French Polynesia’s abundant and diverse fish stocks and rich fishing culture are at risk of collapse if smart, sustainable management techniques are not enacted.

French Polynesia is currently a massive - 5 million km2 - ‘de facto’ marine protected area facing difficult economic challenges. The government is encouraging intensification of commercial fishing for export and considering the sale of fishing rights to foreign interests.

These policies, while they might have short-term economic benefits for some, threaten traditional and sustainable fishing practices and could bring dire long-term consequences for the country.

To prevent collapse of French Polynesia’s fisheries and fishing culture, we propose a new strategy for fisheries management at the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and the high seas.

Our new strategy builds from the traditional Polynesian, ‘rights-based’ fisheries approach called Rahui. This approach seeks to offer the government an alternative, additional paths to economic development with increased sustainability.

We also propose an accompanying public outreach campaign, engaging local communities with this revolutionary fishery management plan.

Our focus on French Polynesia as a model system allows us to develop a robust theoretical, quantitative, and communication framework that can be applied to regions with productive exclusive economic zones.

This project is a novel integration of economics, ecology, traditional knowledge, and cross-cultural communication that will advance marine fisheries conservation and management in French Polynesia.

It is our hope that these efforts will forge a dynamic and powerful strategy for tackling complex, large-scale sustainable fisheries challenges around the globe.