Kiribati bans fishing in Pheonix Islands Protected Area

Hello environment lovers!

I come to you with some great news.  As of last week, the Kiribati Government has banned fishing in one of the most crucial marine areas in the Pacific.  Why such great news?  Well this particular area of the Pacific will now have the chance to not only flourish with coral but will also be enable marine species that are overly fished in this area to improve it’s numbers dramatically.

Just to catch you up on the details…

Kiribati is made up of three island groups: Gilbert, Line and Pheonix Islands.  The overall area that Kiribati encompasses is about the same size as Western and South Australia put together, about 3.5 million square kilometers.  However, their land mass makes it one of the tinest habitable countries in the world with all it’s citizens squeezing onto only 32 islands that make up a land mass of 800 square kilometers.

The Pheonix Islands in particular is home to some of the most outstanding marine life and in early 2008 the UNESCO added the Pheonix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) onto the list of World Heritage Areas.

Here are some quick facts as to why PIPA is so important (taken from PIPA website):

  • The Phoenix Islands reefs are what a reef might have looked like a thousand years ago.
  • These islands and surrounding waters cover 408,250 km2 and represent one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems.
  • PIPA also protects important seabird nesting grounds, along with rare traditional plants that have cultural and medicinal values in Kiribati but are now threatened on more populated islands.

Why the big deal?

Well since it was declared World Heritage Listed, the area became a protected site but Kiribati government were a little hazy on the details as to how they were managing the fishing out there.

PIPA is such a huge area and is home to some of the best bluefin tuna in the world.  Over the past years, bluefin tuna numbers have decreased dramatically with fishing companies being ‘encouraged’ to not fish in the protected area.  In reality, the actual banned area was officially only 3 percent of the entire Pheonix area.  So while the Kiribati government were saying they had made restrictions on PIPA, in 2012 alone, fishing companies hauled out over 50,000 tons of tuna in that exact spot.

So what happens now?

As of last week, Kiribati President Anote Tong, announced that PIPA will be officially banned for all commercial fishing by the end of the year.  In response to this, we can expect the numbers of tuna, billfish and sharks to double within a couple of decades, hopefully with a steady rise to their original numbers.  This promise to bans fishing in this area will hopefully lead to numbers increasing so much that they will eventually grow to move outside of the PIPA area and then will be available to catch outside the protected area.

The only concern is whether Kiribati actually has the resources and capabilities to actually enforce the law in such a large area.

However this is the best possible outcome for Pacific marine life and PIPA.  Congratulations to the current Kiribati Government for showing such support to one of the most important marine areas in the world.

For more information on PIPA click here

Kiribati fisherman


7 Comments Add yours

  1. John E says:

    Hi Marita, this does sound like a good outcome. What will it end up doing to the supply and cost of fish for the locals throughout Kiribati? Will it mean that less people will be able to eat fish, which if I remember correctly is a staple part of the diet? Just thoughts and questions.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for reading! I’m not too sure how it will effect the I-Kiribati people and the price of fish. I’ve tried to do some research but I can’t really find anything as yet. What I do know, is that most locals (and there’s not a huge amount on the Pheonix Islands) do their own fishing for their own family. So since this is only a ban on commercial fishing, I don’t actually think this will effect I-Kiribati families. I don’t think the government are particularly strict on local fisherman that catch and sell on the side of the road and I don’t think locals need a license to do this anyway. This mainly targets large international fishing boats since they will no longer be able to get a license. I’ll keep looking into it though!

  2. mdbrady says:

    Thanks for keeping me posted on what is happening. I just finished a book about the struggle to save the Great Barrier Reef in the 1960s or I won’t have any images. [I’ll be posting the review soon.] I do hope the ban in successful.

  3. Richard bond says:

    This is just lip service. There is no way in the world that Kiribati can afford to police the vast areas of the Phoenix Islands that Kiribati covers. Even if they sold fishing licences they still couldn’t afford to police it. Advertising an unenforceable no fishing zone may actually attract more fishing boats thinking there maybe a surfeit of fish.

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