Artisanal Fisheries

The Problems

One People One Reef originated as the Ulithi community’s response to problems they noticed in their subsistence fisheries – declining catches, reduction in size of fish, and number of species caught. Changes to traditional practices contributing to these issues include:

Use of fewer fishing techniques: new, efficient technologies like spear guns and motor boats have replaced a wide variety of traditional fishing techniques that targeted a diversity of species and habitats. This has resulted in greater pressure on certain fish stocks like herbivorous fish that are crucial to reef health.

Loss of traditional management: historically, reefs and resources were managed through a complex system of regulations and ceremonial frameworks, which are being eroded. Once communities are aware of the effects of their fishing practices, they can reinstate traditional management for which there already exists a cultural context.

New technologies Motor boats have led to a loss of canoes. With rising gas prices, people cannot travel far to fish. This means nearby fishing areas are becoming overfished. In turn, the freezers allow a way to store fish, and even send some off island to family members on the main island of Yap, or even Guam and Hawaii. This interferes with traditional systems of dividing up the catch.

The Solutions

Fisheries Workshops and Databases: Our science team works with community representatives to train them in data collection, primarily of fish landings, so we can analyze the data and share results with the communities. We have trained 58 local fishery scientists/data collectors from 6 atolls/islands through fisheries workshops, and have collaboratively developed 2 fishery databases: Ulithi Atoll (approx. 85,000 fish), and outer islands (approximately 12,000 fish).  We have also developed a Fisheries Monitoring Handbook.

The large fishery database has been quality controlled, modified, and tested for analysis with the help of Donna Miller. This database is available to view upon request.

Mario Dohmai, a local scientist from Ulithi Atoll, has created a pictorial guide to Ulithian, common and scientific names of commonly caught fish.

Seafood Consumption Calendars: We provided calendars to individual households for tracking their seafood consumption. The results will allow households to assess their dietary practices, and aggregated data allow communities to assess their reliance on fish resources, and evaluate potential public health issues. These data also indirectly monitor fishing activity and serve as a point of comparison for the landings data. These calendars are a tool for educating us all about fishing traditions as well as nutritional health.

  • Peter Nelson leads a fisheries workshop on Elato

  • We conduct fisheries workshops to train community members in recording species, size and sex data for their fisheries database.

  • Entering data into fisheries database on Woleai Atoll

  • Fisheries workshop with Woleai youth

  • Canoes have largely been replaced by motor boats, with impacts on fishing effort