Study finds that a decline in local tradition will risk marine life in the Solomons
This shift has led to dangerous declines, and even collapses, of shark, other fish and marine stocks, according to the new study.
The Nggela society traditionally believe in ancestor and nature spirits that can curse anyone who breaks fishing prohibitions.
“But traditional management tends to fall apart when the external pressure increases,” said Dr Simon Foale from James Cook University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
“There is a common desire among western observers to embrace a Rousseau-like image of Pacific Islanders as somehow living in harmony and balance with nature, and more importantly exercising ancient, traditional resource management institutions,” said Dr Foale, whose study has been accepted for publication in the International Social Science Journal.
Dr Foale believes low human population densities in these areas primarily kept marine resources in check in the past. But population and export market growth have contributed to the current imbalance.
Analysis of fisheries in the islands determined that harvesting practices there are unsustainable. At particular risk are sea cucumbers, trochus (a mollusc with a desirable pearly shell) and numerous fish, including sharks.
The sharks are mostly sought for their fins, which can fetch high prices in places like Asia, where they are used in traditional medicine and soups.
“Shark fisheries are inherently vulnerable to over fishing due to the very slow growth rate of most shark species, and their low fecundity,” Dr Foale said, adding that there are “no controls” on shark fishing in the Solomon Islands.
A ban was placed on bêche-de-mer (sea slug) fishing in the region, but that was relaxed after a recent, deadly tsunami washed over the islands in Western and Choiseul Provinces.
Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in California said that the issues witnessed in the Solomon Islands are comparable to what is happening across the globe.
“There are no more remote areas of the planet now,” Mr Van Sommeran said mentioning the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Tasmania, Fiji and the Congo as other areas where natural resources are also under threat.
Mr Van Sommeran said wealthy foreigners sometimes go to such places and offer the indigenous people trucks and other "bribe-like" incentives to meet demands, even if that means over fishing.
Source: Islands Business