In Solomons, some fisheries sectors thrive while others struggle under pandemic rules

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HONIARA – In the provinces of Solomon Islands, a rising interest in fishing by people in coastal communities is helping keep the country’s fishing industry active amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Makini Dentana, has confirmed that the fisheries sector is the only industry currently generating revenue in the Solomons.

“The good news is that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic crises globally, our fisheries industry, especially Soltuna, is still generating revenue to the country,” Mr Dentana said.

Records from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) show a steady increase of revenue collected from fisheries exports and licence fees by both inshore and offshore fisheries activities in recent years.

But with the current closure of the Solomon Islands border and other pandemic restrictions, there has been an increase in fishing, as most working-class people have been laid off or made redundant due to COVID-19.

And despite the restrictions and the introduction of the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) by the government in April, purse-seine vessels that continue to fish in the Solomon Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are still transhipping at the Honiara port.

The main fish market in Honiara remains open, and continues to benefit from the tuna industry, just as it did before the arise of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This market is also where most of the fish stocks from the provinces end up.

The country needs the fisheries: according to the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, the local economy is projected to shrink by 4.99% by the fourth quarter of this year.

Fisheries one of four sectors that hold up the economy

In July, former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, an economics expert, said the fisheries sector should be prioritised to sustain the country’s shrinking economy.

In an interview with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Lilo said that, while COVID-19 continued to ravage the global economy, small economies like that of Solomon Islands would be hit especially hard. The country needed to set its priorities to make the most of gains.

“The fisheries sector will put our economy back on track. The most immediate one that comes to mind is the processing fisheries sector. I want us to put more focus on the fisheries sector,” Mr Lilo said. 

“A good part of our territorial boundary is made up of waters where we can fish, and we need to focus on both offshore and inshore fisheries. That will put our economy back on track.”

Head and shoulders photo of Gordon Darcy Lilo, former Solomon Islands Prime Minister. Photo: Charles Piringi/SIBC.
Former Solomon Islands Prime Minister and economics expert, Gordon Darcy Lilo. Photo: Charles Piringi/SIBC.

He said the fisheries industry was different to other important industries such as tourism, which involved complicated processes in order to operate. The fisheries industry could operate more freely, but needed continued commitment from the national and provincial governments.

“With fisheries, the resources belong to the state, it only requires both the national and provincial government to attract the right investors to establish processing facilities here, say in all provinces,” Mr Lilo said.

In recent times, the national government has identified fisheries as one of the four sectors with agriculture, mining, and tourism that stimulate most growth in the Solomon Islands economy.

The government hopes the four sectors will earn adequate incomes for the national purse to replace income earned from exporting round logs to China, as economic planners envisage all harvestable forests will have been logged in three or four years.

The logging industry currently provides about 50% of the government’s annual income.

With the inception of focus on the four sectors, the government aims to set up 50 fisheries centres and 50 economic zones in the 50 constituencies countrywide. 

For the fisheries and tourism sectors, contacts have been established between ministries and foreign investors, mostly in Asia.

Tuna in nets being transhipped from purse-seine vessel at Honiara port. Photo Francisco Blaha.
When tuna is transhipped at the Honiara port, fish that are discarded from the purse-seine vessels normally end up at the fish markets in Honiara. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Fish vendors in Honiara struggle as sales fall

When the first SOPE was declared, Fishing Village market in east Honiara and White River market west of Honiara city were forced to close down. 

Only the Honiara Central Market has been allowed to continue operating, but under strict rules. This has allowed fish vendors to continue to work. But nearly all fish vendors have left Honiara for their home provinces, as part of a repatriation exercise by the national government conducted when the lockdown began. 

Local vendors have continued to work, and now, three months on, those from other areas are slowly returning. However, the Sunday Isles newspaper recently reported that a cash-flow problem was hitting the vendors hard, as the number of customers was well below the usual and was affecting daily earnings.

“Local vendors at the Honiara Central Market are attracted to this occupation because of the possibility of earning relatively medium to high incomes,” the paper wrote. 

“The impact of the state of public emergency on Honiara’s formal sector, which includes many fish-market vendors, will be huge.”

It said that vendors’ economic survival was threatened. They had already had “months and weeks with less cash flow as their customers spend less on their fresh fish” and would have to go through more if the SOPE was extended. 

Fish vendors at Honiara. People work among ice-chests under the shade of shelters or umbrellas. Photo Sunday Isles.
Almost all fish vendors have left Honiara for their home provinces, as part of a repatriation exercise by the national government to minimise the spread of COVID-19. Photo: Sunday Isles.

Sunday Isles reported fish vendor Henry Fafaluta as saying, “I find it very challenging during these past months by trying to earn the amount to cover the expenses I spent daily for fuel.”

He explained that normally his earnings depended entirely on his catch.

“If the catch is good then, I will surely earn good money that day, but compared to now, even if my catch is good, my earnings will still be low, due to the cash flow problem we experienced now.”

The person in charge of the fish section at the Honiara Central Market, Betty Fraser, said that she had seen vendors struggling in the current situation. 

“Vendors struggle every day to get the amount of profit to cover their expenses, some for their catch, and others for purchasing from the fishing vessels. With that they also try their best to at least earn a little extra to take back home to their families at the end of the day,” Ms Fraser said in the Sunday Isles.

Ambrose Sade normally gets fish discarded during transhipment in Honiara and sells it at the Honiara Central Market. He has observed changes in the way customers have bought fish in recent months.

“During the SOPE active period, I was fully engaged in fish sales here at the market. Everything is normal, except that the number of customers coming to buy fish at the market is a little below my normal take,” Mr Sade said.

“Cash flow is definitely an issue for me and the other fish vendors. Otherwise, everything is just normal here, as we are still keeping the fish-vending activities going.”

Vendors hope that an economic stimulus package proposed by the national government will be implemented soon and help to keep them going until sales pick up again.

Russell fishing communities solidify management set-up

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HONIARA – The Russell Islands Fisheries Association (RIFA) in the Central Islands Province of Solomon Islands is officially launched, following the signing of its mandate at Louna village on 19 July.

This agreement formally institutes the association, which is made up of the people of nine fishing communities who will manage the islands’ fisheries to develop and maintain sustainable use for the benefit of current and future generations.

An interim executive committee was appointed at the signing ceremony at Louna. It will oversee the set-up of the association to meet legal requirements.

By signing the mandate, RIFA members have formalised a partnership with the Savo–Russell constituency, the Central Islands Provincial (CIP) Government, and the Russell Islands Investment Forum (RIIF).

Constituency MP Dickson Mua, CIP Premier Stanley Manetiva, and nine representatives of RIFA signed the mandate documents. The signing was witnessed by senior national and provincial government officials.

Group of men at formal signing up of Russell Islands Fisheries Association, Solomon Islands. In the photo are unidentified members of the association and Savo-Russells MP Dickson Mua and Central Islands Province Premier Stanley Manetiva. Photo: Solomon Islands Government Communications Unit.
Savo-Russells Constituency MP Dickson Mua (centre) and CIP Premier Stanley Manetiva (second from right) with representatives of RIFA and the Russell Islands Investment Forum at the document signing at Louna village on 19 July 2020. Photo: Solomon Islands Government Communications Unit.

During the signing ceremony, MP Dickson Mua congratulated the communities for their hard work in establishing RIFA. He noted that they had moved another step ahead in advancing their communal interests in developing their fisheries resources. 

“Moving together like what we have witnessed now is very encouraging, especially as we prepare ourselves to respond to the tough times ahead for our country,” Mr Mua said.

Mr Manetiva assured the association and its members that the provincial government was committed to supporting RIFA to achieve its ambitions.

“I wish to congratulate you for your efforts by reaching this far and be assured that your provincial government under my leadership is committed to support your noble aspirations to develop and manage our fisheries resources,” Mr Manetiva said.

Russell Islands comprises two main islands and several islets. It lies about 50 km north-west of the island of Guadalcanal. It has hundreds of untouched inshore fishing grounds that are rich in resources, and RIFA is aiming to develop and manage these for its current and future generations.

Group of women, men and children sitting under shade of tree on beach at Louna, Solomon Islands. Photo: Solomon Islands Government Communications Unit.
Russell Islanders attending an awareness program at Louna village as part of the development of the fisheries association. Photo: Solomon Islands Government Communications Unit.

The formal establishment of RIFA follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Savo–Russell Constituency, RIIF, and the Central Islands Provincial Government on 20 April 2020.

The nine fishing communities agreed in a meeting in May to establish individual village committees to assist distinct communities to organise and create a network of fishers in the islands.

The first tasks of the interim executive are to develop a Russell Islands fisheries management and development program, as well as guiding principles and a code of conduct for the fisheries network. The Central Islands Provincial Government Fisheries Division will assist the interim executive to develop and register a constitution and financial processes.

The RIPEL Cabinet Subcommittee of the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is providing administrative support and advice as RIFA is set up.

New cannery key to development on Malaita

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HONIARA – The proposed Bina Harbour processing plant in Malaita province, Solomon Islands will be a key economic pull factor that will drive other developments for the province, says the Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Nestor Giro.

Minister Giro made the assurance when the Malaita Provincial Government (MPG) and his Ministry signed a historical Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the Bina Harbour project on Friday, 10 July 2020.

Malaita Provincial Secretary Fredrick Fa’abasua presents a gift of Malaita traditional shell money to MFMR Minister Nestor Ghiro. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni

The MOU signing in the Malaita provincial capital, Auki was between Fisheries Minister Alfred Giro and Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani, paving the way for the next phase of the project.

At the signing ceremony, Minister Giro reiterated that the Bina Harbour Cannery project is a priority for the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) under the leadership of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

“The Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement recognises the crucial role that Malaita Province will have in terms of implementing the project for the province and Solomon Islands.

“This MOU is a joint partnership thus the need for stakeholders to work together in order to achieve the objective of the project, which is a second tuna processing plant at Bina, is important,” Giro said.

The minister stressed that the MOU is the guide to the government’s roles in implementing this project. “Malaita will be the project host and this means that it will not be without challenges. This MOU is the basis for our partnership for us to work together to achieve results, to look at problem-solving ideas to the challenges and also to allocate resources to the project both from the national government and the provincial government,” the Fisheries Minister said.

He added that the indirect and direct benefits it will bring to their lives are manifold.

Malaita Premier, Daniel Suidani also spoke highly of the MOU, adding that it has paved a new approach in how the national and provincial governments collaborated in implementing the project.

“We believe that the new approach we are witnessing today sets the benchmark for the working together of the National Government ministries and the province,” Premier Suidani said on the day of signing.

Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani signing the MOU in the presence of Dr Philip Tagini, while minister Nestor Ghiro looks on from the back. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni

Mr Suidani added that the Bina Harbour project is also a priority project for his Malaita Alliance for Rural Advancement (MARA) government, and that it fully supports the MOU that was signed.

“Malaita Provincial Government has the most to offer as a partner in leading the Bina tuna project. It is a marker of this coordination and will allow us to proceed side by side in cooperation,” the Premier remarked.

The Premier also urges the people of Malaita, in particular Bina, for cooperation as the project is heading towards its full implementation.

The signing of the MOU was witnessed by officials from the Ministry of Fisheries, the Malaita Provincial Government Executive and representatives from the landowning group from Bina.

While the MOU signing signals progress in the Bina project, both governments are aware that there is much to be fulfilled.

Tilapia hatchery to boost fish supply in rural Guadalcanal

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HONIARA – A new tilapia hatchery in Guadalcanal is set to ease in-shore fishing activities and boost food security for the Aruligo community.

Construction of the hatchery should be completed by the end of the year. Aruligo is about 32 km north-west of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara. 

It is jointly funded by the Solomon Islands and the New Zealand governments under the Mekem Strong Solomon Islands Fisheries programme (MSSIF). The hatchery will improve food security, help reduce pressure on existing in-shore fisheries, and help rural people, particularly youth, participate in the productive sector.

The New Zealand Government said the Aruligo hatchery project was one of the most important projects of MSSIF.

“We’re excited to see the progress made by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) at the Aruligo Tilapia Hatchery,” the New Zealand High Commission’s Office in Solomon Islands said in a statement.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has slowed progress on the construction of the hatchery. However, work is continuing.

“Despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the contractor has made excellent progress towards completion of Phase 1 of the project,” the High Commissioner’s office said. 

“We think the office building and ponds look fantastic! We expect completion of Phase 2 – fencing, utilities, and further pond construction – within the next few months.”

The first phase includes a laboratory, an office, a covered area of tanks for growing juvenile fish, and a perimeter fence. 

MSSIF has supported the MFMR for the past decade. 

The fisheries ministry hopes the project will provide much-needed facilities to import tilapia and to make an improved strain available to rural fish farmers. This is driven by MFMR’s policy to develop an aquaculture sector that supports rural livelihoods, food security and economic returns.

Newly built concrete pools, with roof, to be filled with water to hold tilapia, Aruligo hatchery, Guadalcanal
These pools at the Aruligo tilapia hatchery will be filled in the next phase of the project

Optimism over new venture

MFMR said the COVID-19 pandemic had done little to dampen the spirits of the group of dedicated government officers and contractors who continued to work on construction activities at the hatchery. Ministry staff conducted a site visit in April to see first-hand the stage the project had reached and were satisfied with progress.

The Ministry of Fisheries is developing the Aruligo site into a national aquaculture centre. On 9 June, it was officially handed over to the ministry. 

During the handover ceremony, the ministry’s Under-Secretary of Corporate Service, Patterson Lusi, appealed to the Aruligo people to look after the property.

“As we gather in this magnificent building and the first set of ponds that we have here, it demonstrates a true commitment that we all have in making sure that there is a national tilapia hatchery project to be built here,” Mr Lusi said.

“I also want to appeal to people around here to look after the property. Remember the maximum benefits of this project will pour out to the communities in and around this area.

“The first species of tilapia will be from here, the first training for farmers will also be done here, so please look after our facility well.”

Speaking at the ceremony, the Senior Fisheries Officer of Guadalcanal Province, Willie Kokopu, said the division was proud to be part of the development of the centre.

Locals employed in building the site

Part of the centre sits on a World War 2 site, and early work involved clearing unexploded ordnance from the area. Locals were employed to help with this work, and the ministry said that more locals would be employed on Phase 2 works.

An elder was reported as saying that the project would “be a magnet for other proposed development in region”.

It is anticipated that construction will be completed this year. The hatchery should become fully operational once Nile tilapia are imported in 2021. They will be dispersed to farmers in late 2022 or early 2023.

Aquaculture is relatively new in Solomon Islands. MFMR’s Aquaculture division expects tilapia to contribute to food security and rural livelihoods. So far, the fish has only been used for stocking natural bodies of freshwater bodies to increase inland fishing production. 

Malaitans reap benefits from conserving marine areas

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HONIARA – Communities along the coastline of Malaita Province have transformed degraded natural environments in recent years – and have improved their access to local foods as a consequence.

People in this most populous province of Solomon Islands have depended for their livelihoods directly on what nature provides: roots, fruit from forest trees, and fish and other marine animals and plants. 

But these natural resources have been under increasing pressure. As in many other places in the world, the resources here were carelessly managed in the face of growing human populations and increasing need to harvest them for food and other uses.

To turn this situation around, several communities have worked with WorldFish Solomon Islands, a fisheries NGO, which has done most of the work in setting up the conservation sites. The provincial government’s fisheries division has also helped.

Now the Malaitan people are benefiting from the conservation of local sea resources, and discovering that the “modern” conservation techniques they’ve been introduced to are the same practices that were used in the past.

The Fumamato’o success story

Manaoba Island is located on the north-eastern part of Malaita. It is the home of the Fumamato’o community, which lives along the Lau Lagoon. 

The community decided to protect its marine resources in 2013, and has already benefited greatly from its efforts. Before, this island community was a victim to overharvesting of fish, trochus, sea cucumbers, clam shells, and many other sea creatures.

But now, overharvesting is a thing of the past, thanks to chair of the Manaoba Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), Mr Dominick Tuita, and his team.

During an interview with the Malaita Star magazine, Mr Tuita said Fumamato’o was like any other coastal community in Malaita Province. 

“The people depend heavily on their sea for income and food,” Mr Tuita said.

The island of Manaoba is well known to the Tobaita people, Mbaelelea people and Baegu people as the main provider of fish and other seafood. But Mr Tuita said that the overharvest of marine resources had taken a toll. 

In 2013, the people of Manaoba realised that they needed to change as they observed that resources were running out. They formed a committee to set up an LMMA.

“There are two areas where we restricted fishing: one is a total marine protected area and the other is open-and-close area,” Mr Tuita explained.

In the protected area, fishing is banned. In the close-and-open area, harvesting is allowed once a month. 

“We usually open it at the end of each month to allow villagers to fish for income or for community gatherings. When we open the open-and-close area, we invite fishermen from nearby communities to come and fish. During harvest day, everyone is welcome to fish,” Mr Tuita said.

Two Fumamato'o men standing in open long boat haul in a net while fishing in the open-and-close area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Fumamato’o men haul in a net while fishing in the open-and-close area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

As a result of close management, fish were now present in greater numbers and larger sizes. 

Some fish species that they thought were extinct had returned to the fishing ground.

“The marine protected area and the open-and-close area made a big difference,” Mr Tuita stated.

Fumamato’o man holds two fish of a species that was thought to be locally extinct. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Fumamato’o local holds fish of a species that was thought to be extinct. Once the community began to actively manage the marine areas, the fish has returned. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

The women of Fumamato’o also benefit greatly from the locally managed marine area.

Betty Koidi, in an interview with the Malaita Star, said that fish was now available in big number and large sizes, which greatly helped in the marketing of the fish. 

Mrs Koidi said the women of Fumamato’o could sell one fish for SBD$10.00 (US$1.20) and above. Before the locally managed marine area was set up, they struggled, as there was not enough fish and the fish they did catch were small. 

“We women will strive and work together with the men and youths of this community to maintain the open-and-close area for our benefit,” Mrs Koidi said.

Mr Tuita said the Manaoba LMMA operated under clear rules.

“If we find you fishing in the marine protected area, you will pay a fine of SBD$500 (US$61.00),” he said.

A group caught fishing illegally in the area at the beginning of the year paid a fine of $500 and a live pig. 

He said the surrounding communities knew about the rules and were working with Fumamato’o. 

“At first other communities found it hard to accept, but as they learn about the benefits of the marine protected area, they start to work together with us”, he said.

Sea resources protected on a taboo site at Mararo

The Mararo Community Based Organization in East Are’Are has taken steps to conserve its marine resources at the Puriasi Management Area. 

The area is a unique place that also contains traditional taboo sites. 

According to Tony Atitete, the community put rules in place to safeguard the area from being exploited and to scare away potential intruders.

Mr Atitete told the Malaita Star that the area was important for their tribe for the taboo site that their ancestors used to conduct their traditional form of worship. 

Thickly vegetated hillsides and heavily mangrove treed water edges of Puriasi Management Area. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Puriasi Management Area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

Because the site was being managed to honour culture and to protect the natural resources, it was becoming a breeding area for marine life. 

He said the community aimed to preserve the marine resources for future generations. Rules prohibit the catching of certain animals and from some fishing methods for three years, and ban the collection of mangrove trees for firewood, and the “unnecessary” cutting of trees. 

After the three years, the taboo area would be opened only for one week for any special occasion, and then closed again. 

Anyone found to have breached the rules would face fines of up to SBD$500 (US$61.00).

Mr Atitete said the management plan had been developed and endorsed by surrounding communities. 

Although the hillsides of the Puriasi Management Area is covered with thick virgin forest, and its shoreline with mangroves, there was a persistent threat from a logging operation nearby. Mr Atitete said he feared that the Puriasi Management Area would be disturbed if the logging company went into full-scale operation. 

Head and shoulders portrait of Tony Atitete. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Tony Atitete. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

Conservation an ancient practice in East Kwaio

Marine conservation has been regarded as a longstanding part of the East Kwaio culture.

East Kwaio man Tome Arika said during a recent meeting with WorldFish and Malaita Province government officials that the “modern” conservation technique they were being taught was similar to the traditional conservation practices of Kwaio people.

“Personally, I find this concept blends in well with our traditional setting,” Mr Arika said.

“Before, we restricted these fishing grounds only for feast days. At that time this place was full of fish and turtles. 

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But today people overharvest fish and shells.”

Mr Arika, who holds onto the ancient Kwaio way of worshipping, said the increase in the coastal human population had put much pressure on the sea resources.

“Today you will hardly find fish in the fishing grounds, which were formerly conserved by our forefathers. There are fish, but they are small in size and less in numbers.

“I think we are all in support of looking after marine resources because we want to make life easy for ourselves,” he said.

FAD launches in Malaita to support incomes during COVID-19 restrictions

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This group of Malaita residents is preparing to release a fish-aggregating device (FAD) at Uhu in the West Are’are area of Solomon Islands’ Malaita Province. Another has just been launched at Small Malaita.

The FAD releases are part of a $100,000 provincial government project to support livelihoods during COVID-19 restrictions. Work continues in the small island communities despite the current state of public emergency that is operating in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara. 

For years, the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office in Auki has supported coastal communities with the deployment of FADs. In May, the fisheries officers put FADs to sea near Kwai and Ngongosila Islands in East Malaita, and Musukwi in North Malaita. It plans to extend the use of FADs to the Malaita Outer Islands soon. 

Photo: Mathew Isihanua.

Ferry route an economic lifeline for Russell Islanders

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Over the years, the Gizo–Honiara ferry has provided an economic lifeline for the fishing community of the Russell Islands. This ship is moored at the wharf at Yandina, in the Russell Islands, to pick up the latest catch. The seafood is packed in ice in chiller boxes and will be sold in the Honiara markets.

The importance of the route has grown because of the on-off operation of the Yandina Fisheries Centre on Russell Islands.

The group of islands is in the Central Islands Province of Solomon Islands, and lies north-west of the national capital, Honiara. Gizo is the capital of Western Province.

The national government, through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, built fisheries centres around the country in 1984. But many of the centres, including the Yandina one, have often stood idle due to the lack of machinery to keep them running.

To get around this problem and maintain a flow of fish for sale at the Honiara market, fish vendors saw an opportunity to purchase fresh fish from the Russell Islands or tuna from Noro, in Western Province. 

Because the Yandina centre is not running at the moment, the ice has been brought from Honiara. However, this is about to change: an agreement has been signed to repair the Yandina Fisheries Centre and get it running again.

Solomons province begins work to develop Russell Islands fisheries

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HONIARA – The Central Islands Province (CIP) of Solomon Islands has commenced work to develop the fisheries sector in the Russell Islands group.

This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (M0U) on 30 April between the constituency (electoral division) of Savo–Russells, the Central Island Provincial Government and the Russell Islands Investment Forum (RIIF).

The group of islands lies north-west of the island of Guadalcanal, where the Solomons capital Honiara lies.

Fisheries are an untapped resource that have the potential to improve livelihoods in the Russell Islands once they are properly developed and managed by rural communities to supply local and regional markets.

The MOU was signed by Savo–Russells MP Dickson Mua, CIP Premier Stanley Manetiva, and RIIF chairman Lesley Assad Norris. It was the culmination of a consultative and mapping effort by national government officials and other stakeholders in early April.

In Solomon Islands, nine men and one woman stand for photo in a room. Three of them hold in front of them copies of the same document. They are RIFF chair Lesley Assad Norris , the MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, and Central Islands Province Premier Stanley Manetiva
The signatories of the MOU to develop the fisheries of Russell Islands are flanked by officials of the stakeholder organisations. Those holding copies of the MOU are, from left to right, RIFF chair Lesley Assad Norris , the MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, and Central Islands Province Premier Stanley Manetiva.


The mapping exercise was to organise fishermen and fisherwomen in the islands into distinct village fisheries committees. 

Nine villages, and a total of 300 fishers, were identified to kick off the project and work according to the fisheries framework.

The Yandina Fisheries Centre and the constituency fisheries centre were identified as suitable for providing facilities to assist fishers to stock up supplies for the fisheries development program. 

It is anticipated that the facilities will enhance the capacity to store, handle and transport fish to markets. They will soon be rehabilitated to meet minimum standards for fish storage and handling.

Struggle for reliable infrastructure

For years, fishing, copra and coconut have been the main source of income for the people of Russell Islands and Savo Island in the Central Islands Province.

However, the lack of facilities has been a challenge to fishers of these islands.

The Yandina Fisheries Centre has been the major ice cube supplier for fishers, but it currently lies idle and this has been a big setback for the fishers there. It was built by the national Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 1984, but has lacked the machinery needed to handle fish. When operating, it is also the main storage centre for local fishers who need to store their catches before they are shipped to the capital, Honiara, or other locations in the country.

A long, low building with a corrugated metal roof stands near the water. Two large plastic boxes stand in front. In the shallow water, a dingy with an outboard motor is at anchor.
The Yandina Fisheries Centre was built by the national Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 1984. It is currently run down.


A former officer in charge at Yandina, Talent Taipeza, said people were willing to fish. 

“In my view, we are the ones that failed them and their fishing business by slowing down in our ice supplier service,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is trying to make this place work. It has supplied us with fuel, but that has stopped. The machines have broken down and we are no longer receiving ice orders. 

“Due to that, the fishers have to bring their own ice blocks from Honiara when coming down here to fish.”

Head and torso photo of Talent Taipeza, a former officer in charge of the operations of Yandina Fisheries Centre, Russell Islands group of Solomon Islands
Talent Taipeza, a former officer in charge of the operations of Yandina Fisheries Centre


After years of dormancy, the centre resumed operation in 2016. However, after a few months, the machinery broke down again, forcing services to a halt.

Mr Taipeza said the ministry was trying to fully utilise the centre but the continuous breakdown of machinery was hampering efforts.

“Our ice machines have broken down. We made a little run with some European Union assistance but then the ice machines broke down,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“We have decided to halt operations until we get support again from the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation of Japan. They have been trying their best to see us run this centre by ourselves. They supplied us with a generator and the ice machines. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is supporting the projects.”

Two men (arms and one torso only visible) break up blocks of ice to add to bin of fish to be transported. On Russell Islands, Solomon Islands.
Russell Islands fish vendors break up blocks of ice into a chiller box to keep fish chilled while it is shipped to Honiara


The centre was also in “dire need” of piped water, so that the centre can go back into operation.

“For so long, the facility is lacking the support of water supply, and the province has tried its best to make water possible,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“Now there is water, but to make it reach the centre is a problem. My job is to look after the centre. I can do any work in starting the machine, running ice block and other things that fishermen need. But as long as water is connected through here, we will not have any more problems, we will run this facility full time,” he said.

Following the halt of operations, most fishers in the Russell Islands were demanding that more centres open.

With the assistance of the Member of Parliament for Savo-Russells Constituency, a new fisheries centre was built on Loun Island. It was funded by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

“We have the machines here such as refrigerators, generators and other equipment funded by the European Union and the OFCF. If the province can assist us in strengthening the operations of this fisheries centre, I believe people will benefit greatly from it,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“The most expensive machines that the province cannot meet are already here in this centre. They will just need to assist the centre with proper water and electricity.”

Small building with concrete block base and timber upper, with corrugated metal roof, with some scaffolding on parts of building
A fisheries centre built on Loun Island

Leaders optimistic about Russell Islands fishing industry 

Following a recent follow-up assessment of the project area and sites, provincial fisheries officer Jacob Piturara was positive about the project.

So, too, were all the communities consulted during the discussion phases. They pledged support to organise and develop their fisheries resources. 

Elders in Russell Islands stated that, while the fisheries development program undertaken by the province, constituency and local people was underway, it was also important to develop proper management and sustainable practices.

“For so long, the Yandina fisheries facility in the Russell Islands was non-serviceable. Most of the time, we have to travel to Honiara just to get ice cubes to store our fish stocks,” the elders said in a government statement.

A woman in Alokan, an island off Banika, said her husband had been a fisherman for the last 20 years. She supported the program because she saw the challenges and hardships that fishers faced in trying to make ends meet. 

She said she was pleased that Russell Islands fishermen would be able to organise and share experiences, and at the same time work on how best they could handle their fishing and basic needs.

The MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, said he was optimistic that everyone was working together to assist ordinary fishers and their families. 

Mr Mua said there were also more opportunities in the agriculture sector, especially the coconut industry.

The CIP Premier, Stanley Manetiva, said he wanted to build momentum for the fisheries program. 

“We are happy to have a plan moving forward, and the most important thing is the people must benefit from their resources and improve their everyday livelihoods,” Mr Manetiva said.

“Organisation is key. As the Premier for Central Islands Province, I will fully support initiatives that will place my people in a better position.”

The signing of the MOU for the Russell Islands fisheries development project was witnessed by interested fishers from the Malaita Outer Islands (Lord Howe). They, too, hope to develop a similar project for their rich fishing grounds.

A fresh vision to take Solomons tuna fishery into a bright future

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HONIARA – Although tuna has helped grow the Solomon Islands economy by bringing in jobs and government revenue, the country needs a fresh vision, according to homegrown fisheries law expert Transform Aqorau.

On World Tuna Day, Dr Aqorau said that Solomon Islands needed to reset its focus with fresh ideas so it could meet the growing challenges the tuna industry faced in the region.

He posed the question: what kind of vision does Solomon Islands want for its tuna fisheries by 2060?

Dr Aqorau, who is the CEO of iTuna Intel and a past chair of the Parties to Nauru Agreement, has a rich knowledge of the tuna industry – and of emerging challenges.

These included climate change, weak fisheries policies, a lack of technological advancement, and the need for more fisheries research. 

According to Dr Aqorau, Solomon Islands could see a bigger and better tuna fishery if it addressed these challenges.

Dr Transform Aqorau on deck of a purse-seine fishing vessel. Photo: Giff Johnson.
Dr Transform Aqorau on board the purse-seine fishing vessel Lojet during a two-week voyage. Photo: Giff Johnson.

Beyond COVID-19 and through climate change

Overshadowing this year’s celebration of World Tuna Day were two natural phenomena that are causing a lot of global uncertainty: COVID-19 and climate change. Dr Aqorau said they would both leave an imprint on Solomon Islands fisheries resources and on food security. 

They were forcing governments, businesses, individuals and communities to rethink how to manage fisheries and try to ensure that trade was uninterrupted, at a time where there were restrictions on the supply chain. 

“So far, the SEAPODYM (Spatial Ecosystem and Population Dynamics Model) that has been developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community is telling us that the population density of skipjack tuna, the primary source of Solomon Islands canned tuna product, is likely to shift to the eastern Pacific,” Dr Aqorau said.

It was therefore appropriate for Solomon Islanders to ask how they could respond to these challenges in a concerted and systematic manner. 

“We know that a second cannery is going to be built in Bina, in Malaita Province. Its feasibility and viability are going to depend on its capacity to secure a steady supply of tuna to maintain a consistent throughput for the cannery,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“Therefore, it is only appropriate to be asking questions about how we are going to guarantee that we can secure enough tuna resources to ensure the sustainability of Solomon Islands tuna industry.”

It was important to take a long-term view of the policies and the harvest strategies that were needed to ensure that the tuna stocks remained healthy and robust, and continued to support local communities.

“These are important considerations not just for Solomon Islands but for a number of Pacific Island countries as well.” 

Women under awnings with tables laid with fresh tuna for sale at market
Women sell tuna at the Honiara Central Market

Reforming policies the way forward

Dr Aqorau said it was “obvious” that Solomon Islands needed to review its fisheries policy and reshape its fisheries management regime so that it could accommodate these emerging challenges. To do this, it was necessary to understand how well the current systems were performing. 

“This could involve applying the fisheries governance diagnostic tools developed by MRAG Americas to test the performance of Solomon Islands fisheries management systems, and project the harvest strategy that will be required to support Solomon Islands tuna industry,” Dr Aqorau said.

The diagnostic test could look at the intersection between three factors to measure the current performance of the overall fisheries management systems. The first was whether there was a robust fisheries management policy in place. The second was whether the country had the capacity to implement that policy. The third looked at what measures and tools were in place to advance the policies.

Reviews should build on the framework of the Fisheries Management Act 2015, which needed amending, the draft Solomon Islands Tuna Management and Development Plan 2020–2025, and Solomon Islands National Ocean Policy. They should be utilised to reshape fisheries to help the country, including business, adapt to climate change.

Solomons as a hub of innovation

Dr Aqorau said there was “no doubt” that internet technology and advances in communication would significantly change the way business was conducted. With the right strategies, Solomon Islands could become the innovation hub for tuna development in the region. 

“This will require having a long-term vision to support such a development. But more broadly, it will require the promulgation of necessary regulatory frameworks, systems, and policies so that private–public partnerships in innovative research and development can be promoted,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“We should envision a fishery where innovation hubs are located within the same areas as the processing plants at Noro and Bina, providing tax-free areas for start-up technology and companies researching ways in which fisheries products can be value-added.”

Private–public sector partnerships could also provide ancillary services such as machining, welding, and net making.

In foreground man sliding a frozen tun along a chute, with other men behind him and fishing vessel in background
Workers offload tuna catches from the longline fishing vessel


The iTuna Intel boss suggested that Solomon Islands could also position itself to be the centre for innovative fisheries research.

This could be achieved by working with key partners such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Solomon Islands National University (SINU), and World Fish and other international ocean research institutions. 

“Solomon Islands has to be envisioning how it will be able to provide employment and enough throughput in 2060 in view of the anticipated shifts in the productivity of its EEZ, which is already subject to seasonal variations,” he said. 

“There is scope to investigate the development of more diverse range of fish products such as fish sausage, fish balls, and tuna shavings for soup. These are, perhaps, necessary as we look for ways in which food security can be ensured for Solomon Islands’ growing population. 

“It will also be necessary to look at how the markets will be reached, and to ask the question as to what kind of products will be exported and how can these be marketed using some of the emerging technology platforms,” Dr Aqorau said.

To achieve this vision for Solomon Islands in 2060, the country also needed to review the skills that existed and which ones would be needed in 40 years’ time. It needed to embrace state-of-the-art technology and work closely with other Pacific Island countries to ensure the sustainability of regional tuna resources.


This story is adapted from the message on a more sustainable life in Solomon Islands given by Dr Transform Aqorau on World Tuna Day 2020. 

On World Tuna Day, the Pacific states focus on flourishing

Categories FeaturesPosted on

HONIARA – The small island developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific celebrated this year’s World Tuna Day on 2 May with a virtual dialogue with a serious purpose.

The discussion involved the United Nations’ Group of Friends of the Oceans. The group is made up of countries that help to accelerate the full implementation of the United Nations Development Program’s sustainable development goal 14, which focuses on life below water.

In the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), the SIDS collect millions of dollars in revenue from the tuna fisheries they manage. The revenue is vital for income, employment and food for Pacific Islanders. 

They are working around the clock to ensure that the harvesting of tuna is kept at levels that allow the fish to maintain healthy populations. So far, the WCPO has managed to keep tuna numbers at sustainable levels. But this is becoming more difficult. They face the pressures of increasing demand and uncertainty over the availability of tuna as the ocean environments change.

This was the focus of the discussions on World Tuna Day.

The first World Tuna Day was held in 2017 following a vote in the United Nations. The aim of the day is to draw the attention of consumers, governments, industry and civil society to the pressures placed on tuna as a vital source of food and livelihoods. As pressure increases, the need for collective global action to sustain viable numbers of tuna also increases. 

Tuna lying on a plastic tarp. Photo Ronald Toito'ona.
Tuna offloaded from fishing vessels during transhipment at the port of Honiara. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona

In everyone’s interest to sustain tuna numbers

Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr Satyendra Prasad, took part in the dialogue on behalf of the Pacific SIDS. He spoke on the significance of tuna to the Pacific states and the need to be serious in its sustainability. 

“Tuna is a significant source of food and an economic driver for SIDS, with approximately 7 million tonnes of tuna landed yearly. The SIDS region alone provides just less than 40% of the global tuna catch,” Dr Prasad said.

He added that the Pacific states were reminding the world that “it is in the interests of both the small states of the Pacific and of the world that this resource be managed sustainably”. 

Dr Prasad reminded the UN audience that the intention of World Tuna Day 2020 was to focus global attention to the considerable pressures that tuna stocks around the world face from illegal fishing and overfishing, from harmful subsidies to fisheries, and from the effects of climate change. 

“Accelerating international action in achieving the SDG14 – Life Below Water should be part of the UN’s response. This should also become a core part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts – the recovery must be a sustainable blue recovery as well,” he said.

Head and upper body photo to Dr Satyendra PrasadFiji’s permanent representative to the UN. Photo: FBC TV.
Dr Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN. Photo: FBC TV.

An opportunity to explore incentives to improve economies

Dr Transform Aqorau, who is a past CEO of the Parties to Nauru Agreement and one of the Pacific’s leading tuna experts, took part in the dialogue from Honiara. He told the global audience that the Pacific Island states needed to think hard about how to keep the tuna industry sustainable. He said that, as well as challenges, COVID-19 presented opportunities to rethink the management of the tuna industry in the Pacific. 

“The Pacific tuna industry will suffer as quarantine requirements, suspension of flights, and disruptions to the supply chain will affect the supply of tuna to regional and global markets,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“This will have adverse impact on jobs in the Pacific and on foreign exchange earnings from the industry.”

However, the Pacific could use the opportunity to rebuild a more equitable Pacific tuna industry. 

“Pacific governments should explore incentive structures that encourage increased processing within the region,” he said. 

“They should also invest in expanding equity in tuna processing enterprises that rely on the Pacific’s tuna but which are based outside the Pacific region.” 

Dr Aqorau said that climate change and the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing of tuna in the region were a growing concern that Pacific governments needed to be fighting in the international arena.

Head and shoulders portrait of Dr Transform Aqorau. Photo Pacific Catalyst.
Dr Transform Aqorau, who spoke by video link from Honiara. Photo: Pacific Catalyst.

WCPFC celebrates the people who have kept tuna numbers sustainable

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPDC) contributed a statement to the dialogue. The organisation’s role in ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the tuna has attracted the greatest scrutiny of its work. 

The commission said in its statement that “intense scrutiny” occurred because Pacific communities and economies depended so heavily on tuna.

“From a conservation lens, it is gratifying for the WCPFC to celebrate World Tuna Day in the comfort of the knowledge that the four key commercial tuna stocks of the WCPO – namely bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and south Pacific albacore – are all assessed to be managed and maintained above the agreed sustainable levels,” the WCPFC said. 

“This is an achievement that is unmatched by any other regional ocean.”

WCPFC attributed it to the dedication, sacrifice and cooperation of members, cooperating non-members, participating territories and other stakeholders of the organisation.

Smiling man wearing bandana on head and large plastic apron holds whole bagged tuna on wharf. Fishing boat in background.
Offloading tuna at the Mua-i-walu wharf in Fiji … SIDS want to maintain populations of tuna in their waters to ensure a continued flow of revenue and economic opportunities

What do we want for tuna fisheries in 2060?

Dr Aqorau said the serious backdrop to this year’s World Tuna Day celebration was caused by two phenomena that had resulted in a lot of global uncertainty: COVID-19 and climate change.

They were forcing governments, businesses, individuals and communities to rethink how to manage their fisheries and ensure uninterrupted trade at a time where there were restrictions on the supply chain.

“Therefore, it might be well to ask ourselves on this occasion, what kind of vision we want for our tuna fisheries by 2060,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“We in Solomon Islands are forced to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on fish trade as well as the projected impacts of climate change. 

“So far, the SEAPODYM models that have been developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community are telling us that the population density of skipjack tuna, which is the primary source of Solomon Islands canned tuna product, is likely to shift to the eastern Pacific,” Dr Aqorau said.

He said that the combined consequences of the effects of COVID-19 and climate change meant it was appropriate to ask how the country was going to guarantee that it could secure enough tuna to ensure the sustainability of its tuna industry. 

“It is important to take a long-term view of the resources and the harvest strategies that will be needed to ensure that the tuna stocks remain healthy and robust, [so they do] enough to support the economy, ensure sufficient food security for Solomon Islands’ growing population, and also support throughput for Solomon Islands processing plants,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“These are important considerations not just for Solomon Islands but for a number of Pacific Island countries as well.” said Dr Aqorau.

He said it was “obvious” that Solomon Islands needed to review its fisheries policies and reshape its management regimes so that it was able to accommodate these emerging challenges. 

In order to plan for the future, it was necessary to understand how well the current fisheries management systems were performing, Dr Aqorau added.

“We need to take a futuristic look at Solomon Islands fisheries that will embrace the use state-of-the-art technology, and a whole different range of arrangements working closely with other Pacific Island countries to ensure the sustainability of our tuna resources. 

“We can start working on constructing a fresh vision for our tuna for 2060.”