time aquaculture employees. During the same period 440 men were reported to work in deep-sea fisheries. In total, an estimate of over 10 000 people has been made for engagement in subsistence fisheries.

Offshore fisheries consist almost exclusively of tuna longlining, from small Alia catamarans and from much larger mono-hull vessels. Coastal fishing is undertaken by villagers operating in shallow lagoon waters adjacent to their lands, and is for both subsistence and commercial purposes.

Aquaculture is not a traditional practice in Samoa, except for a traditional form of giant clam ranching that was practiced on village reefs or in lagoons where a community placed giant clams in a fenced off area for a special occasion or reserves for seafood supply in bad weather. Significant aquaculture activities did not occur until the 1980s when several trials pertaining to farming tilapia, freshwater and marine prawns, oyster, eucheuma seaweed, green mussels and giant clams were investigated. As the village giant clam nurseries are oriented to enhancing the wild stock, aquaculture harvesting is limited to tilapia. Aquaculture production in recent years was only 4 to 5 tonnes of Nile tilapia.

Samoa 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. Samoa is also a party of several treaties and agreement.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Independent State of Samoa

Shelf area:

2 234 km²

Sea Around US:


Length of continental coastline: 403 km

World by Map

Fisheries GDP (2014): 3.5% National GDP

Gillet, 20161

(1) Gillett, R. D. Fisheries in the Economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Pacific Community (SPC), 2016

*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate

Key statistics

Country area2 840km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area2 830km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area10km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.0.19millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area130 973km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

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

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Independent State of Samoa

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2014 2015 2016
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 7.86 6.03 12.5 0.328 0.525  
  Aquaculture 0.081 0.085
  Capture 7.86 6.03 12.5 0.247 0.44
    Marine 7.86 6.03 12.5 0.247 0.44
FLEET(thousands vessels) 0.075
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

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


Updated 2017Part II Narrative

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

Production sector

Samoa consists of two main islands, Upolu and Savaii, and two inhabited but much smaller islands, Manono and Apolima. In addition, there are several uninhabited, little islands and large rocks. Because the islands of Samoa are relatively new in a geological sense, the lagoons are fairly small and consequently the inshore fishing areas are limited compared to those of many other Pacific Island countries.

Fish and fishing are important to Samoa, both economically and socially. Fish (fresh, frozen and canned) is an important feature of the Samoan diet and, on average, households consume fish most days of the week. Fish is also one of Samoa’s most important exports. Both subsistence and commercial fishing are significant occupations in Samoa.

Fisheries statistics can be presented in different forms, to cater for different purposes. In the Samoa statistics published by FAO (Part 1 of this profile) the presentation follows the international conventions and standards used by FAO and its Member States for reporting catches, which are given by the flag of the catching vessel. Accordingly, the fishery and aquaculture production of Samoa in 2014 published by FAO (Part 1) was 7 506 tonnes.

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

Table 3: Samoa fisheries production in 2014 (as per FAO reporting standards)
  Aquaculture Freshwater





Samoa-flagged offshore
Volume (tonnes)



5 000

5 000

1 254



15 054 3 226 17 782 427 12 447 699 4 666 309

The amounts of production given in the above table differ from those shown in Part 1. The table consists of production estimated from a variety of sources (see SPC study below), whereas the quantities reported in Part 1 are generally what is reported to FAO by the Samoa Fisheries Division. The major difference appears to be in the estimates of commercial/subsistence coastal fisheries production.

A recent study by the Pacific Community (SPC) presents the fishery statistics of Samoa in a different way from that of FAO. The SPC study reports the amount of catch in Samoa fishery waters, regardless of vessel flag. In the study, the catches are placed in different categories, which is useful for other purposes. A summary of the fishery production from the SPC study is given in Table 4 below. The catches reported in Tables 3 and 4 are identical due to the lack of fishing by foreign-flagged vessels in Samoa waters in 2014. In 2015, however, there was a significant amount of fishing in Samoa waters by foreign-flagged vessels (Fisheries Division, 2016).

Table 4: Fisheries production in Samoa waters
2014 Aquaculture Freshwater










          Both Samoa- and foreign-flagged vessels
Volume (tonnes)



5 000

5 000

1 254


Value (USD)

15 054

3 226

17 782 427

12 447 699

4 666 309


Source: Gillett (2016)

Some comment is required to explain the difference between the information in this table and that in Part 1 of this profile. The estimates in Table 3 and 4 were made by a study carried out by SPC in 2015 that examined a large number of fishery and economic studies covering the last two decades.

Marine sub-sector

The main components of the marine fisheries are the offshore tuna longline fishery and the coastal subsistence and commercial fisheries. There is also some pelagic trolling by small vessels and deep-slope bottom fishing.

Catch profile

Estimates of the volumes and values of catches of the four main commercial species of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) area have been made by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) using data sourced from SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme (Table 5).

Table 5: Volume and value of the catch by the Samoa-flagged offshore fleet
Volume tuna catch (tonnes)3 0901 9322 3522 0201 091
Delivered value tuna catch (USD)11 247 8348 780 6829 982 5347 158 4554 574 813
Volume catch adjusted for bycatch (tonnes)3 5532 2212 704.82 3231 254
Catch value adjusted for delivery costs and value of bycatch (USD)11 472 7918 956 29610 182 1857 301 6244 666 309
Source: Adjusted from FFA (2015)

There is a large range in the various estimates of Samoa’s coastal fisheries production:

  • A nationwide, household fisheries survey was undertaken in October and November 2000 to collect subsistence fisheries data and to profile Samoan village fisheries. The survey covered 1 092 households in 66 villages, 40 in Upolu and 26 in Savaii, i.e. 20 percent coverage of Samoa’s villages and 5 percent coverage of its households. The survey was based on respondents’ recall of their fishing activities and seafood consumption patterns, rather than on direct measurements, such as creel surveys or weighing of food items to be consumed. The total coastal catch for the year 2000 was estimated at 7 169 tons, with a value of WST 45 million. A total of 2 876 tons was sold or given away, leaving 4 293 tons for home consumption (Passfield, 2001).

  • In 2012, the Samoa Socio-Economic Fisheries Survey was implemented in 100 villages in June and July 2012 (56 in Upolu and 44 in Savaii), which was about 30 percent of the total number of villages in Samoa. A total of 881 households were surveyed – 584 in Upolu and 297 in Savaii. The results of the survey showed that in 2012, the estimated total finfish catch was 9 066 tonnes/year with an estimated value of WST 89 million. The estimated catch of invertebrates was 7 804.42 tonnes/year, with an estimated value of WST 86 million in income generated. The total annual coastal catch (commercial/subsistence and finfish/invertebrates) was 16 870 tonnes (Tiitii et al., 2014).

  • For many years, the Fisheries Division has carried out a programme of regular surveys of the landings of inshore fisheries that are sold. These surveys are conducted at four main market outlets, such as the Fugalei Agriculture Market, Apia Fish Market and Salelologa Market, on three, randomly selected sampling days. Roadside sales were sampled once per week. The 2013/2014 Fisheries Division Annual Report (Fisheries Division, 2014) gives the results for that fiscal year. The overall estimate of inshore landings of fishery products traded at the local market outlets was WST 1.3 million (USD 0.54 million) with a volume of 113 tonnes during the fiscal year.

  • An SPC study in 2015 (Gillett, 2016) examined about 15 past estimates of coastal fisheries production in Samoa (including the three cited above) and commented on the very large range. The study concluded that production is likely to consist of 5 000 tonnes from coastal commercial fishing and 5 000 tonnes from coastal subsistence fishing.

The Fisheries Division Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2014–2015 stated that the troll fishery landed an estimated 319 tonnes with an estimated value of WST 2.2 million (USD 0.92 million) at the main fish markets in Samoa. The same report indicated that the bottomfish fishing fleet landed an estimated 10.3 tonnes of fish at the main fish markets.
Landing sites

Most locally based offshore vessels unload their catch in Apia, the capital and largest urban area. Some of the smaller alia longliners (when they are operating) offload catch at smaller landing sites, especially at the east and west ends of the island of Savaii.

Subsistence and coastal commercial fishery landings occur at villages throughout the coastal areas of the country, roughly in proportion to the distribution of the population. Much of the coastal commercial catch is transported by road for sale in urban areas. Some is sold on the roadside.
Fishing practices/systems

The early history of offshore fishing in Samoa is described in Vunisea et al. (2008). Two surveys of the tuna and baitfish resources of Samoa were undertaken by the United States National Marine Fisheries Service, the first in February/March 1970, and the second in March 1972 and January/February 1973. These surveys found that skipjack tuna was abundant, but baitfish resources for pole-and-line operations were limited. SPC’s Skipjack Survey and Assessment Programme conducted a tuna-tagging cruise in Samoan waters in June 1978 and February 1980. Pole-and-line fishing operations by locally based vessels have only been attempted on a small scale in Samoa. The Samoan Government acquired a 16 tonne Japanese-style pole-and-line vessel (Tautai Samoa) in early 1978. This vessel was used for training and exploratory fishing until August 1980, resuming operations in 1982. Catches recorded by this vessel were low, at around 8 tonne, during 1979 and 1980. In support of this operation, the Fisheries Division, with financial assistance from FAO/UNDP, attempted to culture mollies in 1978 as baitfish for pole-and-line fishing operations. This project was terminated in 1982/83 because of the high costs and low catch-to-bait ratio. The next development in offshore tuna fishing came as an offshoot of small-scale tuna fishing around fish aggregation devices (FADs). This included the development of the alia catamaran (Box 1).

Currently, offshore fishing in Samoa is almost exclusively by longlining. Samoa’s 2016 report to WCPFC (Fisheries Division, 2016) contains information about fleets and fishing practices. The Samoa-flagged vessels range from 9 m to over 20.5 m in length. Table 6 presents information on the domestic fleet. In addition, 10 foreign longliners were operating in Samoa waters in 2015: Cook Islands (1 vessel), Vanuatu (8) and Kiribati (1).

Table 6: Characteristics of the Samoan longline fleet

Gross registered


ClassLength (m)Fishing methodNumber of vessels
0–10AUp to 11Longline and troll3523272942



Source: Fisheries Division (2016)

Class A in the table above are alia catamaran vessels. No discussion of the fisheries sector in Samoa would be complete without information on the alia. Originally designed and built by an FAO project in Samoa in the mid-1970s, much of the recent history of fishing in the country involves these vessels. Box 1 describes the large change in the alia fleet in the past decade.

Box 1: Rise and fall of the Samoan alia fishery

The offshore fishery in Samoa began in the late 1970s when alias were first constructed for deep-water bottom fishing and trolling around FADs. An alia is a catamaran style-vessel of around 9 m in length, originally constructed using plywood, but now made using aluminium. They are powered by a 40 horsepower outboard motor. Trial vertical and horizontal longlining, primarily targeting albacore, began in the early 1990s, with many alias being converted or purpose-built for longlining in the mid-1990s. Commercial longline fishing vessels (over 12.5 m) entered the fishery in the late 1990s. In 1994, Samoa’s longline fleet comprised 25 alias, increasing to around 200 vessels in 1999, the majority of which were alias. Following four years of sustained high fishing effort (more than 7.5 million hooks set per year), catch rates in the Samoan longline fishery declined substantially in 2002/2003. Localized depletion, general overfishing, interactions with large longliners, oceanographic factors and natural cycles of abundance have been cited as possible explanations for this decline. However, the exact cause is yet to be determined. In recent years, the number of active alia longliners has ranged from 23 to 42 vessels.

Alias are constrained by size as to the amount of gear, bait, catch and personnel they can safely carry. The vessels in use as longliners can reportedly fish up to 300 or 400 hooks per day using a manually cranked drum longline reel. This increase over effort 10 or 15 years ago is said to be required to compensate for lower catch rates. It is unlikely that the number of hooks per set can go beyond this level, given the limited crew, gear and bait capacity of the alias. The average annual catch of an alia used in longlining was estimated to be about 19 tonnes in 2007.

Sea safety related to the use of alias in the Samoa longline fishery has long been a concern of the Samoan government and regional and international aid agencies. In the early years of the fishery (1996–2001), a total of 41 fishermen lost their lives at sea. An FAO survey of sea safety noted that in addition to recorded fatalities, over the years, alia fishermen and their vessels have drifted to American Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Wallis, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Source: Hamilton (2007); Gillett (2008); McCoy et al. (2015)

The 2012 Samoa Socio-Economic Fisheries Survey (Tiitii et al., 2014) included information on coastal fish catches by habitat and by gear:

  • By habitat: 40 percent of fishing trips are to the lagoons, and 37 percent to the outer reefs, with the remainder a combination of the two.

  • By gear: 47 percent of the catch is by spear diving, 9 percent by handlining, 6 percent by gillnet, and the remainder by a variety of gear.
Main resources

The longline fishery in Samoa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is primarily based on albacore, which has made up around 70 percent of the catch over the past decade. Yellowfin contributes about 11 percent of the catch, and bigeye and skipjack around 3 percent each. The remaining catch (around 15 percent) is a mix of non-tuna species, such as black and blue marlin and swordfish. The average 2008–2012 albacore catch of around 2 230 tonnes represents around 3.7 percent of the total albacore catch taken in the Western and Central Pacific south of 10°S. While only a small proportion of the total catch is taken in the Samoa EEZ, the catch taken relative to the size of the EEZ is high. Similarly, the relative density of fishing effort in Samoa’s EEZ is high (FFA, 2014).

As to the status of the offshore resources, recent information from the WCPFC’s Scientific Committee (WCPFC, 2016) shows that for:

  • skipjack the stock is currently only moderately exploited and fishing mortality levels are sustainable;

  • bigeye – recent analysis indicates that overfishing is occurring for the bigeye tuna stock and that to reduce fishing mortality to that at maximum sustainable yield, a large reduction in fishing mortality is required;

  • yellowfin – the current total biomass and spawning biomass are higher than at levels associated with maximum sustainable yields. Therefore, yellowfin tuna is not considered to be in an overfished state;

  • South Pacific albacore – there is no indication that current levels of catch are causing recruitment overfishing, particularly given the age selectivity of the fisheries. It should be noted that longline catch rates are declining, while catches over the last 10 years have been at historically high levels and are increasing. Despite the health of the albacore population, any increase in catches (even within sustainable levels) is predicted to have a significant impact on the catch rates in the longline fishery.

The catch of Samoa’s coastal fisheries is very diverse. An FAO study carried out in Samoa in the 1990s (Zann, 1992) reported that subsistence fisheries make use of 500 species. The most important resources for Samoa’s small-scale fisheries are: finfish (especially surgeonfish, grouper, mullet, carangids and rabbitfish), octopus, giant clams, beche-de-mer, Turbo spp. and crab. A study by FAO in 2006 identified the major species caught by spearfishing (Table 7).

Table 7: Common species in Samoa’s spearfishing catch
Samoan nameEnglish nameScientific name
AlogoLined surgeonfishAcanthurus lineatus
PoneStriated surgeonfishCtenochaetus striatus
FugaFive-banded parrotfishScarus ghobban
Saesae UnicornfishNaso spp.
LaeaParrotfishScarus spp.
Source: Gillett and Moy (2006)

A statement in Samoa’s Agriculture Sector Plan 2016–2020 (which includes fisheries) summarizes the official position on the status/potential of coastal fishery resources in Samoa:

Inshore fisheries, whilst important for food security in rural areas, have restricted potential for increased production due mainly to the limited areas within the reef and vulnerability to exploitive fishing practices. With some commodities already overfished, increasing fish supplies, particularly to urban areas, is likely to rely more on landings of tuna and the further development of aquaculture.

The ministerial foreword to the Samoa Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Plan (Fisheries Division, 2013) gave another view on the status of coastal fisheries: “Coastal fisheries have not, however, been well understood and managed, mainly because they are a multi-species and multi-gear type of fishery.”
Management applied to main fisheries

The tuna fishery in Samoa is managed on regional and national levels:

  • On the regional level, Samoa is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Samoa and the other 26 members of the commission enact tuna management measures at the annual WCPFC meeting. From Samoa’s perspective, the two most important measures are: (1) the Conservation and Management Measure for South Pacific Albacore, and (2) the Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna in The Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

  • On the national level, the tuna fishery in Samoa is managed under the Samoa Tuna Management and Development Plan 2011–2015. The plan covers two main areas: management of Samoa’s tuna resources and development of the tuna industry. The plan sets licence caps and licence fees for categories determined by length of vessel. The categories and maximum number of licences allowed are: up to 11 m (100 vessels), over 11 m and up to 12.5 m (10), over 12.5 m and up to 15 m (10), over 15 m and up to 20.5 m (12) and over 20.5 m (5). The plan provides for flexibility in adjustment of the number of licences per category. Similarly, licence fees are set out in the plan but subject to review. The plan formalizes a consultation process, the Commercial Fisheries Management Advisory Committee, requiring regular consultations to be held with domestic fishing industry participants by the Fisheries Division and other relevant government departments. Other notable provisions in the plan include an exclusion zone for larger vessels that reserves fishing within 50 miles from shore for vessels under 12.5 m in length, and a trip limit of five sharks caught incidentally during tuna targeting operations, with an exemption for vessels under 12.5 m in length from the requirement to land carcasses with fins.

The Fisheries Division Annual Report for fiscal year 2014–2015 states that a review of the Tuna Management and Development Plan 2011–2015 was carried out in May 2015 with technical assistance provided by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and SPC. The review looked at what had been achieved and priorities for a new plan. The discussions during the review mostly focused on how to implement Samoa’s allocation for South Pacific albacore and how to operationalise this allocation in different sectors of the commercial fishing community.

Coastal fisheries management in Samoa is largely the responsibility of the 230 coastal villages. Village-level management was enhanced considerably in the mid and late 1990s by the Community-based Fisheries Management Program (Box 2).

Box 2: Community-based Fisheries Management Program
The Community-based Fisheries Management Program (CBFMP) was initiated in 1995 with assistance from the Australian Agency for International Development to provide coastal villages in Samoa with much needed advisory assistance. The process used a “bottom-up” approach to management in that each participating village develops its own strategy to manage its marine resources and its environment, rather than being told what to do by a government authority. The Fisheries Division is mandated to develop sustainable conservation and fisheries management measures under the Fisheries Act 1988; therefore, the Fisheries Division works with communities to pursue fisheries development and marine conservation, and to provide technical assistance. To date, 98 villages work collaboratively with the Fisheries Division under the CBFMP with 73 active fish reserves, 1 with protected mangroves only. Two other districts, Safata and Aleipata, are under a marine protected area program overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; the rest were inactive due to some localized and unforeseen issues within their communities. The Fisheries Division is working on reactivating all of these fish reserves as well as involving new communities in the CBFMP. One of the conservation and resource management procedures adopted by the communities participating in the program is the establishment of village-owned fish reserves in lagoon waters. It is a practical management strategy to protect the biodiversity of the marine and fish species and to enhance depleted coastal fisheries resources. The fish reserve areas vary among communities, depending on the lagoon area and also take into consideration that most communities reserve a portion of the marine environment and leave the rest for fishing activities for family consumption. The CBFMP identifies various communal issues as listed in each village’s Fisheries Management Plan, incorporates bylaws into the Fisheries Act (which legalizes communal management initiatives), and assists communities with managing their own marine environment, especially controlling fishing activities from outside villagers.
Source: Tiitii et al. (2014)Management objectives

The Fisheries Management Act 2016 gives fisheries management objectives in only very general terms:

“Management decisions are based on the best information available and are designed to maintain or restore stocks at levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, or any other approved reference points, as qualified by relevant environmental, social and economic factors, and taking into account fishing patterns and the interdependence of stocks.”

The Samoa Tuna Management and Development Plan 2011–2015 states: “The Plan will pursue the following objectives through the management of tuna fishing:

  1. Continuing to strengthen the exercise of sovereign rights of Samoans over tuna.

  1. Increasing the economic gains received by Samoa through exercising its rights over tuna and through optimal management of the fishery.

c) Contributing to the sustainable management of tuna resources and the associated ecosystem, including through effective participation by Samoa in regional activities.

d) Continual recognition of cultural values in tuna policy and planning, particularly the importance of the contribution of tuna to food security, and protection of the interests of small-scale fishers.”

For coastal management, the Samoa Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Plan 2013–2016 (Fisheries Division, 2013) indicates that the overall goal of interventions in coastal fisheries is to ensure sustainable food security and livelihoods through sustainable utilisation, development and management of coastal fisheries in Samoa. The objectives of the plan provide some degree of insight into coastal fisheries management objectives:

  • To develop fishery management plans for the conservation, sustainable development and management of coastal fisheries in Samoa.

  • To encourage and strengthen the participation of communities in management of the coastal and marine resources.

  • Improved monitoring of programmes to document the status of resources and detect changes in abundance, size and structure of stocks, and in the catches and their utilization.

  • To enhance food security, community livelihoods and economic growth through sustainable development and management of coastal fisheries.

  • To promote applied scientific research to ensure sustainability of coastal resources, taking into account traditional knowledge and practices.

  • To preserve, protect, develop and, where possible, to restore or enhance the coastal fisheries resources and habitats of Samoa.

  • To strengthen the capacity of the Fisheries Division in research and analysis activities, and enhance the capacity of Samoan communities to respond effectively to climate change.

Because much of the coastal fisheries management in Samoa occurs at the village level, many villages have their own management schemes and objectives. Because there are about 230 coastal villages in Samoa, the number of management schemes and associated objectives is quite large. A typical objective for village-level management in Samoa is given in King et al. (2001): "To protect the marine environment in order to increase the number of fish and shellfish available for present and future generations."
Management measures and institutional arrangements

Management measures for the offshore tuna fishery are given in section 4.2.5 above. Briefly, the measures include license caps, license fees, an exclusion zone for large vessels, limits on shark catches, and mandatory landing of shark carcasses with fins.

At the national level, management measures for coastal fisheries include requirements for fishing licenses, minimum size limits for fish, marine protected areas (MPAs), re-stocking efforts, and development of alternative livelihoods to reduce coastal fishing effort.

A large number of management measures are formulated and applied at the village level. A report on the status of village fishery management (King and Fa’asili, 1998) gives the management tools in use at the village level (Table 8). Figures in the right-hand column indicate the percentage of all villages using the particular measure. Those measures are largely still in use at present.

Table 8: Village-level management measures

Action/Regulation Percentage

Banning the use of chemicals and dynamite to kill fish.100%

Banning the use of traditional plant-derived fish poisons.100%

Establishing small protected areas in which fishing is banned.86%

Banning other traditional destructive fishing methods.80%

Organizing collections of crown-of-thorns starfish.80%

Enforcing (national) mesh size limits on nets.75%

Banning the dumping of rubbish in lagoon waters.71%

Banning the commercial collection of sea cucumbers.41%

Banning the capture of fish less than a minimum size.41%

Banning removal of mangroves (in villages with mangroves). 27%

Restricting underwater torches for spearfishing at night.21%

Banning the removal of beach sand. 14%

Placing controls or limits on the number of fish fences or traps. <10%

Prohibiting the collection of live corals for the aquarium trade. <10%

Banning the coral-damaging collection of edible anemones. <10%

Protecting areas where palolo worms are traditionally gathered. <10%

Offering prayers for the safe-keeping of the marine environment. <10%

Source: King and Fa’asili (1998)

The institutional arrangements for fisheries management are discussed in section 8 below.
Fishing communities

The concept of “fishing communities” is not very relevant to Samoa. Those individuals that are involved in the offshore fisheries do not live in separate communities, but rather are widely dispersed around where the vessels are based, mainly the Apia urban area. Nearly all households in coastal villages are involved in coastal fishing activities – mainly for subsistence but often selling the surplus.
Inland sub-sector

Compared to the marine fisheries of Samoa, the production from inland fisheries is quite small. According to officials of the Fisheries Division, the total annual inland harvest is unknown but likely to be about 10 tonnes per year. The main freshwater fishery species are tilapia (there are occasionally roadside sales near lakes), eels and freshwater shrimps. The Asian Development Bank (ADB, 2008) reports that 2 percent of all households in Samoa do at least some fishing on inland rivers and lakes.

Where inland fishing is managed, it is done so on a village level. It is likely that the management is oriented to protecting the flow of freshwater foods to the village.
Aquaculture sub-sector

The history of the development of aquaculture in Samoa is given in Box 3.

Box 3: Aquaculture development in Samoa
During the 1970s and early 1980s, several commodities were introduced to Samoa for aquaculture projects. Seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii and K. denticulatum) were initially introduced in 1975. The Fisheries Department conducted culture trials on seaweed in 1991, but these ceased in 1992. In 1978, FAO funded aquaculture trials of the top minnow or mollie (Poecilia mexicana) as baitfish for pole-and-line fishing operations. While the trials were successful, the project was abandoned in 1983 because of the economics of the operation. The tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) was introduced from Tahiti in 1979 by the Fisheries Division and FAO, with the aim of testing the commercial viability of production; however, this project did not develop any further. Trials for culturing and growing Philippine green mussels (Perna viridis) began in Samoa in 1981 at four sites; however, by 1983, operations had stopped at two locations due to localised problems. Juvenile mussels were imported from Tahiti for the trials, and were reared on ropes attached to rafts. The 1983 trials allowed them to spawn; however, there was no success at collecting the spat. Trials continued through the 1980s, although the project was discontinued by 1990. The giant clam (Tridacna derasa) was first imported from Palau in 1982, which led to a private sector commercial farm being set up; however, the farm was destroyed by the 1990 and 1991 cyclones. The Fisheries Division also imported clams (Tridacna spp. and Hippopus spp.) in 1987 from several locations (Palau, Tokelau, Australia, Solomon Islands, Fiji and American Samoa), mainly for farming and restocking purposes. The cyclones also affected this operation. The AusAID community management project in the mid to late 1990s introduced hatchery-reared clams to village fishing reserves established under the project, with around 1 700 young clams provided to villages in 1999/2000. The recommendations of this project also led to the establishment of the Toloa giant clam hatchery in 2000. The Toloa hatchery continued to propagate giant clams, with around 60 000 juveniles (around 4 cm in length) being cultured on-site in 2003, but a lot of the broodstock for the hatchery perished in January 2004 as a result of Cyclone Heta. Two other species were introduced to Samoa in 1990: the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and the commercial topshell (Trochus niloticus). The oysters came from California and the trials were to test commercial viability; however, after the harvest in 1991, there was no further activity due to constraints that could not be overcome. The trochus were brought in from Fiji under an FAO/Fisheries Division project for seeding to enhance the resource. The green snail (Turbo marmoratus) was introduced to Samoa in April 1999, when 300 individuals were imported from Tonga. The animals were held in quarantine at the Fisheries Department’s raceway ponds before being released at three locations that had the appropriate habitat. A tilapia demonstration farm was established in 1993, which also saw the introduction of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), although some early problems were encountered with feed quality and management at the farm. Several other tilapia farms were subsequently established and, by 2000, there were 19 tilapia farms: 11 on Upolu and 8 on Savaii. From October 1999 to May 2000, around 4 000 tilapia were stocked in 9 ponds. In 2004, the Fisheries Division’s hatchery was upgraded with assistance from SPC, to allow for increased production of Nile tilapia fingerlings. Tilapia rearing was not confined to ponds, and a project was undertaken in 2006/07 to restock Lake Satoalepai on the island of Savaii. This lake had originally been stocked with Mozambique tilapia in 1966 and was restocked with Nile tilapia in 1994 and 2003. In July 2006, 10 000 Nile tilapia fingerlings were transported from the Apia hatchery, tagged (clipping of the right pelvic fin with scissors) and released into the lake.
Source: Modified from Vunisea (2008)

From Box 3, it can be seen that aquaculture activities have been attempted in Samoa to:

  • increase production of fish and invertebrates

  • create/enhance aquaculture-related employment

  • introduce new species to enhance food production or create export opportunities

  • alleviate pressure on overexploited reef and lagoon fishery resources.

A review of aquaculture in Samoa in 2001 (Rimmer et al., 2001) stated that aquaculture in Samoa could be broadly divided into two types:

  • Village-level aquaculture – mainly involving Nile tilapia aquaculture in local waterways, and the provision of giant clams to participating villages.

  • Commercial aquaculture – this had not developed in Samoa, despite attempts using a range of species.

In 2015, an SPC study (Gillett, 2016) estimated aquaculture production across the Pacific Islands, including Samoa. From discussions with Fisheries Division staff and a review of documentation, the study concluded that, in 2014, about 12 tonnes of tilapia were produced. As the farm-gate price was about WST 5.00–6.00 (USD 2.09–2.51) per kg, the annual production was worth about WST 66 000 (USD 27 615). The study also noted that, although in Samoa there is some culture of tridacna, seagrapes, mudcrabs and prawns, the amounts produced and sold in 2014 were very small.

The Samoa Aquaculture Management and Development Plan (SPC, 2012) identifies a vision and goal for aquaculture in Samoa. The vision is that “long-term benefits of socio-economic growth for Samoa accrue as a result of development of the aquaculture sector in a sustainable and responsible way, as an income-generating activity alternative to capture fisheries”. The plan also states: “The overall goal is to ensure food and nutritional security and improve rural and urban livelihoods through sustainable and responsible development and management of the aquaculture sector in Samoa.”

The Samoa Aquaculture Management and Development Plan has eight objectives that support the development and management of aquaculture in the country:

  • To promote better aquaculture management practices

  • To improve the marketability of aquaculture products in Samoa

  • To diversify the number of aquatic species that can be cultured in Samoa

  • To improve the quality and availability of lower-cost feeds for aquaculture

  • To ensure access by farmers to the best possible genetic quality of seed stocks

  • To promote private sector development

  • To improve human resource capacities to manage and develop aquaculture

  • To improve aquaculture networking.
Recreational sub-sector

Although subsistence fishing may have a large social component and be enjoyed by the participants, there is little recreational fishing in the village as a leisure activity. In Apia, there is some sport fishing (mainly offshore trolling) and occasionally there are sport-fishing competitions. Some hotels offer fishing as an activity for guests.
Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

Samoa’s latest Annual Report to the WCPFC (Fisheries Division, 2016) states that over half of total tuna exports go to the canneries in American Samoa as frozen tuna, while the rest is exported fresh chilled, mostly to Japan and the United States. The catch from offshore fisheries that is not exported is sold locally, mostly in the Apia fish market.

McCoy et al. (2015) describe tuna-processing facilities in Samoa:

  • The main government facility connected to the tuna sector is the Apia Fish Market on the fisheries wharf near the Fisheries Division premises. Originally built by Japanese aid in the early 1980s, the facility is well maintained and includes a small processing area and fish-and-chips takeaway restaurant that is leased to a private operator. Tables in the market itself are rented by individual fish sellers, including those who deal with inshore products as well as tuna. An adjacent ice machine, which is also run by the Fisheries Division, provides ice to the local small-boat alia fleet.

  • There are two private sector, tuna processing facilities. An export-oriented fishing and fish-processing operation, Apia Export Fish Packers Ltd, is located on the fisheries wharf adjacent to the Fisheries Division premises. The facility processes the catch of the company’s nine, large, longline vessels based in Apia. Production includes fresh and frozen albacore and yellowfin loins and fillets for export and local sale. Also processed are mahimahi, wahoo and occasionally swordfish. A second facility has been built in the main Apia wharf area to handle the catch of the Taiwanese vessels that have been licensed recently. The facility will be used to pack and export whole gilled and gutted fish, with possible loining as staff become trained and facilities are expanded. The facility, Apia Deep Sea Fishing Co., had obtained all the necessary permits and approvals, but had not yet commenced operations in February, 2015.

Fish from coastal fisheries is largely for domestic consumption, but some is exported by Samoans travelling overseas. There is typically little processing involved prior to sale, although for some types of seafood, the preparation can be elaborate (Box 4).

Box 4: Preparation of sea cucumbers in Samoa
Sea cucumbers are harvested for subsistence and artisanal use, and are consumed either raw or bottled with sea water. The two main target species are Stichopus horrens (dragonfish), which is fished for its viscera, and Bohadschia vitiensis (brown sandfish), which is fished for its body wall. Other bottled sea cucumber species are sold at prices of between WST 15 to WST 25 (USD 6.28 to USD 10.46). Some fishers selling these products engage in the practice of filling the bottles with alternative invertebrates or algae (mixed bottles), depending on what they find or catch on a fishing trip, such as a mix of brown sandfish body wall with seagrape (Caulerpa racemosa), or dragonfish viscera with sea hare eggs (Dolabella auricularia). These mixed products have become more diverse in type, as well as having a greater variation in bottle volumes, rather than the traditional 285 ml and 750 ml bottles.
Source: Samoa Sea Cucumber Fisheries Management and Development Plan
Fish markets

The main fish market in Samoa is the Apia Fish Market (described in the section above). Fish is also sold at the Fugalei Agriculture Market on the Apia–Faleolo roadside, and at the Salelologa Market. There are also informal roadside sales.

According to the Fisheries Division Annual Report for FY 2014–2015, the Apia Fish Market handled 43.79 percent of seafood sales in Samoa, followed by roadside sales (27.28 percent), Salelologa Market (16.32 percent) and Fugalei Agriculture Market (12.61 percent).

The catch from subsistence fisheries is consumed in the coastal villages near where it is caught, but some is shipped to friends and family in Apia. The giving of fish for cultural purposes (faasoso) is important in Samoa. Most of this occurs domestically, but a significant amount of faasoso fish is exported.

The small amount of inland and aquaculture production is mainly for subsistence purposes, but some roadside sales of tilapia occur.
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

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

The Samoa Bureau of Statistics makes the official estimates of GDP. Information on the fishing sector contribution is given in Table 9.

Table 9: Official estimate of the fishing contribution to Samoa’s GDP


(current market prices; local currency '000s)

Fishing GDP contribution

(local currency '000s)


(USD '000s)

Fishing GDP contribution

(USD '000s)

Fishing as % of GDP Year of GDP estimate
1 922 057 57 467 804 208 24 045 3.0% 2014

The contribution of fishing to Samoa’s 2014 GDP was re-estimated in 2015 by an SPC project using a standard methodology developed for the fishing sectors of Pacific Island countries. That study indicated that the fishing contribution was 3.4 percent of Samoa’s GDP (i.e. 0.4 percent greater than the official estimate). It is likely that the official estimate is smaller than that of the recalculated estimate because it makes use of fisheries production information from a household income and expenditure survey, and not from the fisheries surveys.

Many Pacific Island countries receive substantial government revenue from foreign fishing activities in their zones. In 2014, the only authorized foreign fishing in the Samoa zone was by the purse-seine vessels covered by the US tuna treaty. Although there was no fishing by that fleet in Samoa waters in 2014, the country received a payment. According to FFA staff, for the 26th licensing period of the treaty (the one-year period ending June 14, 2014), Samoa received USD 555 815 (WST 1 328 395) as its share of the treaty money that is divided equally amongst all parties. The total revenue of the Samoan government for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2014 was WST 473.6 million. Therefore, WST 1 328 395 in access fees is equivalent to 0.3 percent of the total revenue of the Samoan government for that year.

The quarterly merchandise trade report for March 2015 (SBS, 2015) gives Samoa’s fish exports and total exports. In 2014 WST 5 562 000 (USD 2 327 197) of fish was exported. This represented 4.7 percent of all the exports of the country for the year. The report states that in 2013, WST 10 740 000 (USD 4 609 000) worth of fish was exported.

FAO export data for 2013 reports that USD 5 543 000 worth of fish was exported. The reason for the difference between the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (SBS) and FAO export data is unclear, but it is likely due to the difference between values declared by exporters (SBS data) and values determined by importing countries (FAO data). For 2014, as reported in Part 1 of this profile, the value for fisheries exports was USD 2 520 000.

According to Fisheries Division staff, starting in 1997 export bans on several types of fishery products (coral, aquarium fish and beche-de-mer) have resulted in almost all commercial fishery exports in recent years being tuna products.

The FAO data in Part 1 indicate that in 2014, USD 6 668 000 worth of fishery products were imported.
Food security

Table 10 below summarizes historical estimates of fish consumption in Samoa. It can be seen that there is some inconsistency, or at least lack of clarity, in what is being measured (fresh fish only, fresh plus canned) and how it is measured (fish actually consumed versus whole fish equivalent).

Table 10: Estimates of per capita fisheries consumption in Samoa (various years)
Source Year of estimate Estimate Comments
Tiitii et al. (2014) 2012

Finfish: Annual per capita consumption is 46.15 kg

Invertebrates: Annual consumption is 54.74 kg

Canned fish: Annual consumption is 28.61 kg

Report contains the note: Invert consumption refers to “whole fish equivalent”; for example, for giant clams, includes weight of shells
Bell et al. (2009) 2001 to 2006 From HIES surveys conducted between 2001 and 2006, annual per capita fish consumption (whole weight equivalent) was 45.6 kg for urban, and 98.3 kg for rural.  

Mulipola et al.



Fresh fish:

  • Average frequency of consumption of finfish = 2.8 per days/week; inverts= 0.8 days/week
  • Average annual per capita consumption = 59.4 kg (163 g/day)
  • Total annual consumption = 10 508 mt (7 900 mt for Upolu, 2 608 mt for Savaii)

Tinned fish:

  • Average frequency of consumption = 4.5 days/ week
  • Average annual per capita consumption = 73 kg (206 g/person/day)
  • 8 120 mt of tinned fish consumed per year in Samoa

Based on asking people to estimate their usual catch.

Study appears to use food actually consumed



1990s Women contribute around 23% of the total weight of seafood. Because women collect the majority of marine invertebrates in Samoa, it is estimated that they provide 20% of the per capita seafood consumption of 71 kg per year, consisting of 44 kg of fresh fish, 13 kg of invertebrates and seaweed, and 14 kg of canned fish Gender-oriented survey applied to earlier consumption data
Passfield (2001)


Average annual per capita consumption of [local] seafood is 57.0 kg, made up of 44.0 kg of fish, and 13.0 kg of invertebrates and seaweed. In addition, annual canned fish consumption per capita is 14.0 kg; total (local plus imports) is 71.0 kg per capita per year. Survey was based on respondents’ recall of their fishing activities and seafood consumption patterns; used whole fish equivalent
Preston (2000) 1995 46.3 kg of fish per capita per year Based on FAO production, import and export statistics


A socio-economic fisheries survey was carried out in June and July 2012 (Tiitii et al., 2014). Overall, the survey found that fishing is third to agriculture and paid salary in terms of income source. Nonetheless, fishing remains an extremely important source of household income in the villages under study. On average, 14 percent of all households ranked fishing as their first source of household income. The average for households in coastal communities was higher at 18 percent. The report of the survey contained a considerable amount of information on the gender aspects of fishing (Box 5).

Box 5: Gender aspects of coastal fishing in Samoa
Male and female fishers are mainly commercially oriented for finfish (sic). All fishers target mostly coastal reef and lagoon habitats, and only men fish for pelagic fish or in the open seas and mangrove areas; there are a few women, however, who fish on the outer reefs. For invertebrates, women target mostly soft bottom species, while men mainly glean and dive for clams, octopus, lobster, mother-of-pearl and beche-de-mer, and equally target reef tops and mangrove areas. Most fishers go out exclusively during the day, while the rest fish both night and day, depending on tidal and weather conditions. Reef gleaning is performed only during the day by both men and women, while some diving for invertebrates, such as lobsters, trochus, giant clams and sea cucumbers, is performed at night. Boats are used mainly by men when diving and/or gleaning, especially for sea cucumbers, trochus, turban shells and seagrapes, while few women use boats when they glean. Both men and women fish around three times per week, with men fishing for an average of four hours and catching 13.7 kg per fishing trip, and women fishing for an average of five hours and catching 10 kg per fishing trip. Men fish about 10 months out of the year, and women fish for about 9 months out of the year. About 86 percent of male fishers and 91 percent of female fishers used one technique per fishing trip. Catch per unit of effort for men is 4.3 kg/hour and for women it is 2.22 kg/hour. The frequency of fishing for men diving for invertebrates is five times per week for an average of three hours per fishing trip, over 10 months of the year. Gleaning takes place three times per week, for an average of three hours per fishing trip over seven months of the year. Women, on the other hand, spend three hours diving for invertebrates four times per week, for an average of nine months out of the year. Women glean two times per week, for an average of 2.5 hours over seven months of the year.
Source: Tiitii et al. (2014)

An agricultural census (which included fisheries) was conducted in Samoa in 2009 as a joint exercise by the Samoa Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (SBS, 2012). The 2009 census aimed to measure household agricultural activity. The results were able to be compared with those of a previous agriculture census in 1999. Some of the fisheries-relevant results were as follows:

  • The total number of households engaged in fishing during the reference period was 5 752. Of these, 63 percent of households engaged in fishing reside in Upolu and 37 percent in Savaii. Samoa’s vulnerability to abnormal weather patterns coupled with the devastating tsunami in 2009 are likely to be contributing factors to the significant drop of 14 percent in the total number of households engaged in fishing activities since 1999.

  • The main purpose of engaging in fishing was for home consumption only. However, some households also occasionally sold some of their catch. As reported in 2009, only 146 households (2.5 percent) out of 5 752 fished mainly for commercial purposes: 1 842 (32 percent) occasionally sold fish and the majority of 3 764 (65 percent) engaged in fishing for household consumption only.

  • Fishing appears to have grown as a minor source of income when comparing 2009 to 1999. In 2009, 39 percent of fishing households sold some or all of their catch, compared to 33 percent in 1999. In 2009, 14 percent of households engaged in fishing reported having sold about a quarter of their fish catch, 12 percent sold about half, 10 percent sold three quarters and 2.2 percent sold all their catch.

  • On average, two members of each fishing household engaged in fishing in 1999 and 2009. There were more males (81 percent) than females (19 percent) involved in fishing activities in 2009. However, when comparing 1999 and 2009, there was an increase of 28 percent in the number of females engaged in fishing, while the number of males engaged dropped. This is consistent across the regions except in Apia where both the number and proportion of females engaged in fishing dropped.

Rural development

Rural development is a major thrust of the government’s efforts in the fisheries sector. A major component of the work programme of Fisheries Division is to enhance the capabilities of villages to manage their coastal fisheries resources, as an integrated part of village development. In addition, the Fisheries Division has major involvement in rural extension activities, and in supporting rural port facilities at the village level.

Unlike many other countries, all villages in Samoa are within an easy commute of the largest urban area – so halting the rural-urban drift is not a major government policy objective. Rather, the major issue in population movement is migration to overseas countries, especially New Zealand.
Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunities

Some of the major constraints for the fisheries sector in Samoa are:

  • the small size and limited productivity of the village fishing areas;

  • the small area of the Samoa EEZ – the smallest of any Pacific Island country;

  • the difficulties associated with developing a small-scale offshore fishery, especially the sea-safety issues associated with longlining from small catamarans;

  • considerable dependence on fish-processing facilities in a neighboring country, which have an uncertain future;

  • lack of inexpensive air transport to markets for fresh chilled tuna;

  • with growing exploitation of albacore, the increasingly noticeable seasonality of the resource;

  • crowded conditions in Apia Harbour (expanded on in Box 6).

Opportunities in the fisheries sector include:

  • value-adding to fishery products, for both domestic consumption and export;

  • cooperation with neighboring countries to enable greater exploitation of the offshore resources outside the Samoa EEZ;

  • greater use of FADs to promote offshore fishing by small-scale fishers;

  • stronger linkages to the expanding tourism industry;

  • taking advantage of the relatively easy transport from rural areas to urban markets.

Box 6: Conditions in Apia Harbour
The current fisheries boat basin is crowded at times, but offers sufficient space for vessels active in the tuna fishery that land their catch and take on supplies. Any expansion of those fleets would quickly make things worse and contribute to inefficiencies in the industry. In spite of improvements in recent years, the boat basin is still relatively unprotected and susceptible to bad weather. A further major limitation to expansion of the domestic fleet is the lack of a slipway and other support facilities, which means only minor maintenance can be done in the country. Better repair facilities are available in American Samoa. However, they are expensive and larger vessels are given priority. These limitations make Samoa an unattractive location for further investment in locally based vessels of the size and type that now are used in the fishery, unless perhaps that investment involves the replacement of existing vessels.
Source: McCoy et al. (2015)
Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

In a general sense, the major government policies in fisheries are to stabilize the harvests in the offshore commercial fishery, and to devolve responsibility for management of inshore fisheries to villages.At a more detailed level, the policies and development strategies are best articulated in the latest Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Plan and Tuna Management and Development Plan.

The Samoa Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Plan 2013–2016 (Fisheries Division, 2013) indicates that the overall goal is to ensure sustainable food security and livelihoods through sustainable utilisation, development and management of coastal fisheries in Samoa. The strategies of the plan are:

  • to develop fishery management plans for the conservation, sustainable development and management of coastal fisheries in Samoa;

  • to encourage and strengthen the participation of communities in management of the coastal and marine resources;

  • to improve monitoring of programmes to document the status of resources and detect changes in abundance, size and structure of stocks, and in the catches and their utilization;

  • to enhance food security, community livelihoods and economic growth through sustainable development and management of coastal fisheries;

  • to promote applied scientific research to ensure sustainability of coastal resources, taking into account traditional knowledge and practices;

  • to preserve, protect, develop and, where possible, to restore or enhance the coastal fisheries resources and habitats of Samoa;

  • to strengthen the capacity of the Fisheries Division in research and analysis activities, and enhance the capacity of Samoan communities to respond effectively to climate change.

The Samoa Tuna Management and Development Plan 2011–2015 contains the following policy statements: (a) Continuing to strengthen the exercise of sovereign rights of Samoans over tuna; (b) Increasing the economic gains received by Samoa through exercising its rights over tuna and through optimal management of the fishery; (c) Contributing to the sustainable management of tuna resources and the associated ecosystem, including through effective participation by Samoa in regional activities; and (d) Continual recognition of cultural values in tuna policy and planning, particularly the importance of the contribution of tuna to food security, and protection of the interests of small-scale fishers. The development strategies in the plan are to:

  • provide an enabling environment that will promote and encourage private sector development in the commercial fishing, processing and support sectors in Samoa;

  • maintain and expand the export of tuna and tuna products from Samoa;

  • promote the development of new markets for Samoan tuna;

  • promote value-adding to tuna catches in Samoa, to maximise local employment, and produce a high-value product for both domestic and export markets;

  • encourage the private sector to enter into joint ventures with foreign investors to establish viable fishing operation with shore facilities for processing and exporting fresh or processed tuna based in Samoa;

  • increase the catches of the Samoan tuna fleet through the negotiation of access arrangements with neighbouring countries and territories and through the chartering of vessels to fish on the high seas;

  • increase the participation of private sector interests in tuna fishing through the provision of infrastructure needed to foster development, such as anchorage for fishing vessels, and constructing support services, such as ice-making machines for processing and/or storage facilities, including in rural locations;

  • explore the feasibility of ‘super alia’ vessels, or other suitable alternatives to improve the economics of the fishery and increase safety at sea;

  • strengthen the performance of the Competent Authority on fish and fishery products destined for exports;

  • ensure that all developments are sustainable and economically viable, with benefits flowing directly to the local people.

The private sector’s policies are not formalized. Judging from the attitudes and recent action of the companies engaged in offshore fishing, the main policy is not one of expansion but rather survival during periods of poor albacore fishing.
Research, education and trainingResearch

A large amount of fisheries research has been undertaken in Samoa over the years. Much of the older work is listed in the “Western Samoa fisheries bibliography” (Gillett and Sua, 1987). The research carried out on the main fishery resources in Samoa is summarized in the “Western Samoa fisheries resources profiles” (Bell and Mulipola, 1995).

Current fisheries research, as listed in the latest available annual report of the Fisheries Division (Fisheries Division, 2014), includes:

  • ecological assessments of fish reserves

  • trochus baseline survey

  • fish landings in domestic markets

  • palolo rising survey

  • ciguatera fish poisoning monitoring.

There is also an active tuna research programme that collects catch and effort data from the locally based longliners. This information is analyzed by the Fisheries Division and by SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme in New Caledonia.
Education and training

Education related to fisheries in Samoa is provided by 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, Fiji.

  • Maritime training is available at the National University of Samoa.

  • Training courses are frequently organized by the following regional organizations: SPC in New Caledonia and FFA in the Solomon Islands.

  • Courses and workshops are also given by NGOs and bilateral donors, such as those by Japan.

  • Many government fisheries officers and other professionals have received advanced degrees in fishery-related subjects at overseas universities, especially those in New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii.
Foreign aid

The largest fisheries-related programme in Samoa in recent years has been the Australian-funded Samoa Fisheries Project. The project had major involvement in the promotion of management of coastal resources by adjacent communities and of conventional management of offshore fishing. A re-orientation of the Fisheries Division to a stronger focus on fisheries stakeholders was a major achievement. The project concluded in 2003, but the positive impact of that work is still very evident today. That programme is arguably the most effective national capacity development initiative ever carried out in the fisheries sector of any Pacific Island country.

Bilateral programmes of technical cooperation, collaboration and assistance have been provided by the governments of Australia, China and Japan, and by the European Union. Multilateral donors include UNDP and FAO. Samoa also enjoys technical assistance or the channelling of multilateral donor assistance from various regional agencies, including FFA and SPC.
Institutional framework

Government responsibility for fisheries and marine resource matters is vested in the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is headquartered in Apia, on the waterfront near the Apia Fish Market.

The Fisheries Division is one of seven divisions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Division, which is headed by an Assistant Chief Executive Officer, has several components including Coastal Fisheries, Offshore Fisheries, Enforcement, Administration, Aquaculture and Extension.

According to the Ministry’s website (www.maf.gov.ws), the Fisheries Division undertakes research, analysis, monitoring and reporting to facilitate the development of fishery resources in Samoa, and promotes the involvement of communities, fishers, private investors and relevant stakeholders in the adoption of sustainable fisheries practices and sustainable development and management of fisheries.

Under the Fisheries Management Act 2016, the functions of the Fisheries Division are:

  1. to liaise with international, regional and government agencies and village communities on issues affecting the development and management of fisheries resources and their environment;

  1. to assist government agencies, villages, non-government organizations and stakeholders meet their obligations under this Act;

  1. to advise government agencies, villages and other communities on the management of coastal fisheries resources, aquaculture, environment and the protection and conservation of the fishery resources for the present and future generations of the people of Samoa;

  1. to monitor activities and proposals in other sectors and advise the Minister concerning their effect on fisheries;

  1. to establish, operate, maintain, and administer government facilities for fishing and related activities;

  1. to act in combination or association with any other person whether in Samoa or another country, for the purposes of this Act;

  1. to manage finance incurred for the purposes of this Act and to collect prescribed fees for services rendered under this Act;

(h) to carry out any other function determined by the Chief Executive Officer and to do any other thing to give effect to the objects or for the purposes of the Act.

The Commercial Fisheries Management Advisory Committee (CF-MAC) is the official body that represents the offshore fishing industry. The Committee comprises representatives from the private sector and relevant government departments. It includes two elected representatives from the Upolu Fishermen's Association, Savaii Fishermen's Association, Fish Exporters Association and Boat Builders Association, and one appointed representative from the Treasury Department, Fisheries Division, Ministry of Transport, Port Authority and the Department of Trade, Commerce and Industry.

By their nature, stakeholders in the village fisheries are less formally organized. Individual village councils often consult with representatives of the Fisheries Division. Many villages have fishery management committees made up of local stakeholders in fisheries.

Important internet links related to fisheries in Samoa include:

  • www.maf.gov.ws – website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

  • www.paclii.org/countries/ws.html – text of Samoa fishery legislation

  • http://moana.library.usp.ac.fj – institutional repository for published and unpublished documents produced by the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Samoa.

The major regional institutions involved with fisheries are the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), located in Honiara and the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea. Other players are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Office in Majuro, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Suva, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia, and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva. The characteristics of those institutions are given in Table 11.

Table 11: Pacific Island regional organizations involved in fisheries

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

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

SPREP – environmental aspects of fisheries;

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

PIFS – major political initiatives, some natural resource economics; leading trade negotiations with EU, which has a major fisheries component.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PIFS: same as FFA

Source: Adapted from Gillett (2014)

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

Legal framework

The main legislative instrument relating to fisheries in Samoa is the Fisheries Management Act 2016, more formally known as “An act to regulate and control the conservation, management or development of fisheries and the licensing of Samoan fishing vessels and foreign fishing vessels and for related purposes”. It is a 75-page document, containing nine parts:

  1. Preliminary
  2. Administration, treaties and fisheries management plans
  3. Licenses
  4. Fishing activities
  5. Processing, trading and marketing of fish and fish products
  6. Enforcement
  7. Evidence, liabilities and offences
  8. Village fisheries bylaws
  9. Miscellaneous

Notable features of the Act include the following:

  • The precautionary approach (as described in the Fish Stocks Agreement) to the conservation and management of fishery resources must be applied.

  • The functions of the Fisheries Division (given in Section 8 above) are specified.

  • The Chief Executive Officer may declare and mark an area as a village fisheries management area.

  • The Minister may declare an area to be a designated fishery, if the Minister considers that: (a) it is in the national interest; and (b) management measures are needed to ensure sustainable use of the fishery resource.

  • The Chief Executive Officer must prepare, make and review a fishery management plan for the management of a designated fishery.

  • Samoan fishing vessels must be licensed.

  • Aquaculture operations outside village fisheries management areas must be authorized by the Chief Executive Officer, and the Fisheries Division must manage any aquaculture activity which is not allocated to a village fisheries management area.

  • A license is necessary for the processing, trading and marketing of fish and fish products.

A village Fono may make village fishery bylaws, consistent with the Act, for the purpose of conserving, protecting, managing, developing and sustaining harvest of fish in the village fisheries management area.Regional and international legal framework


Map courtesy of SPC

ADB. 2008. Samoa social and economic report 2008: Continuing growth and stability, TA6245-REG: Samoa PIER. Asian Development Bank, Manila.
Bell J., Kronen, M., Vunisea, A., Nash, W., Keeble, G., Demmke, A., Pontifex, S. & Andréfouët, S. 2009. Planning the use of fish for food security in the Pacific. Marine Policy 33: 64–76.
Bell, L. & Mulipola, A. 1995. Western Samoa fisheries resources profiles. FFA Report No. 95/18. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. .
Campling, L. 2013. FFA Fisheries trade news. Volume 6: Issue 2, March–April 2013. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. .
Chapman, L. 2004. Nearshore domestic fisheries development in Pacific Island countries and territories. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
FFA. 2014. An economic analysis of the costs and benefits to the Samoan industry of licensing additional longline fishing vessels. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. .
FFA. 2015. The value and volumes of tuna catches in the WCPO. [spreadsheet], Forum Fisheries Agency. Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Fisheries Division. 2011. The Samoa Tuna Management and Development Plan 2011–2015. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Apia, Samoa. .
Fisheries Division. 2013. Samoa Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Plan 2013–2016. Compiled by Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. .
Fisheries Division. 2014. Fisheries Division Annual Report 2013–2014. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Apia, Samoa.
Fisheries Division. 2016. Samoa Annual Report to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Apia, Samoa. .
Gillett, R. 2008. Sea safety in the Pacific Islands: The relationship between tuna fishery management and sea safety. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Gillett, R. 2014. Pacific perspectives on fisheries and sustainable development. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. 50 pp.
Gillett, R. 2016. Fisheries in the economies of Pacific Island countries and territories. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Forum Fisheries Agency, and Australian Aid. (ISBN 978-982-00-1009-3) (also available at: http://www.spc.int/fame/en/component/content/article/237-benefish-study-2016).
Gillett R. & Lightfoot, C. 2001. 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. Manila. .
Gillett, R. & Moy, W. 2006. Spearfishing in the Pacific Islands: Current status and management issues. FAO Fishcode Review No. 19 (ISSN: 1728-4392.) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 72 pp.
Gillett, R. & Sua, D. 1987. Western Samoa Fisheries Bibliography. Document 87/6, FAO/UNDP Regional Fishery Support Programme. Suva, Fiji.
Hamilton, A. 2007. The Samoa alia fishery. Development of tuna fisheries in the Pacific ACP countries (DEVFISH) Project, Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. .
King, M. & Fa’asili, U. 1998. Community-based management of subsistence fisheries in Samoa. Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology. Apia, Samoa.
King, M., Passfield, K. & Ropeti, E. 2001. Village Fisheries Management Plan: Samoa’s community-based management strategy. Samoa Fisheries Project, Fisheries Division, Apia, Samoa.
Lambeth, L. 2001. An overview of the involvement of women in fisheries activities in Oceania. Global Symposium on Women in Fisheries. Sixth Asian Fisheries Forum, 29 November 2001. Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
McCoy, M., Itano, D. & Pollard, S. 2015. A forward-looking study of development opportunities in FFA member countries in the tuna industry. Gillett, Preston and Associates, for the Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Mulipola, A., Taua, A., Tuaopepe, O. & Valencia, S. 2007. Samoa fisheries socio-economic report 2006–2007. Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Apia, Samoa.
Passfield, K. 2001. Profile of village fisheries in Samoa. Samoa Fisheries Project. AusAID, Australia. 33 pp.
Preston, G. 2000. Managing the ocean. Report Prepared for the World Bank. Washington, D.C.
Rimmer, M., Bell, L., Lober, M. & Trevor, A. 2001. Evaluation of the potential for aquaculture in Samoa. Samoa Fisheries Project, Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology., Apia, Samoa.
SBS. 2012. The 2012 Samoa labour force survey. Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Apia, Samoa.
SBS. 2015. Merchandise trade, March 2015 Quarter. Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Apia, Samoa.
SNA. 2009. System of National Accounts 2008. Commission of the European Union, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations Statistics Division and the World Bank.
SPC. 2012. Samoa Aquaculture Management and Development Plan 2013–2018. Aquaculture Section, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
Tiitii U., Sharp, M. & Ah-Leong, J. 2014. Samoa socioeconomic fisheries survey report: 2012–2013. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
Vunisea, A., Friedman, K., Awira, R., Kronen, M., Pinca, S., Chapman, L., Magron, F., Sauni, S., Pakoa, K. & Lasi, F. 2008. Samoa profiles and results from survey work at Salelavalu, Vailoa and Vaisala. Reef Fisheries Observatory, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. .
WCPFC. 2016. Report of the 12th Regular Session of the Scientific Committee. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pohnpei. .
Zann, L. 1992. The inshore resources of Upolu, Western Samoa. Field Report No. 2, FAO/UNDP Project SAM/89/002. Apia, Western Samoa.

Additional information

Meetings & News archive


Powered by FIGIS