Project Documents






Coral reef fisheries in the Pacific region exhibit a number of important (and inter-related) characteristics relevant to management by centralized State agencies. Typically, they are small-scale, communications between the communities and urban/administrative centres are poor and the fisheries systems are diverse in their individual institutional and environmental attributes. Considerable interest has arisen in the potential for community-state partnerships as a means of attaining more effective management of such widely dispersed artisanal fisheries. It has been assumed that customary management activities are beneficial, both to the community and in terms of the sustainability of the natural resources. Therefore, one approach may be to combine the best components of traditional, or CMT systems, with appropriate intervention and advice from the state.


This was a demand led project, arising from a 1995 MRAG poll of research demands of South Pacific Commission (now the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities) member states. In order to evaluate the performance of CMT regimes, a multidisciplinary approach was utilised. Assessments were made of the social and institutional arrangements of fishing communities. Assessments were also made of the fisheries resources and the impacts of management interventions using catch/effort sampling and underwater visual census to generate a database. The Oakerson Framework (Oakerson, 1992) was used to structure the complex information generated from each project component and was then applied diagnostically to draw conclusions on the institutional performance of CMT systems.

Oakerson, R.J. (1992) Analysing the commons: A Framework. In: Making the commons work -

Theory, Practice and Policy. ed. D.W. Bromley, ICS Press, San Francisco, 1992. 319pp.


A data-set of the socio-economic environment and multi-species fisheries was produced for CMT study sites, and a cadre of local staff were trained in rural appraisal and catch/effort sampling techniques. These outputs enabled comparative analysis of the performance of CMT systems in effecting ecological sustainability and equity of community-based management.

In neither Vanuatu nor Fiji did Customary Fishing Rights Area (CFRA) boundaries relate to the underlying distribution of the fisheries stocks. CFRA demarcation (and use) was defined according to wider political and social community attributes. In small communities in Vanuatu, cooperation between stakeholder groups across adjacent CFRA units was universal and sharing of marine resources across time/space was usual. Equity was more variable in Fiji, typical in small, largely indigenous communities, but rare for sites where fishing pressure, particularly commercial, was significant.

Few examples existed of community institutions specifically established for marine resource conservation and the majority of management actions (e.g. closed areas, effort and gear controls) had a suite of diverse objectives. However, within a co-management framework, these customary 'management' activities could be adapted for the purpose of achieving long term sustainability with advice from government fishery departments.

The following: 'Guidelines towards effective co-management of coral reef fisheries in the Pacific region' were produced.