Nestled on the eastern edge of Gatokae Island, in the picturesque Marovo lagoon, Western Province, lies a community that has been a shining example of integrating conservation, sustainable fisheries management, tourism and traditional knowledge to reduce overfishing pressures and improve the livelihoods of people.
Peava is one of the champion communities in the country carrying out community-based resource management initiatives.
The community observed a decline in their fish stock due to overfishing, and stepped in to adopt this initiative to sustainably manage how they use their marine resources in 2009.
The community started with a no-take zone around Kicha Island. It was in 2018 that the community decided to extend their management area to include the neighbouring islands of Mbulo and Malemale.
“Due to overfishing in most areas, we decided to adopt this initiative to manage our sea resources so that we can benefit from it,” says Remy Amos, the Chair of Peava community Marine Resource Management Committee.
Ever since the community’s marine resource management committee was formed, there has been no turning back, and now community members are reaping economic benefits from their marine resource management program through various means.
In Marovo, managing marine resources has been a long-held practice but as time has passed some traditions and customs that had guided communities for generations disappeared. Population growth, increasing cost of living and changing living standards hasn’t helped.
“Our forefathers that used to practice traditional resource conservation methods have gone before us. There were many traditional conservation or management practices that we have lost, so now we are also reviving those similar tabu enforced by our forefathers which the new generation can learn from it,” Amos explains.
Though it wasn’t an easy undertaking, Amos said community members are dedicated to this and have been working hard over the years to establish what it has become a dedicated marine managed area with the community and its community’s marine resource management committee overseeing it.
The Peava community now regulates fishing activities, establishes fishing seasons, and implements catch limits. This have witnessed an increase in fish stock, which in turn ensures the long-term viability of the fisheries to support their day-to-day livelihoods and increase socio-economic benefits.
The Chair of Peava Community Marine Resource Management Committee shared the community story on Solwata Blo Iumi Radio Show that their marine managed area restricts harvest on all marine resources, including fish, shellfish, seaweed, which are essential sources of food and nutrition for the community.
“When we decide not to harvest our marine resources, we have other alternatives, one of which is food crops from our gardens,” said Amos.
And to help with supporting day-to-day livelihoods, the community also hosts tourists and visitors, especially international divers that occasionally grace their reefs to explore the diversity of marine life in this part of Marovo lagoon.
“Our community also hosts dive tourism, particularly international scuba divers and so we would like to manage all our marine resources because we are also targeting returns from tourism activities.”
Bilikiki Cruises – a full-service luxury live aboard dive vessel has been running liveaboard scuba diving trips and cruises in the Solomon Islands for over 25 years. It has experienced crew that know the best diving sites in the country, and Marovo Lagoon also boasts some of its preferred diving sites, not to mention the seas surrounding Peava.
Amos said carvers and weavers from Peava who are skilled in locally hand made products such as mats, fans and bags often sell their products to visitors on board the Bilikiki Cruises, and this is one of the direct benefits their marine managed area brought to the people.
“We are now looking forward to registering our marine managed area so that it becomes a bylaw that aligns with the Fisheries Management Act and the Provincial Fisheries Ordinance. This will also enable us to be recognised by the government at the national level,” Amos said.
He added that the recognition will enable them to continue what they are doing and sustain their work in the long run.
“Even though we haven’t registered yet, we already see the benefits of this marine managed area. It increases fish stocks, enabled us to revive some of the traditional practices on conserving/managing our marine resources and enable dive tourism to our shores which then create spill off benefits for the community”.
The Peava resource management initiative is supported by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) - an environmental non-government organisation with office in the Solomon Islands.
Source: Press Release, Peava Community Marine Resource Management Committee