The Republic of the Marshall Islands is made up of 29 coral atolls and five single islands in the equatorial and tropical Pacific Ocean between 5deg and 15deg N latitude and 162deg and 173deg E longitude. The mid-year 2002 population estimate for the Republic of the Marshall Islands was 53,200 people (SPC 2003).
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of around 2,131,000 km2, while only having a land area of around 181 km2. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has around 50 per cent of is EEZ bordering international waters, with the remaining EEZ bordering three Pacific Island nations (the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Kiribati) to the south, and the US territory of Wake Island in the north.
(The original of this text was transferred, with the permission of SPC, from the original SPC technical report by Lindsay Chapman in 2004, and was compiled from interviews with island fishery managers and fishers. However, please feel free to make corrections to this Wikicity text if you have more accurate or more up-to-date information)
Management of Fisheries Edit
The development and management of the marine resources within the Republic of Marshall Islands falls under the jurisdiction of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA). MIMRA was established in 1988 under the MIMRA Act 1988. The Act was revised in 1997 (MIMRA Act 1997, also called the Marine Resources Act 1997), to give MIMRA more autonomy and flexibility in carrying out such responsibilities and MIMRA’s overall function as provided for in the Act more effectively. The objectives of the MIMRA Act 1997 and the Fisheries Policy (Anon 1997) are to:
- improve economic benefit from the fisheries sector within sustainable limits;
- promote responsible and sustainable private sector led fisheries developments; and
- strengthen institutional capacity to facilitate the responsible development and management of the Nation’s fisheries resources.
The Fisheries Policy (Anon 1997) is guided by the need for clarity, consistency and transparency in Government activities in the sector. Government policies will support:
- legitimate, responsible, private sector enterprise as the primary vehicle for commercial-scale fisheries development;
- a facilitatory, regulatory and oversight role for the public sector designed to support responsible, sustainable fisheries development; and
- the preservation of coastal, reef and lagoon resources primarily for nutrition, food security and small-scale sustainable income earning opportunities for the community.
The development of fisheries is also covered in the Government’s document ‘The strategic development plan framework 2003 to 2018 – vision 2018’ (Anon 2001). In this document the specific objectives for fisheries are:
- to maximise rents from fisheries resources within sustainable limits;
- development of income opportunities in sustainable coastal fishing activities for fishers;
- to develop sustainable management plans based on stock assessments of fisheries resources prior to any development activities;
- to strengthen the Fisheries and Nautical Training Centre (FNTC) and diversify the employment opportunities for graduates; and
- enhance the capacity of the sector to increase production, processing, trade, and exports in a sustainable manner.
Nearshore domestic fisheries development and/or management plans and strategiesEdit
MIMRA is working towards the drafting and implementation of development and management plans for some of the domestic fisheries. When looking at the nearshore resources, the two main fisheries are the deep-water snapper fishery and the tuna fishery, although in the case of the Marshall Islands, there is a pelagic shark fishery as well. There is no development and/or management plan in place for the deep-water snapper fishery at present, and there is no immediate plan to develop one, as there is very little fishing of these species at present, although there is private sector interest to develop this fishery.
The management of the tuna resource in the waters of the Marshall Islands is very important to the government. At present tuna fishing is mainly conducted by locally-based foreign longline vessels. To manage and develop the tuna fishery, MIMRA is taking a two-pronged approach. Firstly, MIMRA is working closely with the Forum Fisheries Agency to draft a specific tuna management plan for the country. This is in the process of being drafted (October 2003).
On the tuna fishery development side, MIMRA has commenced a consultative process with the assistance of the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The aim is to draft a domestic tuna fishery development strategy or plan for the Marshall Islands. Work commenced on this project in October 2003.
In addition to the tuna fishery, MIMRA has commenced the drafting of a shark fishery management plan. The drafting of the plan had commenced in October 2003.
Development Status of Fisheries (2004) Edit
The following sections summarise the current status with background information on domestic development in the nearshore fisheries, in a range of areas. The main focus is on developments in the tuna fishery, both public and private sector, as this is where most effort has and is being directed. The tables provide a snapshot based on the information available at the time.
Deepwater snapper fishing Edit
Currently an ad hoc fishery using small local boats, with the catch sold locally.
Increasing interest in deep-water snapper fishing, and this fishery could be targeted in the future.
Preliminary assessment and training in deep-water snapper fishing conducted by SPC in 1985. Catch rates were not high with many species not considered saleable.
Some fishing for deep-water snappers undertaken as part of rural fishing centre activities on Arno in the early 1990s.
OFCF did some deep-water snapper fishing trials around Jaluit and Aur from 1999 to 2001.
Rural and urban fishing centres Edit
Seven fishing centres altogether, 5 have ice plants and 2 have freezers to make ice. All have been established under Japanese aid.
In total around 30 boats associated with the fishing centres, mainly under a rent with the option to buy system.
Tuna loining plant in operation with the cooked loins sent for canning. Foreign company operating the government fish base (Marshall Islands Fishing Venture) fish processing and packing facility.
Company operating government facility as a shark fishing company (Edgewater Fisheries).
Tuna fishery Fishbase was constructed under Japanese aid in 1985.
First company to manage the Fishbase was the Hawaiian Mehau Group. No benefits accrued to the Marshalls, so the management contract was terminated around 1994.
First rural fishing centre established on Arno in 1989 with boats and gear provided under Japanese aid. Freezers an ice plant and other infrastructure also provided from 1990 to 1993. Fish purchased by centre a transported to Majuro for resale.
MIMRA dock and processing facility established in the late 1980s under Japanese aid for coastal fisheries development.
Six other outer island rural fishing centres established, 5 from 1991 to 1999, and the last in 2002. All gear, machinery and work provided under Japanese aid.
Private sector live reef fish company, Marshall Islands Ocean Development (MIOD) set up facility in Majuro with freezers and ice plan. Company operated from 1994/95 to 1998/99 with little success.
Taiwanese company Ting Hong took over the management contract of the Fishbase in 1994 and operated the base until the end of 1998. At this time the base was completely run down as Ting Hong did not fulfil their contract agreements
Tuna loining plant constructed and commenced operation in November 1999. Initial employment was for 300 people. This has increased to 500 employees in 2003 (2 shifts of 250 staff, 80% women).
In 2001/02 Marshall Islands Fishing Venture (MIFV) took over management of the Fishbase. MIFV is a subsidiary of Luen Thai Holdings Ltd, based in Hong Kong.
In 2001, Edgewater Fisheries purchased the old MIOD facility and refurbished it for their shark fishing venture.
Boatbuilding (public and private sector) Edit
One boat yard building traditional outrigger sailing canoes from tree trunk or plywood sheathed in fibreglass.
Small operator building boats in back yard plus doing repairs in plywood and fibreglass.
Drydock for small cargo boats with repairs done in steel, wood fibreglass and aluminium.
Marshallese have a long history of constructing traditional outrigger sailing canoes from local materials.
Ministry of Transport and Communication with assistance from UNDP set up a boatbuilding and training programme in the early to mid 1980s. Around 20 fibreglass vessels, most around 10 m in length, were constructed and maintained.
In 1991, traditional outrigger sailing canoes constructed on Namdik Atoll using both traditional and modern materials.
FAD programmes and or deployments Edit
One FAD in the water put out by the gamefishing club in July 2003 with funding assistance from the Visitors Authority.
MIMRA looking at FADs in the future.
Two FADs deployed off Arno in 1989 as part of the rural fishing project. FADs lost within 3 months. Another 4 deployed in 1991. Three lost in a cyclone after 6 months with the last unit lasting 18 months.
Four FADs deployed from 2000 to 2003 off Majuro (one at a time), with the last two of these funded by the Visitors Authority.
Public sector development (small-scale tuna fishing) Edit
MIMRA has conducted a tuna longline workshop and training to promote or stimulate interest in this area. Trial fishing was also carried out as part of this project.
MIMRA now looking at suitable fishing vessels for different fishing methods such as tuna fishing.
Some tuna trolling (around FADs and coastal) by the Arno rural fishing centre vessels during the first few years of the project. In 1993 the vessels were sold off to the private sector.
FNTC/MIMRA vessel used for tuna longline trials and training of local people interested in tuna longlining in 2003 with the fish sold to partially cover the cost of the project.
Private sector development (small-scale tuna fishing) Edit
Around Majuro, 10 full time and 25 to 30 part time vessels trolling for tunas and other pelagics around the FAD, the coast and bird patches.
Some of the vessels in the outer islands troll along the reef and around bird patches.
Traditionally, trolling for tunas occurred from outrigger sailing canoes as local fishermen looked for offshore tuna schools.
In the 1980s and 1990s traditional canoes gave way to modern outboard-powered skiffs (fibreglass and aluminium), with trolling the main method used to catch tunas and other coastal pelagics.
Commercially made boats and outboards are mainly used now for trolling tunas and other pelagics around the FAD, around the coast and around tuna schools.
Public sector tuna fishing companies Edit
There are no public sector fishing companies, however, the tuna loining plant is government owned.
Marshall Islands Development Authority (MIDA) involved in joint venture tuna purse seining operations starting in 1989
Private sector development (medium-scale tuna fishing) Edit
There are 6 local purse seine vessels fishing under the FSM arrangement – foreign vessels flagged in the Marshall Islands.
Shark fishing company has 5 vessels fishing.
MIFV has around 28 vessels (locally based foreign vessels) that operate from the Fishbase.
There are no locally owned tuna longline vessels at present.
MIDA involved in bringing in 5 tuna longline vessels in the early 1990s, with the vessels operated by private sector operators with some government assistance.
From 1991 to 1995 there were 8 active domestic or locally based foreign longline vessels.
From 1994/95 to 1998/99 MIOD had several company longline vessels working to them.
Companies operating the Fishbase during the 1990s were bringing in locally based foreign vessels to fish to them.
Joint ventures tuna fishing operations Edit
All of the tuna longline and purse seine vessels are under a charter or joint venture arrangement.
RMI government entered a joint venture with a US purse seine company to own and operate a seiner in 1989.
RMI entered a second joint venture with a different US seiner company in 1991.
Sportsfishing and gamefishing Edit
Around 25 charter vessels on Majuro with another 10 between Kwajalein and Arno.
Two annual tournaments in Majuro, All Micronesian (around 15 boats fish) and Majuro Billfish Tournament (around 20 boats compete).
Billfish Club in Majuro holds club tournament every month. Two other tournaments held on other islands.
The Billfish Club has been the biggest proponent of sportfishing and gamefishing in the Marshall Islands since 1983.
In recent years, at least 10 to 12 tournaments have been held annually, mostly in Majuro.
Bait fishing trials or activities Edit
No bait trials or bait fishing activities at present.
One proposal in to farm milkfish, and this is being assessed at present.
Bait fishing for pole-and-line fishing operation in the Marshalls waters goes back to the 1920s for Japanese vessels.
More recently, SPC conducted some tuna tagging and bait fishing trials in the Marshalls in 1978.
In 1983, bait fishing trials undertaken in Majuro lagoon and Arno lagoon to assess catch rates and species composition.
Other fishing methods trialled Edit
No other nearshore fishing activities being used at present.
Fishing trials undertaken in 1984 for deep-water shrimp using a range of different traps. Two boats fished for a year, however, lost a lot of gear and did not have good catches. Some deep-water crabs were caught as well.
- ADB. 1991. Appraisal of the fisheries development project in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Asian Development Bank, LAP:MAR 24261. 81 p.
- Alessio, D. 1991. The construction of a traditional outrigger canoe using a combination of traditional and contemporary materials on Namdik (Namorik) Atoll. Waan Aelon Kein Project Report (4). (ALELE).
- Anon. 2002. Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Annual Report 2000/2001. 26 p.
- Anon. 2001. The Strategic Development Plan Framework (2003 to 2018): Vision 2018. Republic of the Marshall Islands. 108 p.
- Anon. 1999. MIMRA interim report, March 1999. MIMRA, Republic of the Marshall Islands. 16 p.
- Anon. 1997. National Fisheries Development Plan. MIMRA, Republic of the Marshall Islands.
- Anon. 1993. Report on the coastal fisheries development project in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation. 70 p.
- Anon. 1984. An assessment of the skipjack and baitfish resources of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Palau, Federated states of Micronesia, and Marshall Islands. Skipjack Survey and Assessment Programme, Final Country Report No. 18, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia. 111 p.
- Anon. 1983. Report on the baitfish survey project in the Marshall Islands. Federation of Japan Tuna Fisheries Cooperative Associations, Tokyo Japan. 58 p.
- Anon. Undated. Guidebook. Promotional information put out by the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority. 16 p.
- Dalzell, P. and G. Preston. 1992. Deep reef slope fishery resources of the South Pacific — a summary and analysis of the dropline fishing survey data generated by the activities of the SPC Fisheries Programme between 1974 and 1988. Inshore Fisheries Research Project, Technical Document No. 2, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia. 299 p.
- Gillett, R. In press. Domestic tuna industry development in the Pacific Islands — the current situation and considerations for future development assistance. FFA Report 03/01, Gillett, Preston and Associates Inc. 196 p.
- Gillett, R. 2002. Pacific Island fisheries: regional and country information. RAP Publication 2002/13, Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. 168 p.
- Mead, P. Unpublished. Draft incomplete report on the Deep Sea Fisheries Development Project in Majuro, Marshall Islands (4 March to 4 October 1985). South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia.
- OFP. 1998. Marshall Islands 1998 National Fisheries Assessment. Oceanic Fisheries Programme Country Report No. 11, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. 101 p.
- Smith, A. 1992. Republic of the Marshall Islands, marine resources profiles. Forum Fisheries Agency Report No. 92/78, Honiara, Solomon Islands. 90 p.
- Sokimi, W. and L. Chapman. 2003. Horizontal tuna longline fishing workshops and fishing trials, including correct handling, processing and chilling practices in Majuro, Marshall Islands (19 February to 28 May 2003). Fisheries Development Section, Field Report No. 21, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. 39 p.
- SPC. 2003. Population statistics provided by the Demography Section of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
- Whitelaw, W. 2001. Country guide to gamefishing in the western and central Pacific. Oceanic Fisheries Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia. 112 p.