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Water articles are written by ADB staff and external contributors on various water issues, reforms, and good practices.

Pacific: Looking Out for the Small Fry at Sea


Small fisherfolk and the tuna industry have something in common: both need improved management
By Marcia R. Samson NUKUALOFA, TONGA Tongan fisherman Siona Sisi catches about 20 kilos of fish a day after 5 hours of effort. He earns about 60 paanga ($28) a week from his fish catch, with about a third going to boat rental. For now, he can only dream of buying his own boat, which would cost about 10,000 paanga ($4,650). I do not want my children to be fishermen. I want them to work on the computer, says Mr. Sisi, a father of four. Fish and crops such as taro and yam plus fruit are always available, butlike many other Tonganshe says his family prefers eating imported meat, such as mutton. Small fisherfolk like Mr. Sisi are on their own. He dislikes the idea of working on a big fishing vessel that would take him away from his family for days. So he fishes for subsistence, always wishing he could save not just for a rainy day but for a Pacific cyclone. To help develop Tongas fishing industry, especially the commercial tuna fishing sector and support small fishermen like Mr. Sisi, ADB approved in 1990 a $2.4 million concessional loan from the Asian Development Fund. The aims of the Fisheries Development Project were to create more jobs, increase fisherfolks income, bring in foreign exchange earnings, help move toward a positive trade balance, and provide new investment opportunities in related activities including fish processing. Shore facilities were provided at the Faua Fisheries Harbor on Tongatapu Island, in the vicinity of Tongas major port of entry. These included a small office building, a warehouse, a workshop, and cold storage facilities. The project also financed the construction of two steel-hulled long-liners that were to be part of a commercial tuna fleet. But says Akauola, Secretary for Fisheries, more than just acquiring fixed assets, Tongas fishing industry needs better management. He cites the 2001 Tonga National Tuna Management and Development Plan. It aimed to maximize Tongas economic benefits from its tuna resources through both harvesting and processing. The Government, he says, also needs to divest itself of all commercial and semi-commercial activities and focus instead on core regulatory activities. Among the ventures it was involved in was Sea Star Fishing Company Limited. Established as a majority stateowned enterprise in 1990 by the Government, ADB loan proceeds from 1994 were used to further develop it. By the end of 1999, however, the company had accumulated losses despite industrial development incentives, and in 2001, the Government decided to divest itself of Sea Star, following the projects recommendation.

"I do not want my children to be fishermen. I want them to work on the computer" - Siona Sisi

FRESH CATCH Small fisherfolk are benefiting from the project through the creation of more jobs and increased incomes

According to a 2002 ADB report, Tonga: Natural Resource Use and Sustainable Socioeconomic Development, One of many lessons learned from the Sea Star experience is that Government should not be involved in commercial activities. Meanwhile, Siona Sisi still dreams of owning his own boat.
_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in 2003: http://www.adb.org/Documents/Periodicals/ADB_Review/2003/vol35_5/small_fry.asp.