16 Oct 2022


True to his name, Alpha is a man of beginnings. Alpha Ghelly is an innovator, introducing a sea-grape management mechanism to his village, Saeraghi on the island of Ghizo in the Western Province of Solomon Islands. His work is a fine example of how traditional knowledge and science can be harnessed to promote innovative, community-led approaches to sustainable fisheries management in Pacific countries

“I target seaweed because of stories from my grannies before...they just harvest it beside mangroves. When I grew up I found out that no one talked about management inside our community. When I was involved with WWF I picked up management of marine resources and when I came back to my home, we started to face hard times with our resources.”

Alpha Ghelly holding seagrapes= Solomon Islands
© WWF-Pacific / Jessica Rutherford

He introduced his newfound knowledge to the management of an important traditional food source. The Saeraghi community have traditionally learned of sea-grape rich areas and its preparation as a food. Today, they are sustainably harvesting sea-grapes for both subsistence and commercial use. The effort though, is not without challenges. The sea-grape management program is sophisticated with an awareness component, rules on how, when and how much can be harvested, and a strict two-week exclusion penalty for those who do not abide by the rules agreed to by the community.

“I already suspend 10 women. I suspend them so that they can learn!” says Alpha.

Managing seaweed harvesting might sound like a big task, but for Alpha his motivation for conservation and sustainable livelihoods comes from his heart, and out of concern for the next generation’s well-being. His vision is for abundant resources for the next generation, for marine resource management to be widespread and for greater awareness of environmental issues.

Sea-grape management integrates into some of WWF-Pacific’s other programs including a project supported by Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), and seafood brand, John West Australia. This project is working to improve the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea who traditionally rely on the ocean as their main source of protein and for their livelihoods. However, overfishing of reefs and a rapidly growing population is putting more and more pressure on precious marine resources.

Along with launching initiatives to directly protect vulnerable reef species and habitats, the Project has also trained local women to set up a small loans scheme to fund the launch of new business ventures and diversify traditional income streams. And so women branching out from selling only reef-caught fish at the market can now also sell other goods like bread, eggs – and now, sustainably managed sea-grapes!

Republished with permission from WWF-Pacific