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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Community-based management of subsistence fisheries / Samoa

Posted By: Jennifer Kallie and Autalavou Taua
Date: Friday, 16 July 1999, at 4:17 p.m.

Key words: management plans, marine protected areas, project evaluation.

DESCRIPTION: The decline in inshore catches of fish and shellfish in Samoa, due to human activities, overexploitation, destructive fishing methods and the aftermath of two recent major cyclones, has greatly reduced the availability of marine protein resources, causing concerns for the nutritional status of coastal village communities. Government actions and national laws to protect fish stocks have not previously proved successful. Wise practice involves using a culturally appropriate extension process to encourage and motivate village communities to manage their own marine resources. A range of resource management undertakings and conservation measures are incorporated by communities into their own management plans. These measures include the establishment of small Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within traditional fishing grounds.

Village management actions have included the banning of chemicals, explosives and plant-derived fish poisons; banning the smashing of corals to catch fish; enforcing national laws on fish size regulations; controlling the use of nets and underwater torches for fishing at night; collecting and removing crown-of-thorns starfish; banning the removal of beach sand (sand mining) and the dumping of rubbish in lagoon waters. Reciprocally, to support community undertakings, the Fisheries Division has undertaken to provide various forms of assistance and technical training. For example, to relieve inshore fishing pressure, communities are assisted to purchase small aluminium boats for outer reef slope fishing. Tilapia stock are introduced into villages where there are suitable natural lakes or ponds. Communities are also provided with giant clams to restock lagoon fish reserves. In addition, regular demand-based technical training workshops in tilapia and clam aquaculture, fishing methods, gear technology, sea safety, fish handling and skills for small business management, are held.

STATUS: A staged induction of 59 villages has occurred over the 3.5 years of implementation of the program. Individual village management plans have now been in operation for up to 37 months.


LONG TERM BENEFIT: Sustainability of inshore fisheries resources and the marine environment through community action. INDICATORS: Successful management of marine resources by villages. Village laws being enforced. MPAs operating.

CAPACITY BUILDING: Re-instituting customary marine tenure and tradition-based controls on fishing.

SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability enhanced by agency support including fisheries development, (aquaculture, restocking of depleted species and introduction of new species).

TRANSFERABILITY: The developed extension process, with cultural modifications, is likely to be transferable to other tropical countries.

CONSENSUS BUILDING: The extension process deliberately involves all community groups in outlining problems and proposing solutions.

PARTICIPATORY PROCESS: After an initial expression of interest, a meeting is arranged with the village. During this meeting, the community is provided with information to allow them to either accept or refuse the extension program. If the program, is accepted, participants are encouraged to analyse the condition of their marine environment and fish stocks and to assess the degree of change that fishing, seafood catches and the marine environment, has undergone over recent years. Key problems are identified, causes are determined, solutions are proposed, and remedial actions are planned.

EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION PROCESS: A trained extension facilitator records the discussion as a problem/solution tree, on a portable white board. At a second meeting, a more in-depth examination of the most practical solutions is undertaken.

CULTURALLY RESPECTFUL: The extension process recognises the village fono (council meeting) and chiefs as the prime instigators of change, but also allows ample opportunities for other community groups to participate. An experienced Cultural Adviser is employed to ensure the process is appropriate.

GENDER AND SENSITIVITY ISSUES: The extension process involves separate meetings of several village groups, including women, untitled men, fishers and titled men. In this way, particular sections of the community are free to express opinions, which they otherwise may not do in large groups dominated by titled people. The Village Fisheries Management Advisory Committee (FMAC) is formed with three representatives nominated from each group.

DOCUMENTATION: The extension process for each village culminates in the production of a unique and specific Village Fisheries Management Plan. Bound copies, in Samoan, are distributed to the community. English and Samoan versions are catalogued in the Fisheries Division library.

Additionally, process, results and reviews are reported in the following papers:

Faasili, U. 1997. The use of village by-laws in marine conservation and fisheries management. Pacific Science Association Intercongress, July 1997, Fiji.

King, M. and Faasili, U. 1998. Community-based management of subsistence fisheries in tropical regions. Fsheries Ecology & Management UK. 6, 133-144.

King, M. and Faasili, U. 1998. A network of small, community-owned fish reserves in Samoa. PARKS 8, 11-16.

Kallie, J.Y., Taua. A. and Faasili, U. 1999. An assessment of community-based management of subsistence fisheries in Samoa. Marine Resources Assessment Group Workshop on Aspects of Coastal Fisheries Resource Management, Fiji.

EVALUATION: The Fisheries Division undertakes to review all management plans after approximately six months of operation and then at appropriate intervals, to verify sustainability. A quantitative assessment questionnaire is used to score village management performance.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The Community Fisheries Management program attracts considerable interest from new coastal village communities and the waiting list is increasing due to word of mouth support from existing participants. The success of community-based management in Samoa is also evidenced by the growing interest of other islands around the Pacific.

The Fisheries Division Annual Plan is to increase the number of participating communities. However, it is now timely to consider how best to deploy limited government services for the future. Villages who consistently score highly must be empowered and encouraged to completely self-manage their program with minimal government assistance. Conversely, villages with only average scores may simply require time to consolidate their views and actions and it can be argued that a significant proportion of Fisheries Division services should be allocated to these villages to assist them to reach autonomy. Finally, in the light of limited staff and material resources, support for poor performing villages needs to be withdrawn to facilitate participation of additional villages potentially more ready to self-manage their subsistence fisheries.

Approximately 20% of communities perform poorly for various reasons; some Management Committee's fail to hold meetings, some do not enforce village rules, many do not care for restocked clams, others fail to maintain shorelines, reserve signs and markers. The readiness of a community for a long-term commitment with few immediate rewards is an unknown variable in the initial years of a community-based program. Nevertheless, the fact that at least 25% of the communities are managing their own fisheries very effectively, indicates that communities are ready for self-management and indeed, value the opportunity.

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