Economics – Capturing employment and revenue benefits

The 14 small island developing states (SIDS) in the WCPO derive economic growth from fisheries in their waters, to improve local livelihoods and increase employment.

Policy and Rules

Rules support economic development of Pacific island states

Conservation and management measures (CMMs) describe binding decisions agreed on by the members and cooperating non-members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission at their annual meeting. These two groups and a third, participating territories, are known collectively as CCMs. Among the members are the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

CMMs direct the policies and rules of SIDS and other members for managing tuna fisheries. They include ways of capturing employment and revenue benefits from oceanic fishing.

Resolutions describe non-binding statements and recommendations agreed on by members and cooperating non-members of the WCPFC.

WCPFC maintains updates to the CMMs and resolutions.


  • Provide institutional support to develop the capacity of citizens of SIDS in any fisheries discipline. This could be through internships, academic study, and training programs.
  • Promote the development and transfer of fisheries science and technology to SIDS for their economic and social benefit. This includes the capacity to explore, exploit, conserve and manage oceanic fish stocks.
  • Assist SIDS in implementing fisheries conservation and management obligations by collecting, reporting, verifying, and exchanging fisheries data and information
  • Improve SIDS monitoring, control and surveillance activities, including at sea. Methods include regional, sub-regional and bilateral arrangements, funding observer programs, and providing access to technology and equipment.
  • Support SIDS fishery industries to help them achieve maximum benefits from developing their fisheries resources. These should account for at least 50% of the total catch and value of oceanic fisheries, and increase local employment opportunities.
  • Support market access for SIDS fishery industries by promoting awareness of import conditions, eliminating trade barriers, and promoting activities that develop domestic fisheries-related businesses

Read the CMM


2008-01,Aspirations of SIDS and territories
  • CCMs (developed members, cooperating non-members, and participating territories)should improve the ability of SIDS to develop their own fisheries, including on the high seas in the convention area
  • Developed CCMs shall make efforts to reduce or restructure their fleets to accommodate the aspirations of SIDS
  • Developed CCMs shall cooperate in investing in fishing vessels and related facilities in SIDS that assist the development on shore of domestic fisheries
  • CCMs commit to ensuring that SIDS domestic fishing and related industries account for a greater share of the benefit from the catch and value of oceanic fisheries by 2018, compared to 2008
  • When adopting CMMs, members and CCMs need to ensure that SIDS do not carry a disproportionate burden of conservation actions, and that measures improve the ability of SIDS to develop their own fisheries
  • Developed CCMs will ensure that CMMs do not constrain SIDS coastal processing and transhipment facilities, or associated vessels

Read the CMM

Unloaders in Solomon Islands working on the next shipment of tuna to the markets. Photo: Francisco Blaha.


Extra rules apply in PNA waters

Article 5 of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (signed in 1982 and amended in 2010) discusses the role of the PNA Office (PNAO).

One of its goals is to keep numbers of tuna at sustainable levels while maximising the incomes of citizens of member states. The Palau Arrangement for the operation of the Purse Seine Vessel Day Scheme (amended October 2016) and a similar arrangement for the Longline Vessel Day Scheme (amended October 2016) say how the PNAO manages tuna numbers. The arrangements set out the operating rules for these two types of fishing vessels. Under the rules, the PNA members sell a limited number of fishing days in the exclusive economic zones of the PNA states.

Minimum benchmark fees for foreign vessels licenced to use fishing days under the vessel day scheme were set by a memorandum of understanding signed in Palau in 2013, and updated in 2014.

Every year, PNAO economists assess rents against changes in prices and costs, and this information is used to set benchmark fees. Fishing days are sold annually to industrial fishing nations, either as part of a negotiated bilateral agreement or through a tender. PNA members are also exploring options to strengthen the selling of fishing days by auction.

PNA policies are intended to bring economic benefit to the citizens of member states, such as these two fishers in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Francisco Blaha.


Global heating and climate change are creating widespread changes in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Many of these changes interact with each other.

Locals in Tebikenikora village, Kiribati the people of low-lying islands like this one are concerned about rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Some of the changes that affect the tuna fisheries of the WCPO are:

  • the temperature of the surface layer of ocean water is rising
  • the ocean is becoming more acidic
  • sea levels are rising
  • storms, floods, and cyclones are becoming more intense
  • rain patterns are shifting, and the amount of rain that falls is changing.

Rising sea levels are a huge problem for the small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO. Many of these small nations are made up of low-lying islands surrounded by coral reefs. They are already losing land, which is disappearing under higher seas.

The change in coastlines may affect their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). The boundaries of EEZs were fixed under the terms of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the SIDS want to ensure these boundaries are kept even if their land masses shrink. This is important for their economies, because they control the fishing grounds inside their EEZs.

The security of their international boundaries is so important it is formalised in many regional and sub-regional agreements. The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) countries state in the Kainaki II Declaration refers to the UNCLOS EEZ provisions (clause 14 of Annex 1) that they:

aim to ensure that once a Forum Members maritime zones are delineated in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), that the Members maritime zones could not be challenged or reduced as a result of sea level rise and climate change.

One of the six strategic areas of the Boe Declaration Action Plan is climate security. This also calls on EEZ boundaries to be protected.

The Kainaki II Declaration is the first time the Pacific Islands Forum has agreed and declared that there is a climate change crisis facing the Pacific Island nations. Clauses 1720 of the Kainaki II Declaration outline the members call for urgent, transformational action to address global climate change.

Best Practices

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PNG fishers: the people of SIDS are being encouraged to take control of their own fish stocks. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Research and Training

Fisheries in the economies of Pacific Islands countries and territories is a study of the fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). It outlines the development of its fisheries of each of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. It also assesses how much the fisheries contribute to gross domestic product (GDP).

The study fills gaps in the links between fishing and incomes. It investigates the main features of each countrys offshore and coastal fisheries and aquaculture, as well as domestic fish consumption and export, and household income and spending. It updates an edition released in 2009.

The most important findings showed that: 

  • Coastal fisheries production has not increased greatly in the15 years 19992014. 
  • But the population of the region is increasing, which means thatthe amount of fish that people produce from the coastal fisheries has declined dramatically  by about 6% from 2007 to 2014. This is a dramatic decline. 
  • Foreign-based offshore fishing continues to increase. This is mostly due to increased purse-seine catches. 
  • Purse-seine fishing increased despite the introduction of thePNAVessel Day Scheme and a steep increase in access fees. This shows how effective the scheme is. 

Some surprising facts emerged from the study

  • The 2014 tuna catch in Kiribati was 40.7% of the regional total, and was valued at about US$1 billion.
  • 52.7% of all employment in the region that is directly related to the tuna industry is in Papua New Guinea.
  • In 2014, the volume of production from the coastal commercial fisheries of Samoa was almost equivalent to that of PNG. The production from the same kinds of fisheries in Fiji was almost twice as high as in PNG, even though PNGs population is almost nine times greater than Fijis.
  • 93% of the value of aquaculture in the region is from French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
  • Aquaculture is a significant commercial activity in only six PICTs and all are territories except for Cook Islands.
  • 47% of the fishery exports of the PICTs comes from American Samoa. Of the remaining 53%, nearly half of it (41%) comes from PNG.
  • The total value of fishery exports from the region fell by about 42% in real terms from 2007 to 2014. The fall in the value of canned tuna exported from American Samoa accounted for 37% of the decline.
  • In the period 20072014, when the PNA Vessel Day Scheme was introduced and became established, fees from foreign fishing increased 279%.
  • In 2014, four countries in the region received fees that amounted to more than US$1,000 per person.
  • Country visits to report on economic value of fishing

    SPC uses its data and conducts visits to countries to produce specific reports on the economic value of their fishing catch. Once a Pacific Island country has this information, it is in a stronger position to negotiate a better deal with foreign fleets. SPC researcher Steven Hare explains (57 secs). 

    Bioeconomic tool helps countries plan their fishing efforts

    SPC and FFA have developed a tool that combines biological and economic knowledge into a ‘bioeconomic’ tool. It helps countries decide the level of fishing effort they will set, depending on their economic and sustainability goals. SPCs Steven Hare explains that the tool was developed to meet the needs of the Pacific Island states (3.00 minutes).

    Training fisheries managers helps realise economic benefits in the WCPO

    The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) provides training in:

    • fisheries management
    • economic analysis and bioeconomic modelling of fisheries
    • policy development, investment appraisal, and international commerce
    • international fisheries negotiations.

    FFA delivers training after formal requests from members, and when recommendations are made through the Forum Fisheries Committee. When a need is identified, FFA considers how to meet that need with its limited resources and the expertise that is available.

    The Pacific Communitys Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) provides its members with scientific services relating to the management of oceanic fisheries, primarily of tuna.

    FFA delivers high-quality training in different areas. Here, training is under-way on giving interviews to share the tuna story with a wide audience. Photo: FFA.


    Resources on the economics of tuna fishing in the WCPO

    You can find news stories, popular articles, opinion pieces and blog posts on the economics of the WCPO tuna fisheries on theEconomics news and views page.

    Fact sheets

    Technical papers

    Posters and videos

    • Purse seine fishing, a video introduction to what is involved and how fishing is done, produced by Pasifika Communications for Pacific Community, 2012 [19 mins]

    FSM’s Eugene Pangelinan talks about the economic importance of tuna at an OFMP2 forum. He mentions several factors, such as chain of custody, and traceability, that need to become embedded so that fisheries businesses are viable (1.42 mins).

    John Maefiti from the Pacific Island Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) talks at an OFMP2 forum about the importance of the domestic tuna fisheries in Pacific Island economies. He also mentions the biggest threat to these economies: some distant fishing nations sending too many fishing vessels to the region (1.09 mins).

    Pacifical is a brand of tuna marketed by PNA countries. Here, they talk about their approach to environmentally and socially sustainable tuna (4.55 mins).

    The Marshall Islands Journal showcases fresh tuna processing in Majuro in 2017 (2.31 mins).