Keeping Food on the Table: Human Responses and Changing Coastal Fisheries in Solomon Islands
Globally the majority of commercial fisheries have experienced dramatic declines in stock and catch. Likewise, projections for many subsistence fisheries in the tropics indicate a dramatic decline is looming in the coming decades. In the Pacific Islands coastal fisheries provide basic subsistence needs for millions of people. A decline in fish catch would therefore have profound impacts on the health and livelihoods of these coastal communities. Given the decrease in local catch rates reported for many coastal communities in the Pacific, it is important to understand if fishers have responded to ecological change (either by expanding their fishing range and/or increasing their fishing effort), and if so, to evaluate the costs or benefits of these responses. We compare data from fish catches in 1995 and 2011 from a rural coastal community in Solomon Islands to examine the potentially changing coastal reef fishery at these time points. In particular we found changes in preferred fishing locations, fishing methodology and catch composition between these data sets. The results indicate that despite changes in catch rates (catch per unit effort) between data collected in 2011 and 16 years previously, the study community was able to increase gross catches through visiting fishing sites further away, diversifying fishing methods and targeting pelagic species through trolling. Such insight into local-scale responses to changing resources and/or fisheries development will help scientists and policy makers throughout the Pacific region in managing the region’s fisheries in the future.