Latest Department Metronome Trip : A milestone in the annual work plan

TFD workshop at Nukulaelae island

Seven Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) officers carried out one of the regular outer islands ‘Metronome’ trips during August. This trip was to the southern islands (Nukulaelae & Niulakita), to liaise with the Kaupule (island council) members and the communities and to carry out fisheries work programme activities. The team was away for one week, from 20-27 August 2017. The officers involved included 4 Coastal staff, 2 Oceanic staff and 1 from the Administration Section of the Department. The team spent 2-3 days on each island.

The Coastal team conducted refresher training on creel surveys with the Outer Island Data Collectors (OIDCs), as well as augmenting the data collected, and creating an additional dataset for comparison with the OIDC data. Information was also collected on Ciguatera Fish Poisoning cases, information needed for developing fisheries island profiles. Consultations with the Kaupule and the community centred on monitoring and management of coastal reef resources. This is the sixth Metronome trip since this type of monitoring was begun in 2016 and is part of an ongoing commitment by the coastal section as part of its annual work plans.

During the trip, 2 officers from the Oceanic Section conducted a workshop on vessel sightings. This is an issue often raised by the communities in the remote islands of Tuvalu, with people expressing concern that fishing vessels seem to be resulting in the loss of their marine resources. The community people of the visited islands pointed out that “the Tuvalu fisheries department should take cautious of fishing vessels within the Tuvalu EEZ, these fishing vessels are responsible for the decline of marine resources within our islands”.The southern islands community and Kaupule asked many questions, and views and issues regarding the management of coastal reef resources as well as on vessel sightings were discussed. There was also an addition of documents to the Fisheries library and archive collected from Nukulaelae Island. The visited islands were asked to report any fisheries-related events or activities on their islands to the TFD so they could be included in the website and newsletter.

The team encountered some difficult conditions during the trip with a tender boat almost capsizing when it was hit by a wave in the reef channel at Niulakita. The waters around that island are known to be rough, so the metronome trips can at times be difficult and staff need to be dedicated to ensuring food security for Tuvalu’s communities!

The final Metronome trip for 2017 to the northern islands will be run from the end of September. This trip, the Niutao, Nanumaga and Nanumea will focus on similar work on on-going monitoring and consultations as part of TDF’s commitment to ensuring fisheries issues are addressed on all islands of the country, and not just Funafuti.


3rd Fisheries Monitoring & Management Consultation with Funafuti Community FMMC3

Photo by: Matelina Stuart
FMMC3 Group Photo

Coastal Fisheries staff of the Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) held the third fisheries monitoring & management consultation FMMC3 with the Funafuti community and Fishermen of Funafuti Association FOFA. The meeting was held on the 3rd of August 2017 at the Tausoalima Falekaupule with the primary aim of discussing options and obtaining feedback on management of the Funafuti reef fisheries and the development of a comprehensive Stewardship Plan (FRFSP). The Fisheries Monitoring & Management Consultations (this being FMMC3) aim to ensure the community is an integral part of the development of the FRFSP which aims to restore the productivity of Funafuti’s coastal fisheries to higher levels. The reef fisheries are currently in a poor state and it is expected that with measures designed to protect reproduction, including strengthening of the Funafuti Conservation Area, size limits for certain species and promotion of fishing offshore, that the fish available for catching will be greatly increased.

The Funafuti community and representatives of other groups who attended the meeting, showed their gratitude with progress to date and were generally in agreement with the plan as it has been developed with their inputs since February of this year. The draft Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan has now been drafted and will, in the coming months be finalised with continuing consultations. TFD, Funafuti Kaupule and representatives from related projects have agreed to meet again to create an action plan and budget for the activities developed in the stewardship plan and 3rd FMMC. Another consultation, FMMC4, will be held later in late October 2017 to discuss on the work plan and budget.


The Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan

FRFSP-BookThe Tuvalu Fisheries Department, in association with the Funafuti Kaupule (Island Council), Falekaupule (Elders), Fishermen in Funafuti Association (FOFA) and the community is developing a comprehensive plan for the management of stressed fishery resources on Funafuti Atoll. The plan is expected to optimise our use and benefits from fisheries.

The Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan (FRFSP) is not simply a fisheries management plan focused on ensuring sustainable use of fished resources, but embodies a whole-atoll approach which recognises the role of people and healthy ecosystems in fisheries and adaptively responds to change. Focusing on smart use of the already established Funafuti Conservation Area (FCA), and avoiding the use of too many complex rules and seeking to preserve and enhance livelihoods and food and nutrition security for Tuvaluans living in Funafuti, the FRFSP has been designed to ensure reef fisheries recover to more productive levels.

The most difficult aspect of the plan to understand is that a reduction in fishing pressure will within a short time (a few years) lead to greater productivity with less future fishing effort.

Coastal marine resources (including invertebrates) are currently being exploited by traditional subsistence and small-scale artisanal fishers (Pita, 2005). Fisheries have been a major source of employment and income for local fishers as well as the source of fish supplies for the community through the roadside fish markets. This also includes women who collect shellfish and focus on handicrafts. Traditionally, fishers used outrigger canoes by paddling or sailing, working in the lagoon or outer reef and coastal waters. In the 1960-70s there was a shift to part-time fishing using small outboard-powered monohull aluminium, fibreglass or plywood boats.

In the last 10 or so years, there has been a worldwide move away from fisheries development (i.e. expansion of effort) to a more moderate approach which recognises that resources are limited and can relatively easily be overfished. The focus is now more on good management, or stewardship of the resources to ensure the food supply and resilience for communities against climate change. The Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) is tasked with improving fisheries livelihoods and food security in Tuvalu in line with the government planning documents Te Kakeega III and TFD’s Corporate plan.

The so-called “nutrition transition” is well underway in Funafuti, with dietary patterns shifting since the 1970–80s from traditional low fat diets, typically based on complex carbohydrates, fresh fish and meat and leafy greens, to increasingly modern diets, based on refined starch, oils, processed meats and confectionary (Charlton et al., 2016, Ahmed et al., 2011). These changes now mean that access to food of sufficient nutritional and cultural value is the primary driver affecting food security, more so than general food availability (McCubbin et al., 2017). In the McCubbin study 52% of people surveyed in Funafuti ate less desirable imported foods, which tended to be nutrient poor because they could not access preferred local foods. Factors affecting access to local foods included availability of and access to land; declining involvement in local food production; the convenience of imported foods; unreliable interisland shipping; and climate and environmental changes that have negatively affected food security and are expected to continue to do so. Having a healthy and productive reef fishery is clearly of major importance for reversing some of these trends.

Status of the Resources

As part of its work, the Coastal Fisheries Section of the TFD has been carrying out resource assessments and monitoring to provide the information needed for management. Creel surveys are suited to that task because they provide information on the fishers, the resources being caught and the effort required in a way that can be used to assess the health of the fishery. The purpose of the creel survey, which was begun in April 2015 and will be on-going indefinitely, included measuring the catches (numbers, sizes and weights) of fished resources, assessing their health and identifying stressed resources in need of management. Full results of the creel are found in the Creel Report No. 1 (Alefaio et al., 2016) which can be downloaded from

imageAs part of the creel survey, data on fish lengths were compared with known values of size at maturity (Lm) for 22 species for which data are available. This was used as an indicator to assess whether the resources were overfished. Fishes were considered overfished if 50% or more of the animals landed were smaller than the size at maturity.

The results of the first Creel Report showed that coastal fisheries in Funafuti are overfished. A total of 14,508 specimens were landed and measured during the survey, including 180 species of fishes in 30 families. Of the 22 species that could be assessed for signs of overfishing, 13 (60% of species) had 50% or more of the catch below the size at maturity. This means that the fishes are being caught and removed from the population before they can reproduce. The main fishes showing strong signs of overfishing in Funafuti included acanthurids (pone / surgeonfishes), carangids (ulua, kamai, trevallies), serranids (gatala, groupers), lethrinids (noto, emperors) and lutjanids (taea, snappers). The graph shows the sizes of fishes being landed compared with the size at maturity for this species of snapper shown as the red arrow.


In response to a clear need to address overfishing in Funafuti’s reef fisheries, the Fisheries Department began consulting with fishers, leaders and the community to develop a management plan capable of reversing the declines and restoring the fisheries to a more productive state. To ensure that the interests of members of the public were taken into account in the process, several Fisheries Monitoring and Management Consultations (FMMC) are being conducted in 2017. The Stewardship Plan will be the outcome of those consultations.

  • Initial Fisher’s meeting 9th February: A pre-meeting held between Funafuti Fishermen’s Association and TFD (Coastal and Operations & Development sections) to inform fishermen on Creel Survey results, Artisanal Tuna, Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, Sea Safety and post-harvest training.
  • FMMC1 23-24 February: This meeting included four main activities: (1) Report by Coastal Section on results of the creel survey; (2) Presentation of a range of management options that could be used in Funafuti; (3) Working Groups to discuss the options and suggest approaches that might work; (4) Consensus mandate derived by the participants to guide TFD’s work on the FRFMP. The meeting was attended by members of the Funafuti Fishermen’s Association, the Kaupule and Falekaupule, representatives of the outer islands communities living in Funafuti, and other members of the public. At the end of the meeting, participants requested that TFD develop a proposed plan to present at the next consultation for them to consider. The full report (Paka, 2017) and all others in this series can be downloaded from the Tuvalu Fisheries website
  • FMMC2 27th April: Presentation of the proposed FRFMP to identify any issues and steer further development
  • FMMC3 planned July: First draft of the FRFMP presented for discussion and adjustments; and FMMC4 planned for September: Adoption of the finalised FRFMP and development of work plan and implementation.

The Stewardship Plan

The Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship plan will be focused on reversing some of the damage already done to the nearshore fisheries in Funafuti with the ultimate aim of increasing the current low productivity. In the end, the aim is to increase the supply of fishes, invertebrates and other seafoods being fished now or in the past, to improve the state of the ecosystems that support them and to reduce problems with ciguatera, algal overgrowth and coastal pollution. The FRFSP will be designed to:

  • Establish the conditions for recovery of the resources,
  • Educate and involve the public so we are all part of the solution,
  • Establish transparent processes for activities, enforcement of rules and funding, and
  • Ensure good coordination with other development activities and departments so that clashes in approaches can be minimised or eliminated.

Updates on the plan will be available as it is developed through the consultation process. The text and information products will be widely distributed by September of this year. Watch this space for further information !


Ahmed, M., Maclean, J. L., Gerpachio, R. V. & Sombilla, M. A. (2011) Climate change and food security in the Pacific. Rethinking the options. Pacif ic Studies Series, pp. 85. Asian Development Bank, Manila.

Alefaio, S., Finauga, M., Italeli, S., Kaitu, L., Kaly, U., Lopati, P., Makolo, F., Petaia, M., Taufilo, M., Taula, H. & Tetoa, F. (2016) Tuvalu Fisheries Creel Survey Report No. 1. pp. 21. Funafuti.

Charlton, K. E., Russell, J., Gorman, E., Hanich, Q., Delisle, A., Campbell, B. & Bell, J. (2016) Fish, food security and health in Pacific Island countries and territories: a systematic literature review. BMC Public Health, 16, 285.

McCubbin, S. G., Pearce, T., Ford, J. D. & Smit, B. (2017) Social-ecological change and implications for food security in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Ecology and Society, 22.

Paka, L. (2017) 1st Fisheries Monitoring & Management Consultation (FMMC-01) in Funafuti 23-24 February 2017. Funafuti.

Pita, E. (2005) Tuvalu Integrated framework diagnostic trade integration study: Fisheries – Tuvalu’s pathway to trading. Tuvalu Integrated Framework for Trade Related Development Assistance Diagnostic Integration Study, pp. 33. ADB, AusAID, NZAid, World Bank, WTO, UNDP.


Joint Venture Agreement Signed: National Fishing Corporation of Tuvalu (NAFICOT), SAJO and O Yong Fishing Industry

IMG_20170629_083204RThe National Fishing Corporation of Tuvalu (NAFICOT), owned by the Government of Tuvalu signed a Joint Venture (JV) agreement with Sajo Industries of Korea and O Yang Fishing Industry (also from Korea) on the 29th of July 2017 at the Funafuti Lagoon Hotel in Tuvalu. The Joint Venture agreement was signed by the Honourable Dr Puakena Boreham, Minister of Natural Resources and Mr Lee, Manager and major shareholder from Sajo, along with Mr Kim a legal representative for Sajo. The signing of the Joint Venture agreement was witnessed by the Honourable Prime Minister of Tuvalu and Ministers from each Ministry in conjunction with their permanent secretaries and senior administrative personnel from the Fisheries Department.

The principal objective of establishing this Joint Venture was to generate greater revenue for the people of Tuvalu than just from licensing of distant water fishing nations alone. The two parties agreed to call the JV company ‘Tusa Fishing Company Limited’, linking the name of Tuvalu and Sajo. The word also has a deeper meaning in both languages. In Tuvaluan ‘Tusa’ means ‘equal’ or ‘partnership’, while in Korean it refers to a warrior (of the sea). The fishing vessel to be operated in this JV is a purse seiner called Sajo Olympia, but is now being renamed to ‘FV Taina’. ‘Taina’ refers to ‘friend’ in Tuvaluan and the partners selected this name to mark their friendly partnership working together towards success.

Sajo Industries Co. Ltd. is a Korea based company that engages in production and distribution of food and livestock products. The company has four main business divisions, with the Deep-sea Fishing division involved in catching tuna, cod, pollack, squid and other marine species. The Food Business division specialises in processing seafood products such as canned tuna, saury and mackerel, and provides the company with a strategic advantage of vertical integration for seafood related products. In 2016, the government of Tuvalu was approached by Sajo Industries with a proposal to enter into a joint venture arrangement for one of its purse seine vessels, Sajo Olympia.


Connecting People to Nature: Why Protect our Marine Resources?


A tour to Fualopa, an islet within Funafuti’s conservation area was part of the Fisheries’ department’s role played in World Environment Day 2017.  The visit was organised as an awareness activity to link to the World Environment Day theme on “Connecting People to Nature”.  The Funafuti Conservation Area (FCA), a marine protected area, extends  from the northern centre of the channel between Tepuka and Tepukavilivili to a position about 1.11 km south of Tefala islet on the western side of Funafuti Atoll. The area under conservation extends between the 30m depth contour on the eastern side in the lagoon and the 20m depth contour west along the ocean side. The FCA occupies a total area of approximately 33km2 of the western reef margin, including six small islets. The Funafuti Conservation Area FCA was first established in 1997 and went into force under the Funafuti Conservation Area Act on the 1st of December 1999. This is a vital component of fisheries management and biodiversity for the atoll, helping to guarantee the resilience of the marine resources and habitats, and the sustainable utilisation of those resources in areas outside the conservation area by acting as a breeding refuge. In addition overflow of adult fishes that swim out of the conservation area add to the catchable resource in other parts of the atoll.

The Fisheries Department organised a field trip for Form 2 students from the Nauti and Seventh Day Adventist Primary schools. There were 52 people participating overall, including the pupils, teachers, Environment Day Committee, and some Fisheries staff. The visit took place on Friday the 9th of June 2017, starting at 8:00 in the morning with boats leaving from the main wharf and heading out to Fualopa islet. An awareness activity took place at Fualopa to all who attended the field trip. It started out with a brief lecture on what a Marine Protected Area is, why is it important to protect our maritime resources, information in the form of a map of the FCA and a brief account of its formation. Penalties for people who poach the FCA were also discussed. Fisheries officers also explained the food chain of the marine resources by showing pictures and how we humans connect to the resources. The study trip was unbelievably fun and enjoyed by the school kids and there was a strong sense of discovery. Students asked many questions and recorded their thoughts for later sharing in their households and at school. The field trip ended with a drive around the islet of Fualopa before heading home.

This activity was fully funded by the World Bank Pacific Regional Oceanscape Programme (PROP).


Fisheries Monitoring and Management 2nd Consultation (FMMC2) 27th April 2017

clip_image002The Coastal and Operations & Development Sections of the Fisheries Department will be holding a second Fisheries Monitoring and Management Consultation (FMMC2). The meeting will be held at the Tausoalima Falekaupule on Thursday the 27th of April 2017.This is a follow-up meeting from FMMC1 which was run in February and which sought the views of the community on options for managing the Funafuti Reef Fisheries.  The meeting was in four sessions: (i) Results of the creel survey showing that resources are stressed and no longer yielding an optimum amount of fish; (ii) Description of a wide range of management options that might be useful in managing the reef fisheries; (iii) group work to discuss approaches to management; and (iv) a consensus of what the community would like to see developed. That meeting called on the Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) to make some recommendations and draft an approach to management.

FMMC2 follows on from the February meeting, and the Coastal Section has now developed a series of 3 strategies designed to recover the fisheries in what will be embodied as the “Funafuti Reef Fish Stewardship Plan”, based on the discussions during the first meeting. The strategies have been designed to be as simple as possible, build resilience in the food supply system and ensure existing arrangements are minimally disrupted. The three main strategies include:

  • Strengthening the Funafuti Conservation Area (FCA) so that it operates as a true marine protected area (MPA) capable of creating a source of adults, juveniles and eggs for continual re-seeding of the rest of the atoll, support recovery of overfished stocks, and support tourism. The strategy will include demarcation of boundaries, a possible review of the legislation and enforcement.
  • Establish Size limits for fishing in the rest of the atoll to be voluntarily enforced by the Funafuti Fishermen’s Association. This is aimed at ensuring each fish has the chance to breed at least once so that the stocks can recover more widely to a more productive level. This strategy may also involve size limit information materials such as posters, stickers and measuring boards, supplying size limits for each species, and recommending net sizes and conditions for other fishing gears. TFD will also seek funding to develop size at maturity (Lm) data for as many of the fished species as possible.
  • Focus on offshore pelagic Fish. This will be the largest component of the project and is aimed at ensuring access to fish is increased overall, even as pressure on reef fisheries is reduced. This will introduce an Offshore Fisheries Development Project (OFDP) which will develop larger, more efficient vessels, fish storage and marketing facilities, further develop fish aggregating devices (FADs), further improve sea safety and investigate the possible use of transhipment by-catch.

Additional aspects of the plan will include a public awareness campaign around all of the strategies, monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the plan, including adjusting it if needed, and consideration of the ecosystem aspects of fisheries. Without a good habitat to support them, no amount of fisheries management will recover the stocks. The outcome of the meeting is expected to give TFD the instructions it needs to meet the needs of the community and the take development of the Stewardship Plan to the next level in time for the next meeting in July. At that time a completed draft Funafuti Reef Fisheries Stewardship Plan will be presented to the public for comment and finalisation.


A Large Number of Lollyfish (Holothuria atra) washed ashore

Early in the morning at about 7:50 am on the 8th of March 2017, a report was made to the Fisheries Department that there were extensive numbers of sea cucumbers called lollyfish (Holothuria atra) scattered on the Funafuti seashore. Many of the animals were dead, while some were still active. Lollyfish is a common shallow water species commonly found on all nine of Tuvalu’s atolls and islands.

The sea cucumbers, an important part of the lagoon ecosystem, turned up on the lagoon shore near a residential area of the main island of Fogafale. According to comments from people living close to the area, nothing like this has ever happened in Funafuti before.

Two groups of fisheries officers went out to investigate. One team went out to the coastline water to take readings of the temperature and turbidity (cloudiness) of the water in the affected area. The other team did their best to rescue as many of the lolly fish as they could by transferring live ones back into the water in a clearer nearby coastal area.

According to the fisheries officers, it is thought the sea cucumbers were affected by ‘anoxia’, a situation in which the level of oxygen in the environment drops suddenly, often as a result of still, hot and high nutrient conditions. Patches of of black sediment were found supporting the diagnosis. The black colour is caused by the presence of hydrogen sulphide, indicating toxic conditions. The waters appear to have reached a state in which the level of dissolved oxygen was depleted, causing the animals to suffocate.

Causes of the sea cucumber kill could include poor water circulation related to a nearby reclamation, the accumulation or dumping of materials, such as rubbish, the death of large amounts of algae, and sewage, bilge pumping or other forms of nutrient pollution. Sea cucumbers are known to be sediment filters and help to keep the lagoon clean.



Tuvalu Fisheries Library receives aid from PIMRIS: The Pacific Islands Marine Resources Information System

IMG_20170301_205107The Fisheries Department, received a Dell brand laptop and a scanner donated by the Pacific Islands Marine Resource Information System Project (PIMRIS). The equipment has been designated for creating and maintaining the Fisheries library database.

PIMRIS is a mutual network of regional systems and government information centres concerned with the evolution of technical information, including fisheries and marine resources in the Pacific. Its purpose is to improve access to information on marine resources in the region.

PIMRIS donated the new equipment with the aim of improving Tuvalu’s fisheries information. The focus will be on transforming all local fisheries publications into electronic documents for easy access. Keeping hard and soft copy documents is a good idea because Tuvalu is, like many Pacific islands, vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change, and this is one way of protecting these valuable assets.

The much-needed new equipment will be an asset to the Fisheries Librarian and Public Relations Officer in her duties.


Fishermen Adrift for 15 hours and the Convenience of Grab Bags

Te Mataili
Te Mataili

Two middle-aged fisherman from Tuvalu spent 15 hours at sea trying many techniques that would save them from drifting too far from the island.

Semi Saaga and Foe Taalava went trolling offshore of Fuafatu, one of the Funafuti Islets, at 8 o’clock in the morning on the 28th February 2017.

The incident began at 4 pm when they departed to head back home. Their outboard motor propeller broke down as it was wound up by their fishing line while starting up the engine. They tried contacting help using their walkie talkie until 6pm without any response. Then they tried using a PLB (Personal Locater Beacon) device, which was part of the equipment in the “Grab Bag” donated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The two men agreed to take turns on look-out for help as their boat started to adrift further out.

The two fishermen’s families reported their failure to return to the Police to look for the two fisherman late that  evening, but by then the Search and Rescue (SAR) team had received a message from New Zealand about the alert beacon and was already in action.

Te Mataili (Tuvalu’s  Patrol Boat) found the two fisherman 7.5 miles away from the island at 11pm.

Safely on land, one of the fishermen described the incident and explained how handy the Grab Bags are. He recommended that every fisherman should have one and use it on every fishing trip, just in case of the unexpected.


First Fisheries Monitoring and Management Consultation (FMMC) with the Funafuti Community on the Funafuti reef fishery


The Tuvalu Fisheries Department (TFD) organised a consultation with the Funafuti community, Fale Kaupule, Kaupule, Funafuti Fishermen’s Association and outer island leaders on monitoring and management of coastal reef fisheries. The meeting ran for one and a half days, on the 23rd and 24th February 2017 at Tausoa Lima in Funafuti.

The meeting was part of a series designed as a participatory approach to managing the coastal reef fishes of Funafuti. Four main areas were covered during the FMMC:

  1. Status of the Resources: Results of Fisheries Department Creel surveys carried out since April 2015;
  2. Description of Management Options that could be used to recover the fishery;
  3. Working Group session for participants to discuss the options and overall approach to monitoring and management;
  4. Conclusions with instructions to TFD on how to proceed.

This is the first fisheries consultation to be held in order to obtain the views of the community. Further meetings will be held in April and July this year. It is expected that a draft Funafuti Reef Fishery Management Plan will be produced around September this year.

The creel survey information highlighted the overfished state of many of the reef fishes and the need to manage them to increase the production of fish. The community showed their support of improving and manage the Funafuti reef fisheries for now and future generations.