Fishing Community Profiles

Residents from all areas of Guam are members of the 
            Guam Fishermen's Cooperative.
Residents from all areas of Guam are members of the Guam Fishermen's Cooperative.

National Standard 8 (NS8) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires that NMFS, in establishing fisheries conservation and management measures, take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in order to: (1) provide for the sustained participation of such communities; and, (2) to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities. To enable fisheries managers to comply with NS8, NMFS social scientists around the nation are preparing fishing community profiles that present the features and characteristics of such communities. PIFSC has published or is developing four such profiles: one each for Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

In March 2008, PIFSC researcher Stewart Allen, with contractor Paul Bartram, published a profile of Guam as a Fishing Community (Administrative Report H-08-01, 0.9 MB PDF). The goal of the profile was not simply intended to meet the requirements of MSA's NS8, but to "provide a sociocultural context for fishing that will assist the community of Guam as it adjusts to the coming military buildup and future challenges. Monitoring the institutional, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of fishing will continue to be just as important as monitoring fish populations and habitat in Guam's ability to sustain itself as a fishing community." To this end, the report will be updated regularly.

The 54-page report contained sections on introduction and purpose; a description of Guam's population and economy, including trends in the economic role of fisheries-related activities; an historical overview of fishing on Guam; community dependence on fishing and seafood; a description of shoreline and inshore fishing patterns including habitat, institutional, social, and economic issues; and a description of offshore fishing patterns and associated issues.

Guam children enjoy a 4-H outing to learn about chenchulu 
            fishing.
Guam children enjoy a 4-H outing to learn about chenchulu fishing.

A conclusions section described categories of variables which should be monitored to evaluate the sustainability of Guam as a fishing community. While some of the key trends to monitor were biophysical, such as the abundance and diversity of fish and other harvested species and the species and habitats on which they depend, others were based on social, cultural, and institutional characteristics. For example, the addition of some 21,000 (estimate at the time) military personnel and dependents to Guam over the next 6 to 8 years makes it critical to address any resulting impacts on the local quality of life, especially as it relates to fishing and other marine activities. Currently the government of Guam has a process (the Civilian/Military Task Force) designed to address the positive and negative effects of military buildup on Guam's population, economy, and resources. One variable to monitor is the extent to which the concerns of and impacts to fishermen are successfully incorporated into and resolved by this process.

Because of its many roles, The Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association is a critical institution for sustaining Guam as a fishing community. Key aspects to monitor include membership levels and composition, status of its planned new building and expansion of services, volume and types of purchases and sales, ability to implement and sustain voluntary catch reporting, community perceptions of the GFCA, and its role as a political entity in representing the interests of fishermen. Another key aspect includes the efforts of the GFCA and associated communities to address the military buildup.

PIFSC published a similar report on American Samoa as a Fishing Community (1.7 MB PDF) in 2009. The role of fishing as a central and organizing force for communities in American Samoa has undergone dramatic changes over the past 50 years or more. The islands' population has more than tripled over that time period, with a steady shift from a largely subsistence-oriented economy to a cash-based economy. Fishing events such as the annual atule and palolo harvests continue to organize and mobilize many villages, but a smaller percent of American Samoans are taking part in these activities today, and the role of fishing as a central aspect of community within American Samoan life and culture has become less prominent over time. Fishing and marine resources are universally considered to be important aspects of faʻa samoa, the Samoan way of life, but access to cash income and ready availability of food imports have made American Samoans less inclined to engage in fishing.

While change in nearshore fishing effort for subsistence purposes has not been consistently measured, a significant downward trend is evident since the 1980s. The catch rate for the outer islands, which have not experienced the same increase in population as the main island of Tutuila, is not decreasing in the same way that it is on Tutuila.

The fishing community profile for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands can be downloaded here:

Allen SD, Amesbury JR
2012. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as a fishing community. U.S. Dept. Of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-36, 90 p.

Updating the Guam and American Samoa Fishing Community Profiles

Human Dimensions researchers will be supplementing the existing fishing community profiles for Guam and American Samoa by capturing the major events, new data available, and changes in conditions relevant to the communities' status as fishing communities. Both profile updates will discuss: demographic and economic changes as reflected in the 2010 census and local government reports; social effects of development of annual catch limits for many local fish species; perceptions of and reactions to new fisheries management measures enacted by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and local government; and other information as requested by stakeholders.

The Guam profile update will specifically address the factors named in the Conclusions chapter of the existing profile: abundance and diversity of fish and other harvested species; access to shoreline resources; status of the Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association; level and type of organization among shoreline fishermen; attitudes of fishermen toward Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); progress toward community-based management; effects of the current military buildup; and recovery from natural hazards. In addition, new topics will include the 2009 establishment of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and associated effects (including the results of two social research studies conducted by PIFSC) and results from a new study of the Guam small boat fleet conducted by PIFSC.

The American Samoa profile update will specifically address the factors named in the Conclusions chapter of the existing profile: the status of cannery operations; economic conditions; trends in fisheries, fishing tournaments, and fish markets; evolution of the Community-Based Fisheries Management Program; status of the territorial no-take MPA program; coral reef local action strategies; trends in Western Samoa and connections to American Samoa; and population and associated trends in the Manuʻa Islands. In addition, new topics will include: a description of the 2009 tsunami and its effects; the 2009 establishment of the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and associated effects (including social research being conducted by American Samoa Community College); and the expansion of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Grace-McCaskey CA
2015. American Samoa fishing community profile: 2013 update. Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Administrative Report H-15-04, 30 p. DOI: 10.7289/V5W66HQ4

Related conference presentations include the following:

Allen SD, Glazier E
2005. Island communities: Implications for fisheries resource management. Presentation at Society for Applied Anthropology annual conference, Santa Fe, NM, April 10, 2005.
Allen SD
2004. The emerging role of community in fisheries law and policy: A review and case study from Hawaii and the Western Pacific. Presentation at International Symposium for Society and Resource Management, June 5, 2004, Keystone, CO.