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The fisheries sector comprises the oceanic and coastal fisheries resources which are exploited at the subsistence, artisanal and industrial levels.
Subsistence activities include coastal line and net fishing targeting demersal and small pelagic reef and lagoon fish, as well as reef gleaning and collection of shellfish and other invertebrates.
Most of the catch is for home consumption or family distribution, but where markets or handling and distribution facilities exist some part may be sold.
The subsistence fishery is becoming increasingly cash-oriented around urban areas, with varying portions of the catch being sold, as such effective and efficient CMMs are needed to be put in place to manage, monitor and control harvest.
Artisanal fishing with bottom hand lines primarily targets deep-water snappers and groupers. Improvements in catching, preservation, processing, transportation and marketing are needed.
The current domestic fisheries production is not sufficient to meet a rapidly growing population. Commercial harvest of oceanic fisheries resources are landed in overseas ports; as such, little economic activity is generated within Vanuatu from these activities.
The Department of Fisheries is currently engaged in facilitating and promoting Aquaculture development of freshwater fish species as an alternative measure to address poverty, food security, and diversity of eco-activities.
The Fisheries Department launched a website as of October 2014.
In Vanuatu, the commercial fishery is more associated with offshore tuna fishing. The major targeted species include the albacore, big-eye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna. In Vanuatu, tuna resources are a very important generating about USD 1 million in access license fees annually.
Since Vanuatu has limited capacity to exploit its tuna resources at a commercial level, the tuna industry is dominated by foreign vessels consisting mainly of long-liner fleets and a few purse-seine and pole and line boats.
Other marine resources harvested for commercial purposes include both beche-de-mer that are dried and exported primarily to Asian Countries where they are a delicacy as well as, trochus and green snaild mainly for making buttons, jewellery and inlay works.
Vanuatu's Aquaculture sector is in its infancy with good potential to develop further in the future. The principle focus of aquaculture development in Vanuatu is to increase food security. Also important is the desire to reduce the pressure on wild stocks.
By promoting fish farming, it is anticipated that gradually attention will be diverted from the wild stocks to farming. Currently attention is directed towards freshwater farming of tilapia. The main target species for mariculture are prawn, trochus, green snail, giant clam, seaweed and corals.
Subsistence fishing activities mainly take place near the shore and extend just beyond the edges of reefs.
The activities employed include gillnetting, line, shellfish gathering, spearfishing, traps and various traditional fishing practices such as fishing with bows and arrows.
In the subsistence fishery all members of the community including men, women and young adults may participate in the fishing activities. The current economic value of subsistence fishing is unknown, however it's estimated production in 1993 was about 2,400 tons.
Artisanal fishing refers to fishing by customary resource owners in Vanuatu where they are entitled by custom or law to fish.
The artisanal fishery consists of the deep bottom snapper fishery, grouper fishery and the tuna fishery within the inshore areas.
Catches are sold and consumed locally. There are two main fish markets in Port Vila where fishermen sell their catch. In addition, a number of supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in the two towns of Vanuatu provide regular customers to the fishermen.
However, currently there is no systematic data collection system in place to substantiate the volume and value of the catch. Artisanal fishers are scattered throughout the rural areas of Vanuatu and contribute significantly to the economy especially at the rural level.
The Department of Fisheries now operates under the purview of a new Act that has repealed the Fisheries Act [CAP 315] that makes provisions for the management, development and regulation of fisheries within Vanuatu waters, and for the control of fishing vessels entitled to fly the flag of Vanuatu outside of Vanuatu waters in a manner consistent with Vanuatu's international obligations, and for related matters.
The Fisheries Regulations Order No. 28 of 2009 is a 105 page document that outlines regulations for the implantation of most aspects of the Fisheries Act.
The Department of Fisheries has a number of policies and plans including: