Fisheries contributions to the gross domestic product: Underestimating small-scale fisheries in the pacific

Dirk Zeller, Shawn Booth, Daniel Pauly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


In developing countries, official statistics, national accounts, and economic development initiatives generally focus on commercial, often export-oriented fisheries, which are often perceived to be the major economic contribution of fisheries. While small-scale, non-commercial fisheries, especially near-shore subsistence fisheries, have been recognized as fundamental for social, cultural, and food security reasons, their catches are seldom accounted for in official statistics. Thus, their contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are often not taken into consideration. Previously undertaken catch time-series reconstructions for small-scale coastal fisheries of two US flag island areas in the tropical Pacific (American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [CNMI]) provided estimates of total catches for 1982-2002 (commercial and non-commercial) and suggested considerable discrepancies between reported (commercial) statistics and reconstructed (commercial plus noncommercial) estimates. We applied a valuation approach used by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank to the reconstructed catch data for non-pelagic species to estimate total near-shore fisheries contributions to national GDP using value-added estimators for each fisheries sector in combination with available price data for the period 1982-2002. This suggested that the contributions of small-scale fisheries to GDP for these two island areas may have been underestimated by a factor of over five, and indicated that the non-commercial sector plays a more significant role in national accounts as contributors to GDP than currently assumed. This analysis should challenge existing perspectives of marginality of non-commercial fisheries sectors to developing countries in general and should give international development agencies, as well as local governments, pause to rethink their prioritization of fisheries development support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalMarine Resource Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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