Integrating stakeholders: Fisheries research instills the belief that the taking and analysis of fisheries data is a difficult and highly specialized task and thus many government workers were, in the past, seldom inclined to invite participation of "lay" people in gathering data. More recently, however, fisheries surveys have included local divers and fishermen as aids in government survey activities.
Training and educational initiatives: Data gathering is a simple task. Researchers have relied on high school students to gather data on daily subsistence catches and household fishing activities (fishing methods, effort and catches) in their own extended families. They have been given fishing log sheets and data gathering equipment along with instructions on how to record data.
Meeting information requirements: Management of nearshore marine resources requires some form of assessment and monitoring. Most of the assessment and monitoring associated with community based projects is based on simple and direct observations by fishers and the rest of the village people who live in the area and the information may, or may not, be passed on to the National fisheries agents. When information is specifically requested as part of the community management programme and a programme set up to collect the information, the villagers are likely to be more observant and communicative.
Depletion of nearshore fisheries, difficulties in obtaining information on conditions.
Measuring how long a fish is or how much it weighs or how many are caught or what they are worth does not require expertise beyond the ability of a marginal high school student. Observing changes in key environmental or resource indicators can be done by anyone who has been asked to keep an eye on them. In fact, most real environmental and resource issues are dead easy to see, even shockingly obvious. Solving them is usually just common sense and, as so many fisheries scientists now acknowledge, the people of the Pacific islands were doing just fine recognizing and solving fisheries resource problems for several thousand years before the scientists came along (Johannes et al 1993).
Community monitoring of a bait fishery in the Solomon Islands
An example of how village people can and do monitor their own marine resources comes from the Solomon Islands (Rawlinson 1995).
"Customary ownership or tenure over sea areas in the Solomon Islands still exists as a perceived and inviolable right of coastal people. Access to areas where traditional rights of tenure, or usage of natural resources have become custom, can only be maintained through negotiation of an agreement and the payment of compensation or royalty payments."
"Agreements were set up between pole and line tuna vessels and villages to fish for bait in the shallow custom waters. Fees were agreed to and fishing areas mapped and duly authorized. Since 1980, industrial relations officers have visited the villages prior to the start of a new season to discuss any problems that may have happened in the previous year, make up any underpayments, and re-evaluate boundaries or open new bait fishing grounds. This has greatly reduced complaints."
"Payments are made on numbers of nights fishing and the size of the vessel. The numbers of nights fished are recorded by the fishing captain, adjusted to the vessel size, and payments are made directly into the bait-ground account."
The villagers organized an association to deal with the fishing companies. Problems, such as the question of the impact of bait fishing on subsistence fishing, were investigated by the Fisheries Department.
Village people kept accurate records of fishing activity to be sure they were paid correctly. These were often different from the fishing boat records so, in 1981, a new system was set up to define the fishing areas. Maps were improved and provided to the boats by the Fisheries Department. At least one crewmember in each boat was shown how to use the maps and the new log sheets. The log sheets were then passed to the Fisheries Department for reference in the event of village complaints. This new system reduced conflict, and the fishery has been reasonably successful.
Community subsistence fishery assessment in Samoa
In 1988/89, FAO/UNDP conducted a project to assess the subsistence fishery in Western Samoa. When the consultant arrived, the Fisheries Division lacked vehicles for transportation and manpower to conduct household surveys. Eventually, the project team used senior high school students to record daily subsistence catches in their own extended families. Students kept a "weekly fishing log" of household fishing activities (fishing methods, effort and catches) over a 7-day period (King, 1990). The survey could be repeated at intervals over the year to detect seasonal variations in catches. Teachers provided a data quality check by marking the student logs and indicating which entries were likely to be unreliable.
The survey forms showed illustrations of the major fish and invertebrate species, including how to measure them. The vertical axis of the table listed the English and Samoan names of major groups (crustaceans, mollusks, other invertebrates, reef/lagoon fish, offshore fish) and common types of invertebrates and fish taken (crabs, lobsters, giant clam, octopus, sea cucumber, sea urchins, mullet, milkfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, tuna, etc). The number of people fishing per day and total hours spent fishing per day were listed at the bottom. The horizontal axis had the day of the week with two vertical columns for number caught and average length.
Instructions, in English and Samoan, are: "Enter the numbers and average length (cm) of all fish and other sea creatures caught by people in your household during each whole day (including the night). Measure the animals as in the drawings. Use this form for one week and fill in one daily column after each day."
The project yielded a surprising amount of information; even estimates of sustainable yield by area. The quantity and diversity of the catch from each village was found to be related to the area and type of ecosystem available for fishing as well as the numbers of fishers. The number of villages, and their populations, adjacent to different types of marine ecosystems were taken from existing government statistics and traditional fishing areas of each village estimated from charts using a planimeter. The survey team defined three ecosystems:
- Fringing coral reefs
- Lagoons and Barrier Reef
- Brackish water with mangroves
The project staff analyzed the data and calculated the number of kilograms of fish per hectare of reef per year. This provided an excellent index of the productivity of the reef (King 1995).
Literature or other written project review references
Johannes, R.E. et al. 1993. The value today of traditional management and knowledge of coastal marine resources in oceania. Workshop of people, society, and Pacific Islands Fisheries development and management. August 1991. Noumea, New Caledonia. Inshore Fisheries ResearchProject Technical Document 5. SPC.
King, 1990, Fisheries research and stock assessment in Western Samoa, Mission Report 1990. TCP/SAM/8852. FAO Rome.
King, 1995, Fisheries Biology, Assessment and Management. Fishing News Books. 341 pp.
Rawlingson, N. 1995. Customary ownership of sea areas and resources with respect to the management of baitfisheries in Solomon Islands and Fiji. Research on fisheries in the Pacific Islands region. Joint FFA/SPC Workshop on the Management of South Pacific Inshore Fisheries. June 26-7 1995. BP72.
Source of Information:
Tellus Consultants Ltd. interviews with principals
Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries
Ministry of Agriculture Forests and Fisheries
Mr. Richard Chesher, Director
Tellus Consultants Ltd.
Port Vila, Vanuatu