Marine Atlas: Maximizing Benefits for Vanuatu


FISHING IN THE DARK: OFFSHORE FISHERIES Large offshore fisheries are a very important resource for Vanuatu in terms of income and economic development, as well as local employment and food. Knowledge of the distribution and catch is crucial in ensuring these fisheries are sustainable.

these species varies throughout the region, as do fishing methods such as purse seine, longline and pole-and-line. The fisheries are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and cover the entire western Pacific Ocean to longitudes of 150°W in the North Pacific and 130°W in the South Pacific. Typically, there are 3,000–4,000 vessels operating each year, and the total tuna catch exceeds 2 million tons per year. Tuna fishing provides a major source of income to Vanuatu through the licencing of foreign and joint-venture vessels to catch tuna within Vanua- tu’s waters. Although tuna is generally landed in other countries for processing, it is nevertheless the largest marine export, and the highest contrib- utor to fisheries-based revenue for the nation.

Knowledge of the catch composition, amounts and distribution is necessary to understand how best to balance the exploitation of such fishery resources with the conservation of stocks, while considering other marine resources and values for the islands. The map shows the distribution of all tuna catches over the period from 2001 to 2010 in the provisional EEZ of Vanuatu. A number of valu- able non-target billfish species were also captured within tuna fisheries. Longline fisheries were very active over the 2001– 2010 period, with between 26 and 73 vessels per year reported to be involved in longlining (WCPFC, 2017), targeting albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Over this period, the total catch of albacore was approximately 82,000 tons, making up 78 per cent of the line-caught tuna catch, followed by bigeye (13 per cent) and yellowfin (9 per cent). Commercial billfish species taken in the fisheries include blue marlin ( Makaira nigricans ), black mar- lin ( Makaira indica ), striped marlin ( Kajikia audax ) and swordfish ( Xiphias gladius ). Reported catches of these species by the Pacific community over this period totalled over 6,000 tons, 6 per cent of the tuna catch. The largest tuna fishery covered by vessels regis- tered to Vanuatu is the purse seine fishery. Vessel numbers increased from two in 2001 to 10 in 2007, before reducing again, with only three vessels fishing in 2014–2016. Skipjack is the main species caught by purse seine (about 313,000 tons, 76 per cent of the total purse seine tuna catch between 2001 and 2010), followed by yellowfin (84,000 tons, 20 per cent), and bigeye (15,000 tons, 4 per cent). Skipjack catches exceeded 50,000 tons each year in 2005, 2006 and 2007, but have since declined to current catch levels below 10,000 tons per year (WCPFC, 2017). Most of the tuna catch occurs in areas towards the edge of the provisional EEZ boundary, far from the main island ridge, with catches con- centrated in the northwest and east. Unlike some other Pacific Island nations, catches do not appear to be closely correlated with seamounts, even though these are known to host higher catch rates of yellowfin and, to a lesser extent, bigeye tuna (Morato et al., 2010). All the tuna species are widely distributed. Given the significant proportion of the fisheries based on albacore, it is important to note that a South Pacific stock of albacore is distributed between 10°S and 50°S, spawning between latitudes of 10°S and 25°S. More juveniles are found in surface waters at higher latitudes, while adults tend to be found deeper in subequatorial waters. Adults ap- pear to have a seasonal migration pattern, moving south for feeding during early summer and north for spawning in winter. Skipjack spawning occurs in the central Pacific throughout the year, near the equator. Hence some skipjack can migrate long distances, but their movement patterns are not well understood. Both depth and seasonal

A very important use of the ocean that immediately comes to the mind of every Ni-Vanuatu is fishing. There are two different types of fisheries in Va- nuatu: those close to the shore (see also chapter “Small fish, big importance”) and those offshore (see also chapter “Travellers or homebodies”). Commercial offshore fisheries are primarily based on tuna harvest and are worth VUV 208 million per year, compared to inshore fisheries with a total of VUV 995 million per year (Pascal, 2015). Tuna are the basis of important commercial fish- eries for many island nations in the South-West Pacific. Typically four main species are taken: skipjack ( Katsuwonus pelamis ), albacore ( Thun- nus alalunga ), bigeye ( Thunnus obesus ), and yellowfin ( Thunnus albacares ). The abundance of

TUNA CATCH (2001 - 2010) (metric tonnes) >0 - 50 50 - 101

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Vanuatu Provisional EEZ Boundary Boundary as deposited at UN Archipelagic Baseline

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Copyright © MACBIO Map produced by GRID-Arendal Sources : Becker et al, 2009; Claus et al, 2016; Sea Around Us, 2017; Smith and Sandwell, 1997; Williams, 2016.




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