Geography limits island small-scale fishery production

Interacting social and ecological processes shape productivity and sustainability of island small-scale fisheries (SSF). Understanding limits to productivity through historical catches help frame future expectations and management strategies, but SSF are dispersed and unaccounted, so long-term standardized data are largely absent for such analyses. We analysed 40 years of trade statistics of a SSF product that enter international markets (sea cucumber) from 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT) against response variables to test predictors of fishery production: (i) scale, (ii) productivity and (iii) socio-economics. Combined production in PICT peaked over 20 years ago, driven by exploitation trends in Melanesia that accounted for 90% of all production since 1971.