Growing a Pacific ‘community-of-practice’ for coastal fisheries management

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The Vanuatu Fisheries Department (VFD) proudly hosted the FishSMARD community-of-practice for a three-day workshop from 15th to the 17th of May 2019, as part of the department’s Australian Aid funded Pathways project on community based fisheries management.The acronym FishSMARD stands for Sustainable Management Approaches and Research Development for Fish and binds together a network of fisheries practitioners in the Pacific who are working to improve community-based fisheries management. It is an initiative to improve peer-to-peer dialogue, learning exchange and skills development. What sets FishSMARD apart from other such groups is that it is “by and for professional peers in the Pacific”. The meeting was a first of its kind, and saw fisheries officers from Kiribati and Solomon Islands engage with VFD staff. It moreover provided opportunity for broader fisheries department staff to not only learn from other countries, but also input into dialogues about how best to implement coastal fisheries management in their province or area. As VFD’s Director, Mr. William Naviti, emphasised during his opening remarks, such dialogue between country teams in the region will stand to significantly improve our Pacific skills-base, and strengthen community-based fisheries management practice in the region to provide direct benefits to coastal communities. The workshop started with the country teams sharing lessons and successes from the field, and collectively discussing ways to address challenges. Subsequent sessions provided targeted training by experts, to develop skills in areas that participants identified as necessary for them to improve implementation work. On the last day of the workshop, the participants visited Takara community in North Efate, to see firsthand the emergence of community-based fisheries management. The participants observed how the Takara community has, since 2005, been using combined traditional- and fisheries management knowledge to monitor resource stocks and derive benefits from them through good management (e.g. collective income supported construction of their Nakamal in 2015 and their church house in 2019). The workshop ended with a visit to Wan Smolbag, for an interactive viewing of “Twist mo Spin”; a new community-play developed under a partnership between VFD-Pathways and Wan Smolbag. The play promotes community-based fisheries management by acknowledging the need to address social issues within the communities that are driving pressure on coastal resources. Following the play, participants discussed with the cast the power of theatre in transferring important messages to rural audiences. The three-day meeting has sown the seed from which the FishSMARD network can grow. With talks of the next meeting to be hosted in the Solomon Islands in 2020, prospects of such growth look very promising.

Source: Daily Post

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