Pere Islanders are the first in Manus province to make a commitment towards managing their marine resources, writes BETTY OALA
PERE Island in Manus Province has launched an ambitious plan that aims to ensure its marine resources – the primary source of food and income for the community – are around for generations.
Officials at the launching event on Sep 03 praised the vision of Pere, an island community of just 1,000 and accessible only by sea transport.
Pere village is about 25km out of Lorengau town. The island is situated at the eastern boundary of the center of global marine biodiversity widely known by scientists as the Coral Triangle and thus, is home to some of the world’s most diverse marine plants and animals.
The island’s environment and conservation area (marine tenure) covers about 75 square kilometer of shallow reef areas. It has 30 clusters of islands surrounded with mangroves, which provide good habitats for the marine life. And the management area consists of diverse reef fish spawning aggregations and healthy habitats.
Manus Provincial Administrator, Kuleen Hamou, said the Pere people are the first community in Manus province to make a collective commitment towards sustainably managing their marine resources.
Mr Hamou said Pere was among seven areas in the province that were selected in 1994 by the Provincial Government for sustainable development projects.
Out of all seven, only Pere Island was able to carry that effort forward, to seek out partnerships and establish a community-based marine management area. He said all that hard work has led to their marine management plan today.
“Power, authority, time and resources are in the people’s hands. If the people are committed to making a change, they should not wait for anyone from outside to make things happen. I challenge all other 126 Wards in Manus to take up Pere’s example,” Mr Hamou said.
Pere’s NGO partner in Manus is The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
TNC’s Community Conservation Coordinator in Manus, Manuai Matawai, himself a Pere villager, said, “The most important thing is that the community itself takes responsibility. I believe this event will help to promote and expand (community-based marine management) to other local level governments in Manus province.”
Mr Rabbie Kanamon, a senior member of Pere Island’s Core Group, the committee responsible for the village’s input into the management plan, said the plan creation was a matter of survival.
Mr. Kanamon said the people depend entirely on the sea for their livelihood and Pere Island has to safeguard the sustainable use of their marine resources.
“Threats such as over-fishing and use of destructive fishing methods and the increase in population are problems that we have to deal with and a formal plan helps us to set out guidelines for us to manage these threats,” Kanamon said.
Pere is one of the pioneers in community-level marine management in PNG. Pere, since 1997, has actively managed its fishing grounds and also established a no take-zone, or marine protected area, to help fish populations increase in size and number.
As part of that work, Pere is a member to the PNG LMMA Network, coordinated by the Centre for Locally-Managed Areas (CLMA), and becomes the first member of the Network to launch a management plan.
The CLMA is the umbrella organisation that helps to support community-based marine resource management work in PNG by promoting the LMMA Approach through the network, along with its partners on the ground at LMMA sites. The Locally-Managed Marine Areas model places greater responsibility on the communities to manage their marine resources in a sustainable manner and includes communities establishing marine protected areas. This process is widely praised across the Pacific Islands because it empowers local communities, who are the primary resources users and often best able to manage them.
When Pere islanders were asked to explain the benefits of managing their resources and in particular, their marine protected area, there was no shortage of praise. “We have more fish in the sea. There are bigger fish than before,” said community members interviewed. “The women take a lot of fish to the market. We have more money to buy store goods and pay for our children’s school.”
The management plan launched last week sets out a systematic approach and a series of goals to further improve the community benefits from actively managing their marine resources. Hamou officially launched what it formally called the Pere Environment and Conservation Area Management Plan at a ceremony in Pere witnessed by representatives of the Provincial Government, the Nali Sopat Penabu Local Level Government and representatives of conservation non-government organizations.
To gain more government support, the plan was created under the provisions of the Nali Sopat Penabu Rural Local-Level Government Environment and Conservation Law, No.1 of 2007. Under this law, the plan is also reinforced by national laws on the environment as permitted by Section 44 of the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments.
That structure is a major advancement for community-based management as it effectively ties in the three tiers of government together and creates new avenues for government support of the Pere community managing its marine resources. For instance, the Local Level Government Law can now be used to impose fines on poachers and LLG resources potentially used to improve patrolling of the Pere conservation area.
The overall objective of the plan is the renewal of resources, contributing to improving the life styles of the people of Pere through a stronger economy and a renewed sense of pride in their fishing culture.
Some of the specific plan goals are:
Protecting reef fish spawning sites and spawning stocks at Taloas reef, Lelemot, Ken Ngylai, Pwalondrol and Ndroponon spawning aggregation sites.
Increasing fish stock and other fishery resources within the Marine Protected Area and creating spillover of from healthy fish populations from within MPA to outside MPA areas.Protecting key marine habitats necessary for a healthy ecosystem and healthy fish populations
The plan sets out goals and timelines for projects such as the creation of more no-fishing zones, monitoring and research, restocking and replanting of coral, mangroves and other marine sedentary species, alternative livelihood projects, community education and awareness and fundraising.
As part of this plan, Pere also received a Fish Aggregating Device from the PNG National Fisheries Authority. The community wants to place the fish aggregation device in the open sea where it will attract fish. The hope is the device will then lure fishermen away from fishing so heavily near Pere’s marine protected area and allow that area to become even more productive.
“What you are doing today, I want the people of Manus to hear about it and to want to do the same too. We want the people of Papua New Guinea to hear about it and want to follow your example too,” said Mrs Theresa Kas of The Nature Conservancy.