Fisheries Department


Fisheries Department logo

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.


Fisheries Industries

Industrial fishing

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 Fisheries

Vanuatu has approximately 2500 kms of coastline with, fishing having historical and present importance to its economy and as sustenance to its population.

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

Lobsters for sale to Cruise Ships.

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.

Fisheries Act No. 10 of 2014

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.


Fisheries Regulation Order No. 28 of 2009

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.


Fisheries Policies and Plans

The Department of Fisheries has a number of policies and plans including:

  1. Aquaculture Development Plan - The Vanuatu Aquaculture Development Plan is a five-year strategic plan that represents a significant step in outlining the aquaculture road map for Vanuatu for the near future. It highlights the main components, including research and development, extension, infrastructure, credit and finance facilities, and environmental management.


  2. Coconut crab Plan - This Management Plan is the outcome of the research and related work that has been completed over the past 20 years within Vanuatu on the biology and management of coconut crabs that are explicitly included in the definition of 'fish' under the Fisheries Act.


  3. MCS and Inspection Plan - This document is the Vanuatu Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) and Inspection Plan. The development of this plan is part of Vanuatu's reporting obligations to the EU but with an overall aim of improving the management and control of the foreign fishing vessels within Vanuatu EEZ and the Vanuatu flagged fishing vessel fleet active around the world. The objective of this plan is to provide a guide to the Vanuatu Fisheries Department in operationalising its coastal, port and flag State MCS responsibilities.


  4. Vanuatu National Marine Aquarium Trade Management Plan - This Plan applies to the managed fishery relating to the species of fish, invertebrates, corals (dead or live), giant clams and other related organisms known as marine aquarium products and, applies to all activities under the definition of 'fishing' as defined in the Fisheries Act.


  5. Tuna Fishery Management Plan - With the assistance of the Forum Fisheries Agency, a Vanuatu tuna management plan was formulated. The management plan was produced in April 2000 and subsequently adopted by the government in 2001. The plan covers all highly migratory tuna species including Albacore tuna, Yellowfin tuna, Bigeye tuna, and Skipjack as well as all other species taken in the course of fishing for tuna.

  6. National Action Plan on IUU - This action plan deals with Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Vanuatu with the aim to curb 'unlawful practices at sea'.

  7. National Action Plan on Sharks - The plan deals with the assessment and management of shark fisheries in Vanuatu.

Fisheries Corporate Plan 2014-2018 Objectives

To maintain a robust financial and administrative framework that assures effective and efficient delivery of program services to the people of Vanuatu.

Administration Support Services

To increase fisheries compliance and enforcement measures in accordance to the provisions of the Fisheries Act and relevant international fisheries treaties.

Effective Compliance and Enforcement

To develop the capacity of the development and utilization of fisheries resources, particular attention to rural areas, to enhance sustainable livelihoods.

Increase Development & Production capacity

To develop management frameworks, based on best available technical information, that assure sustainable harvesting of major commercial fisheries resources with maximum economic returns.

Management & Policy

To increase and improve livelihood options through aquaculture developments by way of increasing and distributing sufficient post larval prawn and GIFT tilapia fingerlings to at least 3 semi-commercial farmers per each provinces.

Aquaculture Development

To regularly assess the status of the stocks of the main fisheries resources of cultural and economic importance, using best stock assessment models that assure the fisheries resources are being managed and utilized sustainably.

Coastal Fisheries Resources

To develop and implement safety standards for seafood products and fish processing and exporting establishments for the export and domestic markets

Seafood Verification