Fishery Management

The Republic of the Fiji Islands (Figure 1) is made up of over 300 islands and atolls between 12º and 20º S latitude, and 177º E and 177º W longitude. The mid-year 2002 population estimate for the Republic of the Fiji Islands was 823,300 people (SPC 2003).


The Republic of the Fiji Islands has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of around 1,290,000 km2, while having a land area of around 18,333 km2. The EEZ of the Republic of the Fiji Islands borders five Pacific Island nations, the Republic of Vanuatu to the west, the Solomon Islands to the northwest, the Republic of Tuvalu to the north, Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and the Kingdom of Tonga to the southeast, with around 40 per cent of the EEZ bordering international waters. In addition, New Caledonia may also share a border through the disputed waters of Matthew and Hunter Islands (disputed between France (New Caledonia) and the Republic of Vanuatu).

Government-level fishery management[]

At the national level, the Fiji Fisheries Department (a department of the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests) is responsible for fishery management, through the Fisheries Act (Chapter 158 of the Laws of Fiji) [1] and the Marine Spaces Act.

The first Chief Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests was the late Mitieli Baleivanualala. A list of Former Directors of Fiji Fisheries and Chief Fisheries Officers is under compilation.

Local-level fishery management[]

Traditional measures for the community-level management of reef and coastal fisheries are however comparatively strong in Fiji. This is in no small measure due to the early recognition of customary "native" fishing rights by the British colonial administration from the very first Fisheries Ordinance in the late 19th century.

These rights have been progressively codified and strengthened over the years, whilst retaining the flexibility necessary to administer rights under an evolving social structure. A Native Fisheries Commission is constituted under the Fisheries Act (although administered through the Ministry of Fijian Affairs rather than the Fisheries Department, which is of comparatively recent origin as a government entity) to register and negotiate the settlement of disputes over area-based fishing rights, and a tribunal system determines the value of recompense due in the case of loss or diminution of those rights (such as, for example, in the case of a foreshore reclamation for construction purposes).

However, ownership of the actual seabed had always been invested in the Crown throughout historical times (latterly the State, since the institution of a Fijian head of State following the 1987 military coups), but a bill is currently (2005) before the Fiji Parliament which would see this ownership pass to the traditional fishing rights owners registered by the Native Fisheries Commission. The Commission would manage these areas on behalf of the traditional owners in the same way that Native Land is currently managed by the Native Lands Trust Board.

The original motivation for this careful codification and protection of customary fishing rights was perhaps the importation of indentured labour, mainly from India and Ceylon, during the last few decades of the 19th century, to work the sugar cane plantations that became Fiji's principal cash crop and export commodity in the 20th century. The heavy dependence of rural Fijians on fisheries - their main source of protein in a country with no native land mammals apart from bats - was recognised, and the potential for depletion, and for conflict with the large immigrant population was recognised.

This recognition has led both to social inequality (fully 50% of the current Fiji-born population own no fishing rights) and to an extremely flexible and effective system for exercising local management of coastal fisheries within an overall governmental framework intended to prevent the worst excesses resulting from the erosion of traditional knowledge erodes increases in entrepreneurialism.

The fundamental expression of local fishery management in Fiji is the recognition by the State of traditional fishing rights areas. The rights to manage and fish these fishing grounds or qoliqoli, currently 410 in number and covering the entire extent of Fiji reefs and lagoons (the internal waters of Fiji) are registered by the Native Fisheries Commission in the name of Fijian land-owning units (although the word "land"-owning is inadequate here, and is traditionally "land and water"-owning, better encompassed by the Fijian word "Vanua", which covers a people's rights to both land and sea areas. The legal distinction is a result of the Crown's different recognition of land and water rights, but there is not such a distinction between land and water rights ownership in Fijian (and indeed most Pacific Island) tradition. The new Bill in which nearshore seabed ownership is transferred to the people goes a long way towards rectifying an incongruity that has divided national and customary perceptions for over a century.

Within each customary fishing ground the Fisheries Act provides for the regulation of fishing through government/custodian comanagement. Although there are various modifications for different kinds of fishing gear, anyone from outside the fishing rights-owning group must first obtain the permission of the the registered owner before the Fisheries Department can issue a licence for commercial fishing, or before they can fish in the area for subsistence purposes. This permit, and any subsidiary licences can specify areas, times, species or gears prohibited or restricted. Each qoliqoli owner also has the right to nominate an honorary fishing warden recognised by the government to oversee the area.

Local-level management has recently taken on another expression with the advent of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - a type of organisation which has not played much part in Pacific Island life compared to the rest of the world - and the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area network (FLMMA) is of particular note.

Fisheries Development Planning in Fiji[]

(The original version of this development part of the text was transferred, with the permission of SPC, from the original SPC technical report by Lindsay Chapman in 2004, and was compiled from interviews with island fishery managers and fishers. However, please feel free to make corrections to this Wikicity text if you have more accurate or more up-to-date information)

The Fisheries Department is working towards the drafting and implementing of development and management plans for the domestic fisheries in the Fiji Islands. When looking at the nearshore resources, the two main fisheries are the deep-water snapper fishery and the tuna fishery. There is no development and/or management plan in place for the deep-water snapper fishery at present, although this may be looked at in the near future.

The management of the tuna resource in the waters of the Fiji Islands is very important to the government. At present tuna fishing is mainly conducted by locally based private sector tuna fishing companies. To manage the tuna fishery, the Fisheries Department drafted and implemented the Fiji Tuna Development and Management Plan (Anon 2002) in 2002. The Fisheries Department is about to commence the revision of this Plan with assistance from the Forum Fisheries Agency and SPC to refine the Plan to meet the current circumstances in the local tuna fishery. The purpose, national objectives and development strategies as stated in the current Plan (Anon 2002) are:

Fiji Tuna Development and Management Plan Purpose

The purpose of this plan is, in recognition of regional and global international fisheries agreements, to create the appropriate conditions such that all Fijians derive the maximum benefit from the nation’s tuna resources over the long term. This statement implies the government will create:

  • a catch limit at level that is sustainable;
  • a limit on the number of licenses issued to maximize return to each license;
  • a set of criteria for distribution of licenses according to government objectives;
  • a set of license fees to support the management of the fishery and provide some benefit for all Fijians;
  • a development programme addressing shortcomings in port facilities, legislation, training, social and gender issues, and coordination with other government agencies.


  • Address the conservation and management of tuna resources within the Fiji waters.
  • Highlight development policies for maximum utilisation of the tuna resources without compromising the long-term economic, political and resource sustainability.
  • Determine the level of sustainable fishing effort, distribution of licenses as well as total allowable catch within Fiji’s EEZ.
  • Provide policy direction to government towards new areas for development that would increase the economic gains from tuna fishing.
  • Make recommendations on institutional changes that would ensure transparency, accountability and efficiency within the Fisheries Department.
  • Determine changes to fees paid to government in terms of licensing fees, export permits and processing permits.

Development strategies

Infrastructure: The Ministry has made a series of decisions in support of the Plan. In the areas of infrastructure, the Ministry is committed to:

  • Repairing the fisheries Jetty in Lami;
  • Developing a Fisheries Port at Lami; and
  • Maintaining a multi-year Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) Programme in rural areas.

Training: The tuna fishing industry is expanding, and there is a growing demand for trained people to work in the industry, both on the fishing vessels and in the processing and packing facilities. This Plan provides for the establishment of a Fisheries Training School to meet the challenge of this growing industry to provide a comprehensive programme for existing fishermen and those who want to enter the industry.

Social awareness: This Plan provides some innovation in recognition of the Ministry’s social responsibilities. Not only will the Ministry introduce a training module for seafarers and their families to reduce the risks to communities associated with the social problems created by the presence of the tuna fishery, but also it will create a Social Impacts Fund from a portion of the access fees charged the industry. The Ministry will work with other agencies to create a Social Consultative Committee to examine the impacts of the industry and distribute the Social Impacts Funds on an annual basis.

In addition, the Ministry recognizes the need for more public awareness of fisheries in the school system and, with assistance of other Ministries, will ensure fisheries in included in vocational training for secondary schools, and that promote the inclusion of fisheries into school curricula.

Small-scale fisheries training: At the same time there is also a requirement to meet the training needs of small-scale fisheries and the Ministry is committed to provide such instruction in the form of hands-on workshops conducted in a village setting.

Staff Development: The Ministry recognizes the training requirements of the Fisheries department staff and the need to develop university and technical programmes to meet the needs of the Ministry in the future.

Seed Capital Revolving Fund: The government of Fiji supports its fishing industry, particularly new entrants and will make financing available through a Seed Capital Revolving Fund to support the entry of Indigenous Fijians into the Fishery as owners of businesses.

Air Cargo Space: The tuna companies have been successfully exporting fresh tuna from Fiji for many years, and the facilities themselves seem adequate at present. The problem that the tuna industry is facing is the declining number of flights and destinations, as the tourist industry has declined. Without dedicated cargo space departing from Nadi, expansion of the tuna industry will be dependent on the level of passenger service to Fiji Asia and North America. The Ministry recognizes this to be one of the greatest impediments to growth in this sector and will commission a study to provide some options for overcoming this obstacle.

Development Status of Fisheries (2004)[]

The following sections summarise the current status with background information on domestic development in the nearshore fisheries, in a range of areas. The main focus is on developments in the tuna fishery, both public and private sector, as this is where most effort has and is being directed. The tables provide a snapshot based on the information available at the time.

Deepwater snapper fishing[]

Current Status

Some targeting of this species by tuna longline vessels due to low catch rates in the tuna fishery.

Subsistence and artisanal fishing of these species, mainly ad hoc by # of vessels if possible??

Six vessels have been licensed to fish deep-water snapper in the Fiji EEZ outside 12 nm.


Fishery started in early 1980s and pioneered by Robert Stone using Fisheries Division-built 28' boats and handreels, and operating at a low, sustainable level. Deepwater Snapper management plan approved by Cabinet in 1986 following application to fish by large foreign fishing vessels, and deepwater snapper declared a designated fishery in the Offshore Fisheries Licencing Regulation of 1989. Most operators had moved into tuna longlining by the 1990s, by which time just about every seamount and reef slope in Fiji waters, and sometimes beyond, could no longer be considered to hold a "virgin stock"

Rural and urban fishing centres[]

Current Status

Government has 14 ice plants in rural areas. 8 of these are in good order with processing facilities while 6 need to be upgraded.

Two new fishing centres with ice, freezers, and processing, one funded by the Fiji Government and the other by Japan.

Five processing and packing facilities as part of the tuna longline fishery.

One tuna cannery and loining plant plus a tuna tetaki plant.

Four new fishing centres to be established in 2004.

Government is looking at a fish collection system for rural areas.


Extensive history of government involvement in rural extension centres and iceplants, largely with the assistance of Japanese (JICA) aid.

Boatbuilding (public and private sector)[]

Current Status

Government shipyard and slip makes steel fishing vessels to order plus does repair work.

Two other slipways that do repair work on steel and wood boats.

Several companies making fibreglass skiffs.

Several companies making timber and plywood punts.

Several companies making larger vessels in fibreglass and aluminium.

Most all companies do repair work on boats.


Extensive history needs to be documented, including Fisheries Division's own boat-building scheme, integrated with fishermen's training course, Fiji Development Bank loans and subsidy (cost of boat engine) from Japanese aid.

FAD programmes and or deployments[]

Current Status

(awaiting input - long history, including levy on tuna landings at PAFCO to cover FADs for pole and line boats)


(awaiting input)

Public sector development (small-scale tuna fishing)[]

Current Status

Training is provided to local fishermen through the Fisheries Department in trolling and mid-water fishing techniques used in association with FADs. Government boat subsidy scheme in place where fishermen pay 33% of the value of the boat, outboard and gear and government pays the rest. Several boats have been issued through this scheme.


(awaiting input)

Private sector development (small-scale tuna fishing)[]

Current Status

(awaiting input)


(awaiting input)

Public sector tuna fishing companies[]

Current Status

PAFCO cannery and loining facility have Taiwanese vessels unloading to them under a contractual arrangement.

Government has completed a feasibility study to establish a government commercial fishing entity, the National Fisheries Corporation, once the new legislation is passed by government.


(awaiting input)

Private sector development (medium-scale tuna fishing)[]

Current Status

There are currently 18 tuna longline companies with 101 vessels licensed to fish in Fiji waters. (Note: this has just been reduced to 72 [2]). Some of these vessels also fish in neighbouring EEZs, but land their catch back in Fiji.

There are 5 processing or packhouses associated with the tuna longline fleet.

There is one company with a pole-and-line vessel catching tuna and processing it into tataki.


(awaiting input)

Joint ventures tuna fishing operations[]

Current Status

It is estimated that 60 to 70% of the tuna longline vessels in Fiji are under charter arrangements or joint venture arrangements between local people or companies and overseas fishing companies.


(awaiting input)

Sportsfishing and gamefishing[]

Current Status

There are quite a few (any chance of a rough number??) gamefish charter boats operating around Fiji, some in association with tourist hotels. There are a series of fishing tournaments held around Fiji where fishing clubs exist.


(awaiting input)

Bait fishing trials or activities[]

Current Status

One pole-and-line vessel baits at night in the lagoons around Fiji.


Extensive history of baitfishing, exploration and scientific assessment, on behalf of the former pole and line fleet that used to land skipjack at PAFCO (until it became impossible to financially compete with Pacific rim purse-seine fleets). In 1995 a system of payment of royalties to registered owners of traditional fishing grounds for tuna boat bait-fishing started - an interesting story in its own right.

Other fishing methods trialled[]

Current Status

Some recent trials by a bottom trawler looking for alfonsino in deep-water.


Just about everything you can think of has been trialled in Fiji, without notable success (otherwise it would be the basis of an industry right now).


  • Anon. 2002. Fiji Tuna Development and Management Plan — a national policy for the development and management of tuna fisheries. Government of Fiji.
  • Dalzell, P. and G. Preston. 1992. Deep reef slope fishery resources of the South Pacific — a summary and analysis of the dropline fishing survey data generated by the activities of the SPC Fisheries Programme between 1974 and 1988. Inshore Fisheries Research Project, Technical Document No. 2, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia. 299 p.
  • Gillett, R. In press. Domestic tuna industry development in the Pacific Islands — the current situation and considerations for future development assistance. FFA Report 03/01, Gillett, Preston and Associates Inc. 196 p.
  • Gillett, R. 2002. Pacific Island fisheries: regional and country information. RAP Publication 2002/13, Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. 168 p.
  • Gulbrandsen, O. and M. Savins. 1987. Artisanal fishing craft of the Pacific Islands. Document 87/5, FAO/UNDP Regional Fishery Support Programme, Suva, Fiji. 78 p.
  • SPC. 2003. Population statistics provided by the Demography Section of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
  • Whitelaw, W. 2001. Country guide to gamefishing in the western and central Pacific. Oceanic Fisheries Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. 112 p.

Other links[]

  • SPC Fisheries Country page [3]
  • Fiji Government page on the Fisheries Department[4]
  • Locally managed marine area network [5]