August 29, 2012, Kiribati - This week is the Pacific Islands Forum and leaders from around the world are discussing the importance of healthy oceans, a particularly pressing issue for the small countries of the Pacific. In this region whole economies and populations depend on fisheries for their survival.
Made up of 32 atolls and one island spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean, an area about the size of India, the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati has the biggest water to land ratio in the world. You are never more than 500 meters away from the sea, and it permeates i-Kiribati culture, provides nearly all of the country’s food and more than half of its GDP. With no refrigeration, fish is caught and sold on a daily basis, with about 80 percent of the population engaged in fishing for their livelihoods.
“We call the sea in Kiribati our Mother Ocean,” said Claire Anterea, Convenor of the Climate Action Network in Kiribati. “We eat fish in the morning for breakfast, we eat fish for lunch and we eat fish at dinner time. And in our day, we get money also from our ocean. Young people, the men go out fishing, and then the women sell the fish along the roads.”
Fisheries are a critical source of income in a poor country. Swimming through the vast expanse of Kiribati’s exclusive economic zone is one of the country’s richest and most abundant resources, some of the world’s last remaining tuna. 60 percent of the global tuna catch is now drawn from the Western and Central Pacific ocean.