Village-Based Marine Resource Use and Rural Livelihoods:Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea
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This report presents the findings of a socio-economic study conducted in six coastal villages in Kimbe Bay, West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea. From west to east around the Bay the study villages were Kulungi, Gaungo, Tarobi, Baikakea, Potou and Baea. The central aims of the study were to provide information for the design and implementation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within Kimbe Bay and to give direction for future marine education and awareness campaigns for Kimbe Bay's communities. Kimbe Bay coastal village communities rely on both land and marine resources to meet everyday subsistence and cash income needs, and much of their cultural identity, beliefs, and ancestral stories draw on elements from the marine environment. Excluding the densely populated offshore islands of Bali Witu and Arawe, the coastal plain between Kimbe and Bialla has the highest population densities in the province at 130 persons/km2. Over one-third of the population have migrated to the area from elsewhere in the province and mainland PNG. Resource owners in Kimbe Bay are facing several challenges such as changing village socio-political systems, high population growth rates (both urban and rural), poaching of marine resources, increasing use of destructive fishing methods, rising cash needs, and, in some areas, the loss of traditional income sources like cocoa and copra. Two key intersecting processes affect the use of marine resources in Kimbe Bay: the high rate of population growth and rising cash needs of villagers which are changing people's relationships with land and marine resources, leading increasingly to the commercialisation of natural resources throughout the Bay. Together these two processes are exerting pressures for change, a force that will continue to build with the rising material aspirations of this rapidly growing population.Despite a decreasing reliance on a subsistence-based economy, fish and shellfish are major dietary items, alongside garden produce, in all six study villages. The most frequently consumed fish species reported by coastal communities in declining order of importance were Trevally, Mullet, Rabbit-fish, Tuna and Surgeon Fish. Trevally was consumed by 77% of households across all villages, while Mullet, the second most frequently consumed species, was mentioned by half of sample households. Compared with fish catches, a much larger proportion of shellfish meat is for subsistence purposes rather than for cash income generation. In declining order of importance, the most important types of shellfish consumed across all villages were: Kina, Strombus spp, Burrowing Giant Clam and Ark Clam.There tends to be an inverse relationship between dependence on export cash crops and exploitation of marine resources for cash income (which also relates to the accessibility of each village). Oil palm/cocoa was the most frequently top ranked income source for both men and women in the three most accessible villages of Kulungi, Baikakea and Gaungo. For Tarobi Village, which was fourth on accessibility, oil palm was the most frequently top ranked income source for men, and beche-de-mer for women. Fish sold at local markets was the most frequently top ranked income source for both men and women in the two most isolated villages of Potou and Baea. The commercial fish trade is not well developed in Kimbe Bay. Fish sales to commercial buyers were low across all six villages.In all six study villages, people perceived, to varying degrees, a reduction in the abundance of commonly harvested marine resources. Trochus and beche-de-mer (both sold commercially), were the only marine species identified across all six villages as declining significantly in numbers. The commonly harvested Kina shell, from mangrove habitats, although still widely available, was recognised as declining in abundance by Gaungo, Tarobi, Baikakea and Baea villagers.The most common explanations given for the decline in the abundance of specific species were the over-exploitation of marine resources, changes to marine habitats and destructive fishing methods. The poaching of marine resources by 'outsiders' was thought to be a factor explaining declining stocks of marine resources by people living in villages near urban centres, land settlement schemes or oil palm plantation compounds where large numbers of migrants reside.The relative importance of the factors explaining the decline in species abundance differs between the more accessible and less accessible villages. The least accessible villages of Potou and Baea were the only villages where marine habitats were perceived by the residents to be in good condition. In the more accessible villages of Kulungi, Baikakea and Gaungo, marine resources are now of less importance in the cash income strategies of villagers (they have a wider range of income options) than in the more remote villages of Baea, Potou and Tarobi. So, the perceived decline in the abundance of some species in high accessibility villages is probably less to do with over-exploitation of those species, and more to do with habitat degradation associated with general population growth and changing land use practices (e.g., road infrastructure, urban and agricultural development). Conversely, in the less accessible villages where habitat quality is still perceived to be good, the decline in the abundance of some species may reflect over-exploitation of these species for cash income. The relative importance of these factors (impacts on marine habitats resulting from changing land use practices and direct over-exploitation of marine resources) requires further investigation by TNC.While there is a perception among coastal communities that the over-exploitation of some marine resources, the use of destructive fishing methods and certain land-use practices are leading to declines in the abundance of marine resources and reduced quality of marine habitats, few strategies have been implemented to address these problems. This is despite many villagers' acknowledgement that these problems require urgent attention.All coastal communities visited during this study showed support for further conservation awareness programs and the potential adoption of LLG Marine Environment Law. Key strategies and recommendations for the design of a network of locally managed marine protected areas:develop participatory decision-making relationships with marine resource holders;incorporate local knowledge and local management and tenure systems into measures to protect and conserve the marine biodiversity of Kimbe Bay;develop marine conservation strategies that accommodate the economic requirements of people resulting from population growth and the rising material aspirations of the population;reduce dependence on marine income sources by encouraging the rehabilitation of cocoa and coconut smallholdings in isolated villages now that new buyers (e.g., KBSA and Agmark) are entering the market;continue and expand conservation awareness campaigns in Kimbe Bay;identify conservation champions in the community and villages to engender community support for the design and introduction of local MPAs; and,conduct further fisheries research and livelihood studies to improve understanding of how different livelihood strategies and market accessibility influence villagers' dependence on marine resources for subsistence and cash income.
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