Examining patterns and drivers of catch in the Solomon Islands for better fisheries management

3 minutes read
Children with fish in Lau Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Photo by Jan van der Ploeg
Highlights
  • A new study examined patterns and drivers of catch across 13 fishing communities in the Solomon Islands’ Malaita province and found a wide variation in gear, effort and targeted species between communities. 

  • The study represents the first provincial-level analysis of fishing patterns in Malaita, with far-reaching implications for fisheries management in the Pacific. 

  • Understanding the patterns and drivers of resource use is critical to implementing effective community-based resource management (CBRM), where natural resources are managed with local community involvement. 

While coastal fisheries are vital to life and livelihoods in the Pacific, they are notoriously difficult to characterize and thereby manage. Even within a single island chain, there can be a diversity of sociocultural, economic and environmental features that impact fishing effort and targeted species. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all management solution.  

Sustainable management thus ultimately depends on catering to the specific context of a given fishery, according to a new research publication: Patterns of catch and trophic signatures illustrate diverse management requirements of coastal fisheries in Solomon Islands

Researchers examined patterns and drivers of catch across 13 fishing communities in the Solomon Islands’ Malaita province and found a wide variation in gear, effort and targeted species between communities. 

While species value is largely assumed to be the main driver of fishing patterns, the paper concluded that community fishing characteristics are more likely to be influenced by environmental features than the market value of a specific species. 

The study represents the first provincial-level analysis of fishing patterns in Malaita, with far-reaching implications for fisheries management in the Pacific.  

Shining a light on fishing patterns 

Researchers set out to answer three prominent questions: What are the patterns of catch across Malaita province? (ii) What drives these fisheries patterns? (iii) What are their management implications?  

By examining catch per unit of effort (CPUE) coupled with the trophic level of catches, or where an organism sits on the food web, the paper’s authors were able to extrapolate these patterns of resource use.  

The results ultimately showed that even across a single province, patterns of fishing and catch are highly diverse, with many species being caught across different trophic levels with various levels of efficiency.  

“We found no relationship between the value of fish caught and their proportion of catch, so we suggest that the socio-environmental context and historical patterns of fishing around Malaita province play a greater role in harvested species than market price,” said Delvene Boso, WorldFish’s senior research analyst. 

For example, both coral cover and habitat rugosity can be stronger determinants of fish species present than fishing pressure. There is also a wide range in cultural preferences/taste for various fish species between fishing communities, representing another prominent driver of fishing patterns.   

Co-management solutions 

Not all development initiatives are the same, and small-scale fishing villages similarly cannot be cast in the same light. These fisheries require diverse approaches to management with active involvement of communities.  

Understanding these patterns and drivers of resource use is thereby critical to implementing effective community-based resource management (CBRM), where natural resources are managed with local community involvement.  

CBRM approaches co-develop conservation and sustainable resource policies with local communities, who are most knowledgeable about the surrounding environment and maintain rights to dictate the use of their resources. 

By understanding that most species are not targeted solely for specific economic reasons, it allows communities to pursue a more effective approach to management, rather than focusing on quotas for certain species. Seasonal and spatial approaches to fisheries management, such as no-take zones or seasonal bans during spawning periods, was determined to be a better way forward.  

“Ultimately, securing a sustainable supply of fish is a regional priority to ensure Pacific communities’ continued access to nutritious foods and sustainable livelihoods,” said Hampus Eriksson, WorldFish’s interim lead for Solomon Islands. 

Kate McMahon

Junior Consultant, Digital Journalism