III. ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING OF FISHERY RESOURCES IN SAMOA
7. How assessments interact with and impact on economic decision making
The FAO/UNDP Inshore Fisheries Resources Assessment for Management in Samoa project was intended to provide a system of data collection, monitoring and control to give policy makers, managers and potential donor organisations a clear picture of the status of the fishery and stocks and opportunities for future sustainable development.
Throughout the resulting atlas, there are practical recommendations to improve the status of the fishery in each particular area. This is a major accomplishment - provided the recommendations are followed. As is clear from the atlas, and from previous reports, most of the environmental problems, and the decline of fish catches, were already known prior to the study. While the surveys refined the definition of these issues it provides no added incentive to address them constructively.
In 1982, Dr. R. Johannes conducted a survey of the Samoa reef fisheries and wrote a paper with almost all of the overall conclusions and recommendations of the 1993 FAO Inshore Fishery Resources Assessment. The newer survey adds detail, but the content and conclusions (and the problems) remain unchanged. This demonstrates two points;
The objective of fisheries resource assessment should ideally be to develop methods of changing people's behaviour to enable sustainable and not destructive fishing habits. Data collected by schools and communities might not overly impress a fisheries scientist in terms of accuracy, but the fisheries scientists are not the ones who need to be convinced by the data. The village people are the ones that need to be convinced, so they can modify their behaviour as appropriate to the local biological situation.
The Village Fisheries Extension Programme, described in Section 2, offers a way of profiling fishery resources on the village level, including most of the facets in a true resource accounting system. By reducing the size and complexity of the system to a rural village setting, the various sectors of the accounting system become manageable on a practical, if not theoretical, scale.
The Fisheries Department, with the co-operation of the Agriculture Department, Forestry Department, and Environment and Conservation, should continue to expand its village based fisheries data collection and management system. By helping the villagers improve their assessment and monitoring skills, the Fisheries Department would benefit by developing a National system for the assessment and monitoring of fishery stocks. Similar agricultural, forestry and environmental surveys could be made more efficient by developing cross-sector standards for: