Napoleon wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, probably taken from a spawning aggregation. Credit: Michael Giningele

Six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands comprise the Solomon Islands, located east of Papua New Guinea. The Solomon Islands are spread over 8 degrees of latitude and 14 degrees of longitude. A multitude of channels and extensive shallow coral reefs provide a wealth of habitat for fish spawning aggregations and many, involving a variety of marine species, have been reported by fishers. Many of those have been targeted by subsistence fishers for generations. However, more recently, commercialized fishing both for domestic export to the capital Honiara (Rhodes et al. 2019) and for the live reef food fish trade (starting in 1994) have resulted in aggregation losses, and declines in fish numbers throughout much of the country.

Although the LRFFT largely ceased following a national ban, domestic targeting of fish spawning aggregations continues, with ongoing declines documented for some sites (Hughes et al. 2020). In 2018, the Solomon Islands government instituted a 1 October to 31 January ban on the sale, export and possession of groupers to stem declines. However the nation’s large geographic scale and the known seasonal variations in spawning times mean that many aggregation sites remain unprotected from fishing under current legislation. As one of the Pacific Islands countries still practicing marine tenure, community-based management has great potential to assist in aggregation management.

Selection of useful publications on reef fisheries:

Doyle B, Harper S, Jacquet J, and Zeller D. 2012. Reconstructing marine fisheries catches in the Solomon Islands: 1950-2009. pp. 119-134. In: Harper, S., Zylich, K., Boonzaier, L., Le Manach, F., Pauly, D., and Zeller D. (eds.) Fisheries catch reconstructions: Islands, Part III. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 20(5). Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia [ISSN 1198-6727].

Hamilton RJ, Ginigele M, Aswani S, and Ecohard JL. 2012. Fishing in the dark-local knowledge, night spearfishing and spawning aggregations in the Western Solomon Islands. Biol Conserv 2012; 145(1): 246–257.

Hughes AT, Hamilton RJ, Choat JH, and Rhodes KL. 2020. Declining grouper spawning aggregations in Western Province, Solomon Islands, signal the need for a modified management approach. PLoS ONE 15(3): e0230485.

Hughes AT. 2017. Demographic and reproductive characteristics of the squaretail coralgrouper (Plectropomus areolatus) in Solomon Islands. PhD Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville

Rhodes KL, Tua P, Sulu R, Pitakaka P, Kekete P, Uti M, Funu F, and Masu R. 2019. Gear-based characterization of the Gizo, Solomon Islands, inshore commercial finfish fishery. Regional Studies in Marine Science 32: 100807.

Solomon Islands Government. MFMR. Solomon Islands National Fisheries Policy 2019–2029. A policy for the conservation, management, development and sustainable use of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Solomon Islands. Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Solomon Islands. 2019. 24 p