Sustaining Pacific Island Fisheries

Surrounded by 10 million square miles of ocean, Pacific Islanders rely on fish for their way of life.


> 80%
of revenue
Ten Pacific Island states (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu) derive 4 to 84 percent of all government revenue from tuna. Some 25,000 jobs in the region are also based on Pacific tuna fisheries.
2x - 4x
more fish consumption
Many Pacific Islanders consume two to four times more fish than people in other nations. Traditionally, most of this fish has come from coastal fisheries based mainly on species associated with coral reefs.
of global fish market
1.4 million metric tons of tuna are caught in the waters of Pacific Island countries each year, supplying more than 30 percent of the global market for tuna.

The threats

Increased demand for coastal fish species in the Pacific Islands fuels overfishing, which in turn threatens local food security, livelihoods and ecosystems. Climate change is compounding the problem by lowering harvests from coral reef fisheries. The warming ocean is also changing the distribution of tuna, threatening island economies.

Global warming is expected to progressively push tuna populations from the waters of 10 Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) into the high seas. This is a climate justice issue. The 10 Pacific SIDS have a deep economic dependence on tuna fishing but contribute little to global warming. They are expected to lose an average of 37 percent of government revenue as tuna shift from their waters. Limiting global warming is vital to stopping this climate injustice. For the Pacific SIDs, there must be negotiations around how they can maintain the benefits they receive from tuna as climate changes their habitat. Learn more at

​​​​​​​​​​​​Our role

Conservation International is strengthening community-based management to conserve fish habitats and maintain healthy fish stocks. We are also helping communities meet increasing demands for coastal fish and adapt to climate change by supporting a shift from catching primarily coral reef species to catching tuna.

We are also helping the Pacific Community and other Pacific Island fisheries agencies to better understand the effects of climate change on tuna. This knowledge will help identify the adaptations needed to reduce the risks of tuna ​redistribution to national economies.

​​​​​​​​​​​​Our plan

Strengthening community-based management of coastal fisheries

To help conserve coastal fish habitats and stocks for Pacific Islanders, Conservation International is implementing a people-centered fishery improvement model. Our approach harnesses the capacity of local communities and incorporates recommended governance reforms.

© Johan Bell

Diversifying the use of tuna to improve food security and livelihoods

Together with the Pacific Community (SPC) and national governments, Conservation International is helping coastal communities catch more tuna by expanding the use of nearshore fish-aggregating devices (FADs) anchored close to the coast.

Achieving sustainable fisheries

Conservation International is helping to sustain tuna fisheries by assisting SPC to identify the spatial structure of stocks, and develop better models for the responses of tuna to climate change.

Adding value to tuna

Conservation International and partners are collaborating with the private sector to assist Pacific Island countries to increase the value of tuna and to create more jobs based on tuna fisheries. This includes exchanges of knowledge between Pacific Island fisheries agencies and Iceland, a global leader in sustainable fisheries development. It also includes development of the Pacific Islands Ocean Cluster to foster start-ups in fish product innovation.

Our tuna initiative

© CI

Economic benefits of tuna fishing for Pacific Island countries

Our Tuna Initiative was designed to assist national and regional fisheries agencies implement the sustainability, value, employment and food security goals outlined in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.

This map shows the total catches of tuna in the exclusive economic zones of Pacific Island countries (5-year averages 2013-2017) and the contributions of tuna fishing license fees to government revenue in 2016.

View as a PDF

Key partners

Our work on climate change and tuna in the Pacific Island region is designed to support tuna science and management by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). We also work closely with the University of Wollongong.