Fish Tales: Local fishing in the Kingdom of Tonga

  • Teena Brown Pulu


In the small island developing state of Tonga, an archipelago of 176 coral atolls scattered across 664,853 square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean, power and resourcing differentials dictate which people are permitted to be commercial fishermen and what groups do the subsistence kind, customary fishing.  A handful of Native Tongans engage in commercial exporting.  The tuna industry is dominated by foreign vessels, by foreign countries, that can afford the state fishing license and the operation costs.

The Government of Tonga has confined coastal communities to customary fishing as the sustainable development model, a solution beset with tension.  There is resource scarcity of inshore fishing stock.  When local fishermen are denied access to deep sea commercial fishing their chances at exporting and making profit are limited, tempting some to poach undersized stock and pressure the government to remove conservation sanctions on species at risk of depletion.  What options for livelihood from the sea do coastal communities have?  Related to this, what tensions emerge between the Tongan state and coastal communities wanting to be included in the commercial fishing industry?

How to Cite
Brown Pulu, T. (2013). Fish Tales: Local fishing in the Kingdom of Tonga. Te Kaharoa, 6(1).