The Pacific Islands, comprised of American Samoa, Guam, Hawaiʻi, the Northern Mariana Islands, and other U.S. Pacific Islands, are surrounded by a rich diversity of marine life that is vital to our culture and economic stability. We thrive on sustainable seafood; it's key to our health and well-being. We also benefit from recreational and commercial fishing industries, which contribute nearly $1 billion in sales and 10,000 jobs to our economy. In 2015, commercial fishermen landed more than 36 million pounds of finfish and shellfish.
We are home to the lovable, yet critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal—only 1,500 remain. Other popular species include green sea turtles, spinner dolphins, false killer whales, and humpback whales. Our coral reefs support about 25 percent of marine life, but these areas are among the most threatened ecosystems because of the effects of natural events and human activities such as ocean acidification, coral bleaching and disease, marine debris, and pollution.
Our work to ensure sustainable fisheries and protect marine life is a joint effort between NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, offering cutting-edge science to help inform management decisions in an ever-changing environment. We work together to conserve and manage domestic and international marine resources in a vast geographical area.
Our vision for the region is to achieve sustainable fisheries and seafood, healthy marine ecosystems that provide stability for fishery resources, recovery of threatened and endangered species, and enhanced opportunities for commercial, recreational, and cultural activities in the marine environment.
We provide science to support the conservation and management of fisheries and living marine resources across the Pacific Ocean. We are dedicated to the recovery and conservation of protected species and fisheries resources through biological, ecological, and social science.
Fishery management in the Pacific Islands supports the region's fisheries through the development, evaluation, and implementation of fishery policy and legislation. The Pacific Islands Regional Office provides guidance to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council in developing fishery management plans for commercial and non-commercial domestic fisheries. This ensures that plans are supported by required analyses and are consistent with all applicable laws. Staff coordinate and administer the processing of proposed and final regulations to implement fishery management plans that are approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
Our objectives are to maintain healthy stocks, eliminate overfishing, and rebuild overfished stocks important to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. Under these objectives, the goal is to increase long-term economic and social benefits to the nation from living marine resources. We strive to facilitate communications among constituents, and support seafood safety in the region.
Managing protected species includes issues surrounding marine mammal and sea turtle injury and mortality as a result of commercial and non-commercial fishing, coastal development, military operations and other ocean/beach usage. We oversee the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, working with partners and volunteers to respond to live and dead stranded or distressed marine mammals in the main Hawaiian Islands. We also work with partners and stakeholders to create effective messages and outreach materials and volunteer programs, as we believe that an informed public is integral to the protection and recovery of our protected species.
The NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands region encompasses a large percentage of the nation's ocean habitat to support fisheries stocks, marine mammals, coral reef ecosystems, and a broad spectrum of marine life. These ocean habitats include essential fish habitat under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, seamounts, trenches, and ridges, much of which occurs in the four Marine National Monuments. These ecosystems are important to Pacific Island communities, including Native Hawaiians, Chamorros , Carolinians, and American Samoans, for food, cultural practices, recreation, and overall livelihood. The Pacific Ocean exposes the islands’ coral reefs to large open ocean swells and equatorial currents, which play an important role in structuring the coral ecosystems in and around the Monuments, seamount, trenches, and ridges habitats, as well as the multitude of Pacific Islands.
Our habitat protection efforts include broad research programs on the marine habitat throughout the Pacific Islands region. Our goal is to conserve, protect, and restore marine habitat and coastal ecosystems. The management objectives and priorities for the Pacific Islands include Monument management efforts and the Fisheries Local Action Strategy, a collaborative effort to decrease fishing-related impacts to coral reefs locally. These efforts include:
- Habitat mapping and characterization
- Physical and biological oceanography studies
- Research on a variety of marine habitat issues, including marine debris, invasive species, and pollutant
We also work to increase partnerships with other federal and local authorities. These partnerships allow us to maintain sustainable coastal ecosystems and implement strategies that minimize the introduction and impacts of alien species and marine pollution. We provide technical reviews of all proposed federal actions in coastal habitats in the Pacific Islands region to eliminate or reduce potential negative environmental impacts on the marine habitat.
Featured Species in the Pacific Islands
We maintain and manage healthy ocean ecosystems that promote and provide sustainable fisheries, conserve and recover protected marine resources, and enhance opportunities for commercial, recreational, and cultural activities in the Pacific Islands region.