17 Aug 2023
COMMUNITY-MANAGED FISHERIES: PROTECTING THE REEF FOR GENERATIONS TO COME
Meet Janty Abin, a Community Facilitator who has worked with WWF for over 10 years.
In Janty’s community - Siar Village, Ward 5 of Madang District in Papua New Guinea - WWF-Australia has been working with the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and John West Australia to support innovative, community-led approaches to sustainable fisheries management.
These approaches have seen local fish stocks improve, with individual fish growing larger and more species returning to local waters. This includes establishing locally managed marine areas, known as ‘tabu’ areas, that use Traditional Knowledge to protect reefs and fish populations for generations to come.
“Through community-based fisheries management, we have [created] some ‘tabu’ (protected) areas,” says Janty.
“Before the tabu area was set up, we took surveys on fish counting, and we saw that fish numbers were decreasing. Most of the species people used to catch before were no longer seen or caught in those areas.”
Tabu areas are established by communities to ensure their resources, in this case fish stocks, are managed sustainably. Creating tabu areas is a collaborative effort and includes input from village members, councillors and Elders before a whole-community consensus is reached.
This consensus covers the specific areas that need protecting and how they will be protected, rules around the harvesting of resources within them like catch rates, fish size and species limits, as well as the penalties for anyone not following these rules. Once established, communities run their tabu areas.
“We try to get people into clans to protect their areas. One area has been protected for two years now, and there are changes for the good,” says Janty.
Protected Area Community Facilitators like Jacob Pukini play a key role in getting communities on board and involved in protecting the reef and mangroves that are overfished.
“I go out to conduct awareness in communities about the importance of conservation and the benefits of conservation projects,” explains Jacob.
“We do awareness in the community to stop fishing and release stress on reefs and even the mangrove system. This encourages fish to return and spawn. In that way, we attract big fish to come to shore.”
Janty, Jacob and their communities have since observed fish returning to the areas, including species they hadn’t seen before.
“The community have seen a lot of difference when they protect the area because they see the fish stock improving,” says Janty.
“In the past five years, they see there was no fish. They go out fishing and get a small number of fish."
“When we put this tabu area in place, they see that they can catch more fish. And we see new fish coming to the area, like stingrays. They come right to the shore!"
“These are some of the differences people can see, and they then really support the idea of protecting the area.”
The bottom line
Harnessing Traditional Knowledge and other approaches to reduce stress on natural resources can help ensure food and income sources remain for generations to come. By driving change and promoting responsible fishing practices around the globe, we can make a difference and protect our oceans for the long-term.
That’s why partnerships like this are so critical.
, WWF-Australia, the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and John West are now supporting inclusive conservation and community sustainable development efforts that improve and mainstream gender equity, disability and social inclusion outcomes in the Pacific.
This partnership will build on and strengthen our efforts to support sustainable livelihoods and coastal fisheries across the Pacific.