Traditional practices and integrated management help communities ensure the future of their marine resources

Community consultations in Pakin Island (Credit: Etuati Ropeti, Copyright: Secretariat of the Pacific Community).


Thursday, 21 August 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters, Noumea, New Caledonia. On the atoll of Pakin, in Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), fishing is the main type of work and is a source of food and income through the sale of catches to the neighbouring island of Pohnpei, the main island in FSM. Yet fishers have noticed that there are fewer fish and invertebrates than there used to be and that they are smaller in size.

The consequences of overfishing can be seen even on a small isolated coral island because the population’s food needs increase as the community grows in number. Certain very high-added-value species that are exported are now being overfished, and fishers continually expand their fishing grounds.

On small Pacific Islands, the marine environment is gradually being damaged by the impact of activities on land: poorly managed farming or mining leads to erosion, which silts up the lagoons and reefs. Changes in water temperature, brought about by climate change, are also altering marine habitats, reducing their capacity to host fish populations.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) scientists now estimate that even if the reproductive status of coastal resources were restored to a good level, those resources would not be adequate to feed communities in most Pacific countries. Therefore, not only do existing stocks have to be managed properly but currently unused or underused edible marine species need to be identified and aquaculture has to be further developed.

On Pakin, the community worked with a team of representatives from various government offices and environmental organisations to formulate a fisheries management plan. And since it is impossible to separate coastal and land issues, the Pakin management plan covers the whole ecosystem in an integrated manner: waste management, controlling coastal fishing and banning certain practices and gear, developing deep-sea fishing and near-shore pelagics, strengthening the island’s pearl-oyster farming project and developing backyard farming and agriculture.

The goal? To ensure sustainable use of coastal resources starting today and for future generations, and to recognise the value of traditional fisheries management and its contribution to food security and community well-being.

The adoption of a management plan by all the official representatives on an island is a big step, and in FSM, Pakin’s example is already being followed in the other states. Implementation of the measures in the plan will now be monitored to allow its outcomes to be assessed.

SPC’s work on Pakin falls under its role of providing technical support to small island countries so they can continue to adapt to difficulties affecting marine resources, helping ensure livelihoods and food security for Pacific communities.


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