I. INTRODUCTION: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Subsistence fishing is an essential activity for the people of the Pacific Islands, supplying a multitude of important nutritional staples. For many years, governments and entrepreneurs believed that the unimaginable wealth of marine life of the tropical coral reefs could sustain a fisheries export industry. This was a major biological error, as coral reef fisheries do not withstand commercial pressure and are already in a precarious balance from subsistence use alone.
There were two problematic results.
Prior to this, people caught what they needed for food for their families, and as gifts. As late as the 1950s, many fishermen believed selling fish was a social disgrace.
However with introduction of modern fishing tools and a cash-based economy, by the 1990s the coastal fisheries of Oceania - and the coral reefs themselves - showed signs of severe distress, especially near population centres where there were more commercial fishermen and a greater need for money.
Problems in the management of marine resources in Pacific Island countries were compounded by the abolishment of customary village ownership of the marine resources in favour of western models where the state has ownership (and control) of all resources below the high water tide mark. This transference of control meant the loss of customary systems of resource management; including obligations of catch distribution, closed periods, and access rights. Traditionally, these restrictions had to be observed. There was usually a "chief fisherman" in each village who controlled the fishery. If he discovered violations, the fishermen could be banned from fishing in the village waters, or from catching a particular species or using a particular fishing method. In some cases there would be physical punishment (FAO 1994).
In Samoa, as in Fiji, village fishing rights remained strong and recent legislation reinforced the traditional authority of the village leaders to control the fishery resources. There was, however, a multitude of environmental, economic and social forces acting against sustainable management of fisheries resources.
In 1989, faced with the reality of declining inshore catches, the Fisheries Division began to seek ways to assess and monitor the complex and dispersed inshore fishery - a task most other countries had not attempted because it was so difficult. These monitoring efforts confirmed the decline in fisheries resources and in 1995, the Government began an important new effort to work in partnership with the villagers of Samoa in developing Village-based Fishery Plans. Their techniques were a major turn-around from the normal fisheries relationship with the public and have proven highly successful.
This study will examine the various historic attempts to assess, monitor and manage marine resources of Samoa and compare these efforts to the new techniques. The purpose of the study is to establish the basic material for developing computer-based and self-training courses for government officials. It is intended to provide sound and useful examples of environment assessment methodologies which can be used by other island countries in the ESCAP region. The case study has, therefore, the following objectives:
In order to achieve the objectives, the case study focused upon the following points: