Helping rebuild people’s livelihood on Shepard’s Islands through Fisheries training

Sep 9, 2016

Participants constructing the Fish Aggregate Devise (Photo: UNDP/Donald Wouloseje)

Shepard’s Islands, Vanuatu: The offshore islands of Efate extending to the Shepard’s have been part of the hardest hit islands during Tropical Cyclone Pam early last year, which caused much destruction on their livelihood.

While the people depend on sustainable farming to meet their basic needs, the islands are rich with marine resources that they also depend on for their daily income. Local fishermen pay for schools fees and their basic needs with the little income they earn from fishing. 

Fishing has been part of their livelihood but generates income on an irregular basis as it depends on a number of factors such as the weather. Coastal fishing for daily sustenance has built into their lifestyle for many years and a lot of traditional fishing methods are still applicable for the islanders.

As part of an ongoing recovery effort with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Vanuatu Government’s Fisheries Department, a fisheries training program was designed specifically to improve the fishing skills and techniques of the fishermen in the Shepard’s islands.

In early August, the Fisheries Training on the Construction of Fish Aggregate Device and Fishing Techniques was conducted on Makira Island with trainees from the surrounding islands of Emae, Makira and Mataso. They were trained on constructing and deploying a Fish Aggregate Device (FAD) to attract fish to a specific location that is regarded as a fishing ground. 

The FAD is specifically tailored for Vanuatu and is referred to as the Vatuika – the artisanal FADs to improve food security and develop small scale domestic fisheries and sustainable management of near-shore marine resources. The Pacific Community’s Coastal & Oceanic Fisheries program is now promoting the Vanuatu model of FAD or the Vatuika, for other Pacific Island countries to use as it is simple and low cost in construction and maintenance. The intention is to shift the fishing effort from near-shore to off-shore fishing and increase the landing and marketing of catches to reduce pressure on reef fish, other coastal marine resources while improving income needs for the local communities.

The training also focused on fishing techniques, where they learned practical skills of improving their catch particularly on bottom-sea fishing and trolling within the vicinity of the FAD to catch prime tuna species and other high value deep sea fish such as the silver red snapper or Paulet.

Fish Aggregate Devises were deployed successfully and used two days later to catch fish by trolling and bottom fishing (Photo: UNDP/Donald Wouloseje)


According to the Chairman of Mataso Island Fishermen Association, Robsen Firiam said, “I have been a fisherman for a couple of years now, and to bring this training to our islands is the right decision as it addresses the real need for us as fishermen.”

“Now we will become more efficient in our fishing activities with less time and fuel that cost us a lot in our budget,” he added. 

“We use to spend many hours in the sea for our catch and use a surmountable amount of fuel. However, with the deployment of these two FADs, it will increase our catch and of course we can make more money to improve our livelihoods in these islands.”

The training was designed specifically to meet the local context of the fishermen in the Shepard’s islands and applying the fishing techniques around the FADs will improve performance of the fishermen and to a great extent increase their catch, which can translate into more earnings to support their families and development of Shepard’s islands.

“The technical training is to empower Shepherds fishermen by upgrading their existing fishing skills. The follow up training will consider the fish handling aspect, the marketing and business development fisheries industry throughout Shepherds,” said Smith Tebu, the Vanuatu Livelihoods for Resilience Initiative Project Coordinator who conducted the training in collaboration with the Fisheries Training Department. 

More than 30 fishermen attended the five-day technical training. “The fishermen were very pleased with the training as it will surely improve the livelihoods of the people on Shepard’s Islands.” 

Plans are underway for UNDP to support the Shepard’s Islands Fishermen Associations with fishing equipment such as solar deep freezers, fishing boats and fishing gears to improve the fishing industry on the islands.

Contact Information

Donald Wouloseje, UNDP Programme Analyst; Tel: +678 24655; email: or

Emily Moli, UNDP Knowledge Communications Analyst; Tel: +679 3227 504; email:

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