Thanks to the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean fish and seafood form the foundation of Pacific Island culture, welfare, employment, recreation, food security and nutrition. Whether Ika, I’a, ek or Poisson the importance of fish in healthy pacific diets is widely recognised thanks to its provision of rich protein, healthy fats and essential nutrients such as iodine.
In fact, low availability of other sources in the Pacific means its recommended 50% of people’s daily protein requirements come from fish, with many countries well exceeding this (see Table 1).
However overfishing caused by population growth, limited productivity of coastal fisheries, climate change and over-exploitation of tuna is threatening the sustainability of this vital pacific resource. It’s expected that by 2013 only 6 out of 22 countries will be able to sustain production which adequately meets their populations needs (see table 2) with others needed to find an alternative source of protein of which there are very few options.
Already this is impacting on many Pacific Islanders diets as they become more reliant on imported foods switching from fresh fish and roots crops to canned tuna in oil and noodles contributing to the growing epidemic of Non- Communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
In our lifetime, a dangerous combination of human impacts has come to threaten the foundation of our Pacific livelihoods, which centers largely on the Pacific Ocean, and indeed those of the rest of the world
- Palau Declaration on " The Ocean: Life and Future"
For more information download the full Fish and Food Security Policy Brief
What can we do to help?
As outlined in the Fish and Food Security Policy Brief there a several policy actions government can take to protect our marine resources:
- Maintain the contribution of coastal fisheries to food security − monitor catches to keep harvests within sustainable limits and ensure coastal developments do not damage fish habitats.
- Use more of the national tuna catch for food security.
- Expand the national infrastructure for food security by installing low-cost inshore fish aggregating devices (FADs) to assist rural subsistence fishermen to catch tuna.
- Introduce regulations for landing ‘discards’ and ‘bycatch’ from commercial tuna vessels at urban centres to provide low-cost fish.
- Diversify the supply of fish in rural and urban areas by developing sustainable small-pond aquaculture for freshwater fish, such as Nile tilapia.
From an economic perspective the Minister of Fisheries can make two crucial and strategic moves. First, they can proactively identify and promote production and marketing opportunities for fresh fish and shellfish. They can help identify and support increased value chain processing of healthy but under-utilised products, and facilitate their sale to local markets, schools, and restaurants. They can support efforts to improve the consistency, quality, reliability and safe handling of food products, including by supporting refrigerated warehousing, and improved transportation links. This would increase the value-added of primary production and help reduce the current high levels of physical and nutritional deterioration of food between fish catch/ harvesting and the consumer.
Working in the feild:
The Secreatariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) work is to provide the 22 SPC's member countries and territories with the information they need to make informed decisions on the management and development of their aquatic resources, and help to provide the tools and strengthen the capacity needed to implement these decisions.
FAME is composed of two programmes: the Oceanic Fisheries Programme and the Coastal Fisheries Programme, click on the images to visit their websites which contain resources and articles translated into all Pacific languages.
On a Personal Level
Act now before its too late! by effectively managing your marine sources you can ensure there’s enough fish and sea life to feed your community for generations to come. Some rules that can be made by local communities include:
For more information check out SPC's guide and information sheets for fishing communities. Each sheet provides information on species, distribution, habitats and feeding, lifecycle and reproduction, fishing methods and fisheries management options.
More Information on Pacific Fish and Shellfish
- SPC's Pacific Food Leaflets: Fish and Shellfish
- Fijis National Food and Nutrition Centre Fish and Shellfish Nutrient Chart
- Mercury in Fish guide for consumers
- Mercury Level in Fijian Fish and Shellfish Report
- Food Safety for Seafood Gatherers
- Information on Scromboid (histimine) poisoning from fish that has been left in the heat
- Giguetera Feild Reference Guide
- Let’s hear it for the ladies! In many Pacific Islands women fish and harvest marine corps every day to both feed their family and create an income source. Women contribute not only to the national revenue of some countries but also to the wellbeing of the population as a whole through their fishing activities, food preparation and knowledge of marine resources. Catch up on the latest news of women in fisheries with SPC’s latest Bulletin