Arutua is one of the most productive atolls in lagoon fish in French Polynesia. The intensive fishing could endanger local coral reef ecosystem sustainability and balance. Participatory and adaptative management must be useful to preserve stocks in the long term.

© Karl Janisse on Unsplash


inhabitants in 2017

15 km²

of land

484 km²

of lagoon

Arutua is an atoll in the Tuamotus archipelago, largely focused on pearl farming, copra cultivation and fishing. With 484 km2 of lagoon, it is one of the largest producers of lagoon fish in French Polynesia. Each year, around 60 tons of fresh fish are shipped to the Tahiti. The fish parks, equipped enclosures that trap live fish, provide the bulk of the catches.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemy significantly slowed the pearl economy. It has led part of the population to turn to fishing for subsistence or commercialization, thus putting additional pressure on lagoon resources.

It is also in 2020 that a Regulated Fishing Zone has been created on the southern part of the maritime area of ​​the island of Arutua. It is made up of two sub zones. In one, all fishing is prohibited; in the other, only angling and daytime gun fishing are permitted. These new regulations inaugurate the establishment of a management committee.

In this context, the Rahui Forum and Resource Center’s team acts to support implementation of tools for fishers and the management committee, which will allow adaptive management of the area and the whole maritime space.


Identification of main lagoon structures

Inventory and location of fish pens inside the pass and outside and characteristics of each: orientation (towards the sea or towards the lagoon), property, etc. Assessment of catches volume and inventory of species caught.

Inventory and location of pearl farms in the pass.

Exploratory mission of Arutua lagoon to confirm research hypotheses: exploration of the pass, diving on a karena or pinnacle (vertical coral formation that can emerge from the surface of the water) to assess coral health and fish diversity, visit of the south-eastern limit of the Regulated Fishing Zone.

© Lauric Thiault

Definition of research questions and survey methods

© Yannick Chancerelle

Design of an inventory protocol for commercial fish inside the Regulated Fishing Zone and outside and of a total biodiversity counting protocol (macro-invertebrates, substrate quality and recovery rate).

Definition of a lagoon fishery monitoring method with a focus on fish parks with regular catch records over a year to assess seasonal variability.

Design of a protocol to study socio-anthropological dynamics and sustainability of fishing in Arutua.


  • Carry out commercial fish and macro-invertebrates couting, assess substrates and analyze collected data.
  • Collect and analyze data (species, number of fish, size, etc.) concerning catches via fish pens.
  • Launch a qualitative survey to collect Local Ecological Knowledge (TEK) relating to coral ecosystems, better understand local fishing practices and the organization of local fishing dynamics.
  • Understand lagoon governance drivers (formal and informal practices governing maritime space uses) and launch consultation for a reef-lagoon resources sustainable management.
    Support the design of an Educational Marine Area.

© Avel Chuklanov – Unsplash