Pacific Community-based Fisheries Management

Strengthening and supporting national programs that empower Pacific Island communities to manage coastal fisheries for generations to come.

Pathways, is a project co-designed by and implemented with National fisheries agency partners across three Pacific nations. While it has worked with over 350 coastal  communities on strengthening community-based fisheries management (CBFM), it primarily supports the development of a national program that brings together government and non government actors to provide long term, coherent and consistent support across the many thousands of coastal communities in the three countries.

Catching, trading and eating fish is central to the way of life in the Pacific islands. Most fish eaten by Pacific communities are caught close to shore, but these inshore fisheries face many threats, including overfishing. By 2030, an additional 100,000+ tonnes of fish per year will be needed across the region for good nutrition. Climate change and other external threats increase the risk that coastal fisheries will struggle to provide needed economic, cultural and nutritional benefits into the future.

Securing the sustainable supply of coastal fish is becoming recognised as a critical political priority by national governments and their regional organisations, and many communities recognise the need for change.

CBFM is based on the recognition that coastal communities should have an integral role to play in the sustainable management of coastal fisheries because coastal communities are the ones with the intimate knowledge of the marine resources, on which they rely for food and livelihood every day. Meaningful CBFM requires collaboration from the whole community – men, women, elders, youth, village council, and church – to collectively identify and address challenges to achieving sustainable fisheries. CBFM empowers communities; it strengthens their sense of ownership and management of their fisheries resources. CBFM facilitates fisheries management and the collective achievement of broader development outcomes through building partnerships and strengthening mutual communication pathways among communities, local, provincial and national government agencies.




Sustainable practices in Vanuatu

This film shows an example of ANCORS work in Vanuatu where traditional fishing practices are still being used. It shows how ANCORS works with the Vanuatu Fisheries Department to gather research that will help to support those traditional practices through community-based approaches.

Coastal fisheries are crucial to the health and well-being of many communities. So, it's important that these resources are managed sustainably. The Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security or ANCORS at the University of Wollongong offers education and training on ocean law, Fisheries Policy and management. Carly Hammonpo went to Vanuatu to find out how ANCORS work in close partnership with national fisheries agencies in the region.


Carly, reporter: Coastal fisheries are an important source of food income and cultural identity for Pacific Islanders traditional practices are still used extensively by coastal communities throughout Vanuatu.

Chief Robbie Peter, Chief of Takara Village: We use customary governance to establish tabu areas. These discourage people from poaching resources in those areas where fishing restrictions have been placed. Coastal resources are important to my community. We want to sustain our livelihood and put food on our plates.

Carly, reporter: Takara Village is two hours north of the capital of Port Vila. In 1980 Vanuatu gained independence and ownership of the land including coastal reefs were returned to customary land owners.

Tuba Eria have worked well to maintain their coastal fisheries. However, rapidly changing conditions over recent decades has pushed communities to look for other practical and innovative solutions.

Chief Robbie Peter, Chief of Takara Village: Community-based fisheries management (CBFM) respect our ownership rights. Our customary tribal rights and practices remain intact. We want to work together with the government because they have regulatory strategies that can help us to sustainably manage our resources at another level.

Carly, reporter: Pita Neihapi works face to face with the coastal communities as part of the Pathway project, a region project led by the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security. He knows only too well the challenges of developing and implementing sustainable practices.

Pita Neihapi, CBFM Officer (Pathway Team Leader), Vanuatu Fisheries Department: At the moment with this fish coming to the market, it would put pressure on the resources. It put a lot of pressure in  terms of sustainability. So this is where CBFM comes in to help them to raise awareness about sustainability of resources in the community so that they can get ownership to manage the resources more wisely and to sustain this activity into the future.

Carly, reporter: Using this fish market to centralize operations and regulate the domestic fish trade  industry is key to creating sustainable practices and providing higher quality products.

Pita Neihapi, CBFM Officer (Pathway Team Leader), Vanuatu Fisheries Department: At the moment we're trying to have a smooth transition of rotating sales to the central market. We are talking about maintaining the quality of fish from the communities right down to the market. The long term plan here is to enable communities to sustainably harvest the fish.

Carly, reporter: Collecting data is vital to understanding the diverse challenges the fishing communities face. Anecdotal evidence as well as logbooks and fish measuring mats are used to record fish data. Developing further tools is in the  pipeline.

Lucky Joy, Principal Data Officer (National), Vanuatu Fisheries Department: Coastal fisheries is always a very challenging area to collect fish data. Every day fisherman are fishing. Canoe fishing, fishing or cleaning on the reefs, capturing that information is a challenge. So, we're looking at some tools that can be able to capture that information. What type of communities are harvesting? What is their main target species? What fish they're eating? Are they're selling their fish? And then that gives you as the government the basis of where they can be able to support and what kind of support different communities would be able to meet.

Carly, reporter: since 2014 ANCORS has worked with the Vanuatu Fisheries Department to gather research that will support traditional management systems through community-based approaches. The collaboration on the Pathways Project has also developed a way to work sustainably across the region.

Sompert Gereva, Deputy Director, Coastal Fisheries, Vanuatu Fisheries Department: The regional roadmap is looking at bringing these activities from the community level up scaling into the national level. So there is a production or there is a fishery that people are able to have process. Probably sell at a local market or export. And then the regional road map also looks at collaboration between countries. The most important thing for us now is getting the community people to really understand the value of their resource and the value of managing it. Coastal Fisheries is by far the most critical, most important fishery to our people and it's in the heart of our people.



"It's not about fish, it's about people"

Dr. Aurelie Delisle talks about her work in the Pacific on the UOW Podcast, 'Can you tell me how', answering the question, 'how can we work with Pacific Island communities and the UN to protect biodiversity in our oceans, ensure fish for life and secure the future of our planet?'.

Listen to the full episode

More about Pathways

Strengthening and scaling community-based approaches to Pacific coastal fisheries management in support of the New Song – “Pathways”

Pathways is a collaboration between researchers and regional and national networks and agencies in support of their policy objectives. The project is led by Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong. A key research partner is WorldFish, who leads activities in Solomon Islands. The Pacific Community (SPC) is the project’s leading partner at the regional level. Fisheries departments for each project country – the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development; the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources; and the Vanuatu Fisheries Department – play a significant role in the project’s roll-out and success. Our collaboration extends beyond these partners to non-fisheries agencies, to promote a whole-of-government approach to scaling out CBFM.

Pathways research focuses on understanding and testing the structures, processes and capacity to implement and sustain national programs of community-based fisheries management in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. We aim to improve the wellbeing of half the population dependent on coastal fisheries in these partner countries.

We will scale lessons and impacts across the region. Pathways activities are centred around five main objectives:

  • Strengthening Pacific institutions to implement the New Song for coastal fisheries
  • Improve and scale out CBFM in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
  • Improve the opportunities and viability of livelihood diversification to strengthen CBFM initiatives
  • Increase social and gender equity in coastal fisheries governance, utilisation and benefit distribution
  • Promote food and nutrition security in the Pacific food system through improved management and use of fish

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Dirk Steenbergen or read more in our published resources:

Origins of Pathways [PDF 936KB] 

The New Song Strategy [PDF 4.1MB]