Fishing in Easter Island, a recent history (1950-2010)
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is well studied in terms of its archaeology; however, information regarding the history of fishing is extremely limited. Marine resources have likely been exploited from the time the first Polynesians arrived on this remote island. While large pelagics are part of the traditional Rapa Nui diet, inshore fish and invertebrates have also made their way into the diet. Official records of fisheries catches in what is now the Easter Island Province of Chile, which also includes the uninhabited island of Salas y Gómez, are very limited and were available for only some years. Using anecdotal information, historical descriptions and the limited quantitative information available, we reconstructed fisheries catches in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Easter Island Province over the 1950-2010 time period. Totaling almost 6,000 ton, legal catches have been increasing rapidly since the late 1970s, but are now stagnating at around 150-200 ton yr-1. The main species targeted were Pacific chub or 'nanue' (Kyphosus sandwicensis) and yellowfin tuna or 'kahi ave ave' (Thunnus albacares), with spiny lobster or 'ura' (Panulirus pascuensis) being the most important invertebrate species. There are indications of a substantial illegal fishery for large pelagics in the EEZ of the province, estimated at 200-2,000 ton yr-1, which may have operated for two decades and may be the cause for the declining artisanal catch of tuna by Rapa Nui fishers. Continued pressure on these geographically remote oceanic and inshore marine species, especially those popular amongst tourists, makes accounting for fisheries catches an even greater priority.