Pêche, Aquaculture et Ecosystèmes Marins
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Improving the management of deepwater snapper resources in Pacific Island countries


To improve the stock assessments for deepwater snapper in Pacific Island countries to allow sustainable development of the fishery, while developing national capacity to undertake this kind of work.



Deepwater snapper are an important fisheries resource in a number of Pacific Island countries. Caught on the outer reef slope and around seamounts, they are out of the range of many small-scale inshore fishers and have largely escaped the overfishing that characterizes the more valuable inshore resources. Snappers are good-eating, and because of their deepwater habitat they are not subject to ciguatera poisoning which makes large reef fish a risky choice in many of the small island countries. They support export fisheries, notably in Tonga, supplying a market in Hawaii. In countries with tourist industries they are sought after by hotels and restaurants, and can command relatively high prices. While there are a number of species with different characteristics, deepwater snapper are generally large but slow-growing by tropical standards. In many cases, fisheries have developed on a previously unfished resource, yielding impressive catches at first which soon declined. There is a lack of management plans in most PICTs except the US territories and Tonga, and a lack of information on the status of stocks which could be used to develop plans. In recent meetings of Heads of Fisheries, Pacific Island Countries have called on SPC to assist with stock assessments of this resource. This follows a more general request for assistance to develop national capacity for fisheries stock assessment.

A recent review of snapper fisheries management measures in PICTs1 identified requirements that are not being met in most. These include:

  • Application of financial and human resources to ensure collection of high quality data of sufficient coverage to meet the needs of management; and
  • Availability of scientific and technical expertise familiar with the resources, their assessment and management.


This project will address these needs, while building capacity in-country to sustain data collection systems and stock assessment skills. The project will focus on Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu in line with priorities identified in SPC Joint Country Strategies.

1 McCoy M.A. 2010. Overview of deepwater bottomfish fisheries and current management activities in Pacific Island countries and territories. SPC report (in press).

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For more information, please contact: Ashley Williams Deepwater Snapper Scientist in Ecosystem (National Scientific Support)

This Program is funded by the Australian aid program

Outputs related to the project

Articles in journals

  • Newman SJ, Wakefield CB, Williams AJ, O’Malley JM, Nicol SJ, DeMartini EE, Halafihi T, Kaltavara J, Humphreys RL, Taylor BM, Andrews AH, Nichols RS. 2015. International workshop on methodological evolution to improve estimates of life history parameters and fisheries management of data-poor deep-water snappers and groupers. Marine Policy 60:182–185.

  • Wakefield CB, Williams AJ, Newman SJ, Bunel M, Boddington DK, Vourey E, Fairclough DV. 2015. Variations in growth, longevity and natural mortality for the protogynous hermaphroditic eightbar grouper Hyporthodus octofasciatus between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Fisheries Research 172:26–33.

  • Gomez C, Williams AJ, Nicol SJ, Mellin C, Loeun KL, Bradshaw CJA. 2015. Species distribution models of tropical deep-sea snappers. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127395. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127395

  • Williams AJ, Newman SJ, Wakefield CB, Bunel M, Halafihi T, Kaltavara J and Nicol SJ . 2015. Evaluating the performance of otolith morphometrics in deriving age compositions and mortality rates for assessment of data-poor tropical fisheries. ICES- Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsv042.

  • Wakefield CB, Williams AJ, Newman SJ, Bunel M, Dowling CE, Armstrong CA, Langlois TJ. 2014. Rapid and reliable multivariate discrimination for two cryptic Eteline snappers using otolith morphometry. Fisheries Research 151:100–106.

  • Williams AJ, Loeun K, Nicol SJ, Chavance P, Ducrocq M, Harley SJ, Pilling GM, Allain V, Mellin C, Bradshaw CJA. 2013. Population biology and vulnerability to fishing of deep-water Eteline snappers in New Caledonia. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 29:395–403.

  • Williams AJ, Nicol SJ, Bentley N, Starr PJ, Newman SJ, McCoy MA, Kinch J, Pilling GM, Williams PG, Magron F, Bertram I, Batty M. 2012. International workshop on developing strategies for monitoring data-limited deepwater demersal line fisheries in the Pacific Ocean. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 22:527–531.


  • Deep-bottom fish identification cards for small-scale fishermen
    PDF Link(2.3 Mb)

Fact sheets

  • The genetic distribution of three deepwater snappers in the Western Central Pacific Ocean
    PDF Link(1 Mb)

  • Management of deepwater snapper resources in Pacific Island countries and territories
    PDF Link(1 Mb)

  • Management procedures for deepwater snapper resources in Pacific island countries and territories
    PDF Link(2 Mb)

  • Predicting the distribution of deepwater snapper in the Western Central Pacific Ocean
    PDF Link(1.6 Mb)

Meeting documents

  • Deepwater snapper: Towards improved stock assessments and management Working Paper 6. Noumea, New Caledonia: Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Heads of Fisheries Meeting, Noumea, New Caledonia, 4-8 March 2013, 8th. 4 p.
    PDF Link(164kb)


  • Predicting the distribution of deepwater snappers in the western and central Pacific Ocean. SPC Fisheries Newsletter 145:6-10.
    PDF Link(500kb)

  • New species of deepwater snapper identified from shape of ear bones. SPC Fisheries Newsletter #142:12–13.
    PDF Link(213kb)

  • Improving biological knowledge of deepwater snapper in the Pacific. SPC Fisheries Newsletter 138:4-5.
    PDF Link(152kb)

  • Improving the management of deepwater snapper resources in Pacific Island countries. SPC Fisheries Newsletter 136:8-9.
    PDF Link(237kb)