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People and Reefs in the Pacific

ReefBase Pacific aims to improve quality and accessibility of data and information on reef-associated livelihoods, fisheries and biodiversity to support management, research and education. In the past, ReefBase global systems have managed and served information that predominantly relates to the location, status, and monitoring of coral reefs. ReefBase Pacific builds upon this foundation, by extending ReefBase systems to encompass a much broader range of information that supports a more holistic view of the people-reef dynamic.

The critical components of the dynamic relationship between people and reefs can be captured within four spheres: ‘People and Livelihoods’; ‘Natural Systems’; ‘Institutions and Governance’; and ‘External Threats and Opportunities’, as depicted below. These sectors have often, in the past, been considered in isolation. However, there is a growing awareness amongst researchers, managers and policy makers that effective and sustainable management of people-reef systems requires knowledge and active consideration of the components within all spheres, as well as interactions between spheres.
The 'sphere search' in the ReefBase Pacific Database allows you to locate information that falls within the categories of ‘Natural Systems’, ‘People and Livelihoods’, ‘Institutions and Governance’ or ‘External Threats and Opportunities’. Information that considers the links between these spheres can be located by selecting more than one sphere.

A comprehensive overview of the status, issues and future of the management of the people and reef systems in the Pacific is provided below (see pages 1-5 for overview).

ReefBase Pacific Country Profiles present key statistics that summarise demographics, socio-economic condition and the land and reef resource base of individual Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). The maps below provide a regional-scale comparative overview of some of these variables: total population (Figure 1), land area (Figure 2), population density (Figure 3), gross domestic product (Figure 4), reef area (Figure 5) and projections to 2030 of the potential for coastal fisheries to meet national food security needs (Figure 6). Underlying statistics are best available estimates of national averages, which are presented and referenced within the Country Profiles (locate via menu on left). Values are presented as colour-coded Economic Exclusive Zones. Other geographic data are presented in Pacific ReefGIS.

Figure 1 - Total Population
Populations of PICTs range from approximately 50 people in Pitcairn Island to around 6 million in Papua New Guinea, which accounts for 65% of the total population of the region. Of the 22 PICTs considered here, 19 have a population of less than 200 000.

Figure 2 - Total Land Area (km²)
15 PICTS have a total land area of less than 1 000 km². Many PICTS are comprised of hundreds of small islands (e.g. Solomon Islands consists of around 800 small islands) and the total land area of all PICTs is 541 000 km² (of which Papua New Guinea accounts for circa 83%). This land area may be compared with those countries of Pacific rim, such as Australia (7 686 850 km²), Japan (377 835 km²), USA (9 826 630 km²) and New Zealand (268 680 km²).

Figure 3 - Population Density (people per km²)
Six PICTs have an average national population density of less than 20 people per km² (e.g. comparable to Australia and New Zealand), six have between 20 and 100 people per km² (e.g. comparable to USA), six have between 100 and 300 people per km² (e.g. comparable to Indonesia and Philippines) and four PICTS have a population density of over 300 people per km² (e.g. comparable to Japan and South Korea). Certain islands and urban centers within many PICTS have population densities much higher than the national average.

Figure 4 - Gross Domestic Product per Capita (purchasing power parity)
Of the PICTs considered here, Kiribati has the lowest reported GDP per capita (approximately 800 dollars) and Guam has the highest reported GDP per capita (approximately 21 000 dollars). Estimated GDP per capita falls below 3 000 dollars in ten PICTs; this places the nations within the same range internationally as countries such as Sudan, Armenia, El Salvador and Morocco.

Figure 5 - Reef Area (km²)
Reefs are a critical habitat supporting coastal fisheries and providing food to the people of the Pacific. The reef area available to a country may be related to the potential coastal fisheries resources available for harvesting (see Figure 6), although reef health, productivity and biodiversity are also important factors influencing resource availability. New Caledonia, Federated States of Micronesia and Tonga have the highest reef areas (> 5000 km²), while Nauru, Niue and Pitcairn Islands have the lowest reef areas of the PICTS (< 40 km²).

Figure 6 - Projection to 2030 of coastal fisheries potential to meet national food security needs.
On the basis of recommended or current levels of fish consumption, and estimates of coastal fisheries production, the coastal fisheries in 11 of 22 PICTs are projected to be unable to supply the fish needed for food security in 2030. In addition, five PICTs may face problems in redistributing coastal fisheries production to meet nutritional needs.
Source: Bell, J. D., M. Kronen, A. Vunisea, W.J. Nash, G, Keeble, A. Demmke, S. Pontifex, S. Andrefouet. 2008. Planning the use of fish for food security in the Pacific. Marine Policy, doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2008.04.002.
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