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Island Reach: Developing the MPA Network in Makelula, Vanuatu

Ni-Vanuatu people depend on coastal fisheries for their livelihood and food security. The six villages of Southwest Bay, Malekula — Tenstik, Lembenwen, Wintua, Lorlo, Lapo, Lawa — have long followed the traditional marine conservation practice of Tabu areas, or periodically closed areas, managed by chiefs and custom landowners. Now, with population pressures and climate change impacts, these communities are witnessing a drastic decline of fish stocks and have seen the destruction caused to their reefs by Crown of Thorns starfish. Chiefs and landowners recently formed an environmental committee and agreed to create a community-managed network of permanently closed marine protected areas. This inspiring development is, however, a fragile and emerging effort that merits support to help communities pursue their objectives of greater food security and improved livelihoods, along with the goals of building more resilient marine ecosystems and protecting critical biodiversity.

Island Reach will collaborate with the Senewon committee to:
1) help convey the biophysical principles that support effective design of MPA networks;
2) help build and deploy MPA floats and signage to identify boundaries and promote greater adherence; and
3) train people in locally appropriate marine resource monitoring techniques, including the newly developed RESCCUE Marine Monitoring toolkit, which IR team members from Nguna-Pele are trained in.

This project is in alignment with Vanuatu’s National Sustainable Development Plan 2016 to 2030 and the National Fisheries Sector Policy, which promotes community-based and co-management approaches to coastal fisheries and integrated coastal management. Directives include preserving traditional resource management and fishing practices, and developing and implementing community plans.

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