Dataset: Privatising fish? Barriers to the use of marine protected areas for conservation and fishery management in Melanesia: WORKING PAPER


This record describes, and links to a working paper produced through the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific (RMAP) Program based at The Australian National University in Canberra.

In this paper we examine the strengths and weaknesses of state-supported Customary Marine Tenure (CMT) systems in two independent Melanesian states in the context of burgeoning commercial and subsistence fisheries. Both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands can be categorised as 'weak states' where access by foreign-owned fishing companies to state-owned resources (e.g. tuna) is typically easy to obtain by bribing the relevant politicians and bureaucrats at national and/or provincial level. By contrast, access to near-shore fishery resources necessitates negotiation with the landowners of adjacent coastal zones, and this in itself can provide some level of resource protection. However the expansion of markets and rapid increases in populations in the region are exerting pressures on subsistence and commercial fisheries that are already creating significant problems. In the Solomon Islands the recent collapse of the state in a militia coup has also meant that any escalation in marine resource piracy is likely to proceed unchecked and indeed in many cases unnoticed and unreported. The management tool of choice for multi-species fisheries across the world, and particularly in cash-poor developing countries is the Marine Protected Area (MPA), and this system has proved quite successful in many instances, particularly in rich, industrialised countries. However, with some exceptions, typical Melanesian CMT regimes make MPAs difficult to establish because many coastal zones are finely divided along clan boundaries, such that few clans would be willing to 'lock up' their own reefs for the benefit of neighbouring clans. How then can local communities in these countries most effectively manage their marine resources in an environment of escalating fishing pressure and weak governance? In this essay we analyse the social and institutional contexts of near-shore community-based fishery resource management, and explore options for the future. We look at the potential utility of educating reef owners about aspects of the life cycle of marine organisms that are mostly absent from local knowledge systems and how this information could empower villagers to better formulate their own management regimes.

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