15 Oct 2013

Gizo Marine Protected Areas a first for Solomon Islands

5:37 pm on 15 October 2013

WWF has helped four communities in Solomon Islands' Western Province to be the first in the country to set up Marine Protected Areas.

The marine programme manager for Solomon Islands says the communities, near the provincial capital, Gizo, began working a decade ago to protect their marine resources.

Shannon Seeto says people in Saeraghi, Sepo Islands, Koquvalata and Nusatuva realised fish were not as big and there were fewer of them to catch.

He says the communities are now in the process of registering the Marine Protected Areas under the new Protected Areas Act.

SHANNON SEETO: A high percentage really rely on marine resources for their own livelihood and income generation. For the Solomons, it's not a very big country. In regards to the population growing every year, it does put additional pressure on to the inshore fisheries, which is what is happening here. And communities realise this, as well. So by putting these management areas in place we hope these areas will help conserve and manage some of these fisheries around Gizo in Western Province. There's a lot of work still to go I think - MPAs and so forth with regards to local communities are still a very new concept and people are still learning.

ANNELL HUSBAND: It sounds from what you're saying that a lot of work has gone into this and there's a lot of community buy-in in protecting these areas. Is it protecting them from being plundered by people outside the community, such as overseas fishing vehicles or is it to ensure that members of those communities don't over-fish or over-harvest?

SHANNON SEETO: Well, I think it's a little bit of both. It has the opportunity to abate external threats such as the fishing industry coming into certain areas. Most of these protected areas are selected on the criteria. Three of the MPAs are fish-spawning aggregation areas, so high-value areas. It's mostly exporting aggregation areas for species like coral trout, Maori wrasse and so forth. So it's important that communities realise the importance of looking after these spawning aggregation sites.