Many of Tristan da Cunha's citizens are farmers by trade and money is also earned from fishing and processing. All land on Tristan is owned communally and livestock is controlled to ensure that better off families don’t build up excessive wealth.
Official statistics of its economy are not known because nominal GDP figures are not published. Tristan’s main currency is Pound Sterling (£), but the Saint Helenian pound is also used by residents. Although the island is a British dependency, it is not allowed direct trade access to the European Union.
Tristan da Cunha’s main source of income is the island’s lobster factory, which sells its product to the United States and Japan via the South African company ‘Ovenstone’ (Ovenstone has more of a focus on selling Tristan’s crayfish). Tristan sells coins and postage stamps abroad – the public interest in Tristan da Cunha means this is a profitable venture.
A few economic mishaps have harmed the island’s economy. Tristan da Cunha is a volcanic island. In 1961 a volcanic eruption from Tristan destroyed the island’s crayfish factory. In modern times Tristan crayfish demand in the USA has been declining, setting the country’s economy back greatly.
This has meant that the islanders have had to borrow from their reserves. In turn this has harmed Tristan’s ability to update its communication equipment and education methods without delays. Even worse than this, a fire on the 13th of February 2008 destroyed the fishing factory and two power generators. This has caused further problems for Tristan’s economy because of fishing’s prominent role.
Everything enters and exits Tristan da Cunha – including medical supplies – by boat. Since the harbour was damaged by fire, Royal Engineers from the British army have been fixing and helping to maintain it.