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Coastal fisheries resources contribute significantly to both food security and community incomes throughout the Pacific region. But in places like Papua New Guinea, poor access to seafood markets, a paucity of information and understanding about how to properly manage coastal resources, and a need for training in better management and resource assessment, are further complicated by PNG’s sheer size and widely dispersed and remotely located communities.

A US$ 10 million project to promote the sustainable development and management of marine resources in Papua New Guinea’s coastal waters is well underway and is already showing positive signs of building the capacity of coastal Papua New Guineans.

Funded by the PNG government through a concessionary loan by the Asian Development Bank, the PNG Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Project (CFMDP) is implemented by the PNG National Fisheries Authority. The CFMDP works directly with national, provincial and local fisheries administrations, the seafood industry, NGOs, and village communities in four of PNG’s coastal provinces.

CFMDP has five main areas of activity: infrastructure development, fisheries assessment and monitoring, strengthening information flows, community-based fisheries management, and institutional strengthening. Project activities are initially focusing on New Ireland Province because some infrastructure is already in place, and because NFA has good support facilities in the province.

Infrastructure development
Throughout coastal PNG, improved wharves, jetties, and fish freezing and storage facilities are needed. For example, in Daru, in PNG’s Western Province (one of the project sites), a proper fish landing area and better wharf facilities would not only make it possible for fishing boats to land and offload fish catches more efficiently, but would also improve the sanitation conditions and reduce the turnaround time for users who come from distant islands. The CFMDP will begin construction of a small-boat jetty there later this year.

In places where infrastructure has already been developed, it has changed the way that local fishermen operate. As an example, a small boat jetty in Kavieng, in PNG’s New Ireland Province, now allows fishermen to offload their catch to nearby market facilities, as well as to refuel, buy ice, and load cargo all in one place. Next to the small boat jetty is a larger-scale wharf that can accommodate commercial tuna fishing vessels. Such a wharf rationalizes a facility that allows for cold storage, ice production, air freight and refrigerated shipping. This facility in turn creates opportunities for small-scale fishermen whose catch would otherwise never justify such an infrastructure.

Fisheries assessment and monitoring
The CFMDP’s one-year program of sampling fish landings will provide a picture of the pattern of fish landings and use within New Ireland Province. The data will allow the CFMDP team to identify which resources are economically or socially important, and which may require management attention.

A baseline socioeconomic survey to ascertain the economic role of fisheries and the nature of people’s attitudes to resource use, conservation and management in New Ireland Province, is already providing some interesting indicators of resource management concerns and issues, such as the over-use of Derris sp., a poisonous plant that is used to catch fish; dynamite fishing and its impact on reefs and marine resources; illegal fishing in PNG waters; and better management of community reef and mangrove resources. Some 800 interviews have been conducted and nearly all the data have been entered into the project database. The survey will be repeated in three years and will help to judge the success of the project.

Strengthening information flows
During project scoping meetings, coastal fisheries stakeholders – who included members of local communities, commercial and subsistence fishers, national and provincial governments, non-governmental organizations and the seafood industry – consistently repeated that they needed better and more regular information on various fisheries-related topics. As a consequence of this demonstrated interest, the CFMDP includes a significant information component, which is currently developing appropriate information products and is establishing effective information delivery systems.

A variety of information materials have already been produced, ranging from comic books for primary school children about destructive fishing practices and reef conservation to weekly radio spots, with topics that include HIV/AIDS and seafarers, overfishing, and safety at sea. Other information materials — such as posters that indicate why mangroves are important to both people and the marine resources they depend on, and video documentary-dramas that depict the negative impacts of dynamite fishing and using poisonous plants — are being produced to help reinforce the messages in the comics and radio programs. The aim is to develop information that is both interesting and readily understood by a range of people, and which reinforces the project’s goals.

Community-based fisheries management
The CFMDP has developed course manuals and has implemented a one-month training program for local and provincial fisheries officers in community-based management (CBM) and communication skills. Following on from this training, the CFMDP is working with a local New Ireland Province NGO, Ailan Awareness, to raise awareness about CBM through village “road shows”, making use of plays, songs and videos, and radio programs to deliver their message. Follow up visits are made to communities that express a keen interest in actively managing their marine resources.

Four communities have been selected for more comprehensive support, and the team is providing them with assistance and technical input in order for them to develop their own fishery management plans. The ultimate goal is to get a significant proportion — approximately 25% — of coastal waters around New Ireland Province under some form of community or customary-based protection.

Two international NGOs directly support the community-based management program by providing funding and helping to carry out activities that support or complement those of the CBM program. For example, Wildlife Conservation Society is undertaking resource monitoring of some of the participating communities’ reefs, while The Nature Conservancy is helping Ailan Awareness to set up accounting and financial control systems so that the NGO will be self –sufficient before the CFMDP ends in 2007.

Institutional strengthening
One of the key elements of the project is building local capacity to assist with, and then take over, the fisheries management activities the CFMDP is setting up.

In New Ireland Province several training courses for local fishery officers, observers and port samplers have been run. As a result there is now a competent and motivated field team whose members are taking responsibility for many aspects of the project’s work program. Later this year, the project will take the same approach in other target provinces, Morobe and Milne Bay.

According to Garry Preston, Team Leader for the project, “The CFMDP project represents a comprehensive, integrated approach to coastal fishery management that is of relevance to other Pacific Island countries and locations. Our project will be happy to share its experience and information with interested parties from countries in the region.”
 

  
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