Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Identification of the case

The community we wish to use as a case-study is situated on a small (12 km circ**ference) island lying 1.3km off the capital island of Efate, Vanuatu. The inshore area surrounding the island is characterized by a fringing reef with some bommies and sand patches. The community has a common-property regime in place which gives primary access rights to all members of the community as well as access to the nearby (5km) Eretoka Island (which is un-inhabited) and an area of reef fringing the mainland. The community has a population estimated at 375 (1996) whose main economic activities are fishing, garden-agriculture and copra cutting on the mainland. In addition there is a small communal income derived from the tourist industry. There are fisheries for trochus, multi-species reef species (currently estimated at around 5.8mt/sqkm/yr) and for Eteline snappers.

Important contextual factors include :

a. The island is essentially water-less so the community's agriculture is primarily undertaken on the mainland which involves 1-hour return travel time, usually by dug-out canoe.

b. The village is located some 30 km from the capital (pop.~25,000) of Port Vila. Port Vila is the principal outlet for fishery and agricultural produce. Transport (small commercial trucks) is usually available.

c. As is the case across Vanuatu as a wh*** (annual population growth rate of 2.9%), the demography of the population is characterised by youth with approximately 40% of the population under 14 years of age.

d. Employment opportunities within the community outside of artisanal activities are not abundant.

e. There is a current all-species closed area defined over 1.1km of coast line of Lelepa Island. This is the third of a series. The first closed area was in 1993-5 for 3 years followed immediately by a 2-year extension. In 1996 it was decided to extend the closure until 2002. The closed area is located in front of the village.

The initial situation

The initial situation in the trochus fishery was one of large-scale depletion for sale. Trochus is an easy to harvest source of cash; trochus harvest dates back to the late 1940's following the arrival of commercial buyers in Port Vila. The resource was reported to have been largely destroyed and attention then switched to greensnail which then also declined significantly. During the 1980s button factories were built in Port Vila creating new demand for trochus.

It was reported that as commercialization developed so did the level of individualistic fishing activity compared to the early fishery which was more community orientated. The recent closed areas have specifically attempted to address this issue by creating an environment where trochus can only be harvested for community benefit.

Fears were also expressed for the sustainability of the finfish resources, particularly in areas close to the village. Through the 1970s there seems to have been steadily increasing commercialization of the fin-fish fishery. In the early 1980s the Chief started encouraging people to sell fish and he himself started bringing in ice supplies. This activity was further encouraged by the Government-led Village Fisheries Development Programme. The VFDP provided cheap fishing gear (Japanese aid), soft credit facilities to buy small fishing vessels, it established a number of ice-machines around the country and assisted fishers in the marketing of their fish. The programme has now ended but the sophisticated gears (gillnets, Samoan-reels, spear-guns & under-water torches) it encouraged are perceived as having a significant role in the depletion of marine resources especially in areas close to the village.

The resources in the area close to the village are particularly important simply because of their proximity especially for women who are often responsible for providing fish while the men were away on the mainland working the gardens. Significant depletion also leads to increased purchases of imported, pre-processed fish, a problem already identified elsewhere in Vanuatu.

The change process
It is difficult to identify precisely where the stimulus for change originated - it has evolved over the last decade. The growing cultural awareness in Vanuatu is one important catalyst. Villagers reported that informal discussions in the meeting house (male-only) were the primary means by which the community developed a quorum of agreement that the situation should be addressed. There was also a recognition of the potential contribution a sustainable fishery could make to the village economy and the need to address employment issues to sustain the community as a wh***. This process seemed to have developed in parallel with a Fisheries Department education initiative which in turn reflects a wider change in the philosophy of development policies. Meanwhile, the Vanuatu Government itself has been looking for ways by which it's export commodity sector could be strengthened and thus the Government encouraged any activity that might promote this sector.

The FD, through village meetings, has been particularly useful in disseminating the various ways (closed areas, gear restrictions, size-limits etc) in which the villagers' concerns could be addressed. More specifically, they provided technical support to grow-on young trochus collected from the reefs surrounding the village once the decision had been taken to establish a closed area. Further technical advice and funding for the trochus growing tanks has been provided by ACIAR.

For the fin-fish fishery a very similar pattern has emerged with cultural issues, education in particular playing an important role. Again, there are were a number of stimuli and key actors involved, as in the case of the trochus fishery. And, both export potential and a desire to reduce imports (of pre-processed fish) were high on the Government's agenda.

The Outcome
The key area of institutional change at this site has been the creation of new operational rules rather than a change to the existing community organizations. Their agenda may have changed but not their approach to deciding the issues on the agenda. The administration of the new arrangements is the responsibility of the village elders (in so far as they organize the community to collect the trochus and enforce the new operational rules) although, of course, every member of the community has a specific responsibility to abide by these new rules.

The actual/expected changes for the trochus fishery will be described by Moses. For the fin-fish fishery we will use UVC data and the data generated from the fisheries monitoring/rural appraisals programme to describe the outcomes in terms of a range of objectives including those identified by the community (eg. custodians acting to preserve the diversity of the ecology of the reef for future generations ("If my grandchildren asked me what a trocha [sic] looked like and I couldn't show them one, I'd be ashamed.")). The biological data analysis will specifically seek to describe the impact of the closed area on the fin-fish resources.

The paper will also address issues of equity. For example, the young people, who are the more active fishers, believe they were completely ignored in the decision-making process. The spatial data collected in the fisheries monitoring programme elucidates the degree to which young people have ignored the closed area as opposed to other groups within the community who feel more involved in the decision-making process.

The lessons learned
That particular characteristics of some resources may lend themselves to successful management under regimes depending on self-regulating operational rules. In the case of the management of trochus versus a diverse reef fish community there is evidence that this might be the case.

After a period of closure trochus are usually pulse-fished by the community as a wh***. In this situation the community receives a significant 'cash reward' for their cooperating with the closed area. Fin-fish resources on the other hand are not usually pulse-fished because of factors relating to their behaviour and mobility as well as because they also contribute significantly to the daily nutrition of the community. So the end reward for closing some or all of the fishing grounds is far less tangible. This lack of a significant 'reward' from the restriction of effort may discourage communities from becoming involved in future fin-fish management activities.

The benefit derived form the closure of such a short (1km) stretch of reef (in terms both of revenue-generation and biomass increase) needs to be a****sed. For example, larger species of fin-fish, as well as small neritic/pelagic species, are highly mobile and may well be taken by fishers operating outside of the closed area. On the other hand there is the question of spill-over effects from the protected to the open area. Trochus on the other hand are relatively immobile and when placed back after grow-out into the closed area they will be (theoretically at least) safe from any fishing mortality. 18-months of data will be analysed and the results presented at the workshop. Initial comparison (using ANOVA) of catch-rates from inside (data from fishers who have broken the closed area) and outside the closed area has not shown a significant difference too date.

The success of any management activity is of course also determined by the degree to which the rules are adhered to. Communities with control over relatively small fishing grounds are of course ideally suited to self-regulating management whether the resource be trochus or finfish. The degree of control community leaders can exercise over fishers can be significant while the simple ability to observe the area under restriction is obviously important. In larger fishing right areas, it is likely that self-enforced area closures are unlikely to be as successful.

A much discussed area in the analysis of community-based management is the issue of equity. In this particular case, women believe that they (and their families) have suffered from the loss of fishing grounds near to the village which could be easily fished within their daily time budget. Young people too, felt that an important part of the resources available to them had been taken away without due consideration for their situation. The question that needs to be answered is therefore what wider benefits will they obtain from cooperating with the new operational rule despite their lack of involvement in its establishment. There is a need to recognize that issues of equity differ across cultures. In a culture where male elders continue to dominate village decision-making the broad equity of new rules or conditions of choice may simply not be of relevance. But communities in Vanuatu are not living in isolation. There is a growing women’s movement, particularly through NGOs, that is attempting to change the role of women in contemporary society and government policy does to some extent lend support to this trend. For example, the Fisheries Department has recently (1996) hosted an FAO sponsored consultancy investigating means by which women can become more involved in fisheries. Young people are also having more voice in village affairs as their economic potential is recognized.

It is important that the education process be given due weight. The basis for and implications of whatever innovation is being contemplated should be carefully explained. For example the community on Lelepa was initially dubious of the value of closing the reef for the purpose of building up stocks of fin-fish because they thought the fish would grow old, die during the closed period and therefore be wasted. On the other hand, following a trochus education programme, they did understand that trochus would grow from juvenile to adult size in that period at which time they could be harvested as a single cohort.

Lessons relating to the size (and period) of closed area, the equity of management and its implications for economic development and questions of education procedures are fairly universal in their application across Vanuatu and the wider region.

In terms of replicating this type of management across Vanuatu there are a number of issues to consider. Lelepa Island's community mirrors the general demographic and economic characteristics of the country. And similar management activities do exist elsewhere. However, they differ in one important aspect namely the proximity and size of the market outlet in Port Vila and their proximity to the Fisheries Department also in Port Vila. Lelepa (as well as 20 small communities around Efate Island) is ideally located to benefit from the availability of the grow-on tanks at the Fisheries Department as well as for quick sale of the harvested resource at the local button factories. Generally however, with trochus shell being a non-perishable but highly valuable product, it is ideally suited to this sort of management whatever the distance to market. This is especially true where the community's sense of identity is strong and there harvesting is coordinated at a community level.

For highly perishable fin-fish, the commercial pressures in Lelepa are stronger than in communities situated some distance (or without transport) from market outlets. However, population growth rates are similar and therefore subsistence pressure can still be significant. The availability of alternative sources of income are even less than in Lelepa therefore encouraging more self-sufficiency in food production. Other sites within our research programme include sites which display such characteristics. This section will include some discussion of results from other sites to determine fishing pressures, the contribution of commercial fishing to overall fishing effort and the degree to which closed areas are ignored. The implications for the success of alternative institutional innovation will be considered

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