I. SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND NATURAL RESOURCE SETTING
B. Resource base
3. Marine resources and their use
The 200-mile economic exclusion zone (EEZ) of Fiji, which covers some 1.3 million km2 of ocean, contains rich marine resources which have high potential for commercial exploitation and subsistence needs.
The principal offshore fishery catches include skipjack, albacore, yellow-fin and big-eye tuna. There is also a significant deep-water bottom fish resource (particularly snappers) on the outer slope of the reefs and on the sea mounts. In recent years, Fiji has developed a substantial industry based on the export of large tuna (yellow-fin and big-eye) to the sashimi markets in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Skipjack and albacore tuna (caught in the EEZ as well as imported) are canned by the government-owned Pacific Fishing Co. However, the cannery is now facing serious financial problems. Resource assessments by the South Pacific Commission indicate that the tuna resource is being fished at levels well below the maximum sustainable biological yield. However, there are indications that long-lining methods used in catching large tuna are having an adverse impact on the resource as well as other species.
The main inshore fishery comprises reef and inshore pelagic fish which are exploited mainly for subsistence living. There is also a substantial coastal pelagic fish resource (Spanish mackerel, trevally and mahimi). Close to urban markets the inshore resource is under pressure, which has implications for subsistence consumption. In recent years, the coastal pelagic resource has come under strain from the fishing practices of tuna long liners, some of which are operating illegally within the EEZ of Fiji. Fiji also has important crustacean and bêche-de-mer resources which are now under considerable management pressure.
The foundation of the marine food chain in Fiji is the extensive system of mangroves and coral reefs. The extent of the mangrove resource has never been accurately measured; however, best estimates put the resource at around 42,000 ha. There has been a net reduction in the mangrove area (estimated at 6 per cent) as the land has been converted to other uses (sugar cane plantations, tourism developments and urbanization). Fiji has an extensive and complex reef system, which comprises barrier, fringing and platform reefs. Some of the fringe reefs are under pressure from pollution, coral mining and hurricane damage.