In the Pacific, and elsewhere, fish populations are declining. Steps are being taken to preserve this natural local resource for atolls such as Rangiroa.
Two billion dollars (USD): that’s the combined 2007 income from seafood products of the 22 island nations and territories of Oceania (American Samoa, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Island, Samoa, the Salomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna). In the Pacific, fish and crustaceans are a source not only of food and food security, but also economic growth.
There’s just one problem: the Pacific is being over-fished, and coastal fishing is now under threat. There are several reasons for this, among them an increase in the number of seine fishing boats (which use large nets floating on the ocean’s surface to capture fish) and their increased profitability, and the deterioration of coral reefs.
To address the problem, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is developing programs to promote the sustainable management of fisheries, in particular by fostering closer regional cooperation. The SPC, which is responsible for the sustainable management of marine resources and improving the health and education of the people of Oceania, also works to develop political buy-in, promote cooperation between local populations and the private sector, organize study programs and training for personnel, and promote small-scale aquaculture... all while preserving the economy and respecting local differences, such as in Rangiroa.
On this coral island, located some 350 km northeast of Tahiti, fishing is a long-standing tradition. Rangiroa is the largest atoll in Polynesia. Its size (75 km long, 25 km wide) allows it to take advantage of both lagoon and ocean fishing. In fact, it is one of the area’s largest producers of lagoon fish, which are sold mainly on the Papeete market or salted and exported to Asia and South America. The fishermen of Rangiroa began exporting a portion of their production to Tahiti in the late 1950s in response to expanding development there. Today, Rangiroa is home to surgeonfish, red mullets, humphead wrasse, manta and leopard rays, trevally, sharks of all kinds, and dolphins.
And marine resources that are not fished for consumption boost the economy by offering an exceptional display for nature-loving divers, who are able to observe them up close in their natural environment.
Text : Neoplanète