Malaita communities benefit from FADs to sustain fishing grounds

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 27 March 2020 – WITH the increasing threats of climate change on local fishing grounds of coastal communities around Malaita Province in Solomon Islands, communities are seeing the importance of the fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in providing them with alternative fishing grounds.

In Solomon Islands, small-scale commercial fisheries are dotted around the provinces, and focus on providing mainly sea resources such as sea shells, beche-de-mer, and shark fins for export.

These commodities are an important source of cash for local Solomon Islanders. However, in recent years, coastal communities in the Solomon Islands have seen drastic changes that have affected their daily fishing activities.

These changes gave birth to the local marine management area (LMMA) initiative, through which coastal communities around Malaita understood the importance of protecting their reefs from overfishing and other harvesting activities.

The project: Malaita provincial government and WorldFish

Since 2018, eight communities in Malaita Province have utilised FADs to make their fishing easier. They are Suava Bay,  Onepusu and Mandalua in North Malaita; Gwanatafu in West Fataleka; Fote, and Bio in West Kwara’ae; Ta’arutona in West Are’are; and Ambitona in East Kwaio. 

The Malaita Provincial Fisheries office and WorldFish Auki have teamed up for the great partnership, which resulted in eight FADs being deployed in the seas near these communities in March 2018. 

The FADs were deployed by a team consisting of people from WorldFish and Malaita Provincial Fisheries. The eight communities are believed to have put into practice LMMAs, to restrict use of reefs close to their villages from being fished or gleaned.  

Mathew Isihanua from the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office in yellow, WorldFish team, and people from Ta`arutona community went out for depth sounding before deploying FADs. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.

The aim of deploying the FADs to these communities is to provide the communities with an alternative fishing area to prevent the villagers from engaging in fishing activities in the LMMA.  More communities in Malaita are now adapting the concept of LMMA to protect their marine resources from over-harvesting and the fear of marine resource extinction. 

Today, due to the value of marine resources like fish and seashells in Solomon Islands domestic markets, people put more pressure on the reefs than ever in human history. Harvesting of marine resources for daily food and income over the years has so affected many reefs in Malaita that they have lost much of their rich marine life. 

Some communities have begun to realise that relying heavily on the reefs needs to be stopped to allow reefs to revive, and their marine richness to return and continue to provide the current generation and future generations with food and income.  

However, the challenge that materialises for adopting an LMMA is that it prevents communities that depend on reefs from looking elsewhere for fish and seashells to satisfy daily needs. This is becoming irritation, especially to those who depend on harvesting marine resources.

Malaita Provincial Fisheries boss Martin Jasper, head and upper body photo of man standing in front of poster of reef fishes.
Malaita Provincial Fisheries boss Martin Jasper

According to Martin Jasper from the Malaita Provincial Fisheries office in Auki, the FADs are actually meant to relieve fishing pressure from the reefs, especially when the reefs are put under an LMMA to regain their rich marine life.  

Mr Jasper said in early 2019 that the FAD distribution was in its second phase, that is implementation. The project is being implemented under the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

“This is the second phase of the project implemented under the Coral Triangle Initiative and funded by Asian Development Bank,” Mr Jasper said.

“WorldFish in collaboration with the Malaita Provincial Fisheries deployed FADs to the eight selected communities that applied for the FADs.

“More than 50 communities applied, and only eight were accepted due to limited funds available,” he added.

Mr Jasper explains that before the distribution and installation of the FADs, an awareness tour and constructions of FADs and anchors was conducted in March 2018. 

“This tour was for definite deployment of FADs and community-based resource management awareness that linked with FADs activities,” he said.   

Following the deployment of the FADs, communities in North Malaita have told the Auki Provincial Fisheries office that they are benefiting from the FADs as the equipment made fishing easier for them, which means they do not have to fish in the LMMA. 

In the meantime, Mr Jasper is calling on the eight communities to take care of the FADs so that they will continue to attract more fish to make fishing easier.  

Not only that, he also extended the call to sea users, fishers, and the travelling public to respect the FADs because they are deployed purposely to provide alternative fishing ground for the communities to relieve pressure on their reefs. 

Mr Jasper said there are few recorded incidents of FAD vandalism, where people cut the anchor and ropes attached to the FADs for no good reason. 

“FADs have played a major role in communities practicing LMMA because without FADs people will not respect the LMMA and will continue to harvest marine resources in the management areas,” he said.

Lilisiana community’s FAD engagement

Learning from the success of the eight communities, the Lilisiana community in the Langalanga division of Malaita decided to follow suit. Like other coastal communities, the people of Lilisiana derived much of their protein from fish while selling surplus supply at Auki, Malaita’s provincial capital, to meet other household needs and wants.

However, their heavy reliance on the resource depleted the supply of fish in the nearby reefs. This situation forced the fishers of Lilisiana to paddle further out to sea to fish. 

The fishers blamed that the change in weather conditions, saying they had muddled up the regular migratory fish pattern. The presence of seasonal fish species such as yellowfin tuna, rainbow fish and even kingfish appear to be unpredictable to most, even to the elites in the trade.

As a result, fishing becomes harder and fishers often return home with very small catche that are sometimes enough for family consumption only.  Whenever a fishing trip is unsuccessful, it badly affects family income.

In 2017, the fishermen of Lilisiana formed a group called the Auki Bay Fishermen Association (ABFA). ABFA was established to create an avenue for fishers of Lilisiana to support their families through the provision of food and income.

Members of ABFA witness the commissioning of the FAD. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.

The group created a FAD in January 2019 and had it deployed at sea.

The FADs assist local fishers to gain access to tuna stocks, and minimise their travel costs (boat fuel and time). FADs also improve safety at sea by reducing the need to fish far away, and encouraging fishers to fish at least some of the time in a “known” place.

ABFA is the first fishing association in Malaita Province to create a FAD at the village level without assistance from the Ministry of Fisheries.

ABFA chairman Joe Talanimoli told Malaita Star Magazine during the official launching of the FAD in January this year that making a FAD at the village wasn’t easy.

“To make a FAD at the village level without funding support is not an easy task because everything costs money,” Talanimoli said.

However, through collaborative and collective efforts from more than 100 ABFA members, they managed to complete the FAD which cost them over $8,000 within two weeks.

“Most of the materials required and used for the FAD were sourced from villagers at affordable cost,” the chairman added.

Now that the FAD was finally deployed at sea, ABFA members could now look forward to improving their catches to support their families, he said with a smile.

Following the launch, ABFA appointed a body that is responsible for maintaining the FAD.

Since the introduction of the initiative two years ago, the communities had benefited greatly from the FAD initiative. Auki market, as well as Honiara Central market, are the usual destinations of FAD catches. 

However, to ensure that everyone gets maximum benefits from the initiative, all fishers and community members were told to look after the equipment so that it would continue to support them meet their family needs and wants. The communities were also cautioned about penalties under the Fisheries Act if someone was found tampering with or vandalising the equipment.

Solomons’ second tuna cannery at Bina Harbour a government priority

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 27 March 2020 – Solomon Islands may soon have its second tuna cannery as initial work on the Bina Harbour project takes off.

The harbour project is a government priority for 2020.

The cannery is due to start operating in 2023. It is understood that the proposed facility would process 26,950 metric tons of fish a year. The project will be complemented by a large commercial wharf suited for international exportation, and a significant fuel depot to support the fishing fleet that will provide fish for the cannery.

The project has faced several challenges from different sectors over the past years during the early planning phase. Now, a cross-sectoral approach with a strong notion of “working together” with all relevant stakeholders is being undertaken.

This week, the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DGCA) said it is committed to the successful implementation of the Bina Harbour project in Malaita Province.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s press secretariat said that this commitment was evident, as significant progress had been made so far.

Counting the positives, there was a successful reconciliation ceremony held in 2019, identification of the ideal site for a water source, identification of the landowners of the harbour access, a study on financing options, and the identification of a project office site.

“DCGA is serious in taking on board the many challenges faced by past successive governments in moving this national project forward,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Currently, consultations are being held between the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC), the World Bank Group, International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Malaita Provincial Government, and the resource owners.

While the MFMR remains the leader and focal point of the national project, consultations to progress the project now involve all sectors and parties directly and indirectly related to it.

The government believes the positive impacts this national project will have on the country is huge.

When operational, the tuna factory is expected to employ more than 1,000 employees.

“Ideally, we want our Pacific athletes attending the games in 2023 to eat fish products produced in Bina,” the statement said.

“Apart from employment, the positive trickle-down impacts of this factory are that many local businesses and local farmers in the country would benefit in supplying food produce and basic needs to the factory and its employees.”

Landowners, disputes and reconciliation

Bina Harbour in Malaita Province was earmarked by the national government in its priority projects to establish a fish-processing factory, but land issues have delayed progress on the project.

Former Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources (MFMR) John Maneniaru said land disputes over the proposed site in Bina Harbour had been dealt with by the High Court.

The High Court ruling in 2017 has settled the land issue, clearing the way for the government to pursue the project.

During his term as the minister, Mr Maneniaru said the ministry took the lead in the work on the project and had identified two plots of land on the site that should cater for developing the infrastructure needed.

It was obvious that the ministry had tried everything to progress the project, one of which was finding the best ways to accommodate all land-owning groups as the number of tribes claiming ownership keeps changing. However, in 2017 a milestone was achieved with landowners, when plots of lands and their rightful owners were identified.

In May 2019, a reconciliation ceremony was organised between the national government, Ministry of Fisheries, Malaita Provincial Government, and the resource owners of Bina in West Kwaio.

The reconciliation took place in West Kwaio, where representatives from the four groups signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to allow Bina Harbour development to go ahead without any further disputes. 

West Kwaio MP Titus Fika speaking to the people of Bina during a delegation tour to Bina. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for West Kwaio, Mr Titus Fika, thanked the landowners for signing the MOU, and described the event as a welcoming sign for development in his constituency. He said the MOU would allow Bina Harbour development to go ahead, and any dispute claims would be solved outside and would not disturb the development.

“I want to thank the national government for taking a leading step by revisiting the Bina Harbour project,” Mr Fika said.

“I think the government has demonstrated willingness to continue to develop Bina Harbour.”

The West Kwaio MP admits that he admires the way the current government is taking a leading role in ensuring the Bina Harbour project rolls on.

While he called on his people of West Kwaio to respect the MOU to allow development to continue, he also encourages the government of the day to continue to push behind the project to see it fully develop.

The development partners: Australia, New Zealand, USA

In November 2019, a hydrographic survey was conducted to determine the depth of the harbour.

The survey, which was conducted by the Australia navy, is a major step in the development of Bina Harbour project. The survey is vital to gauge the depth of the water so that action can be taken on other considerations needed, especially the size of ships and the depth of their hauls.

Australia survey vessel Leeuwin surveying Bina Harbour in November 2019. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.
Australia survey vessel Leeuwin surveying Bina Harbour in November 2019. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.

Through its navy, the Australian Government is helping to map the underwater topography to determine what needs to be done to satisfy international maritime harbour requirements.

The Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga said that the national government is doing everything it can to get the harbour project operational. He thanked the Australian Government for supporting the project and assured it that the DCGA government is committed to pushing the project forward.

The Deputy Prime Minister also took time to thank the people and the trustees of Bina land for their cooperation, and encouraged them to keep up the good work to see the project through.

Visiting delegation and trustees took a group photo aboard Leeuwin. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.

MFMR’s Nesto Ghiro reiterated to the people of Bina and Malaita Province that the government is committed to the project. 

Meanwhile, Malaita Province Premier Daniel Suidani said that his government was looking forward for the completion of the project, and he whole-heartedly thanked the Australia Government for stepping in and moving the project forward.

 “This is welcoming news to my people of Malaita province, and I must thank the national government for its support towards the project and I urge the government to follow through on its promise and commitment to the people of Malaita,” the Hon. Suidani said. 

“The province has been duly informed that the New Zealand Government has been helping out with the project alongside Australia. IFC and USA are also expressing their willingness to support the project. This is good news to the most populated province of Solomon Islands,” he said.

Premier Daniel Suidani addressing the visiting delegation and the trustees at the project site in Bina. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.

During a meeting with local journalists last September, the United States said it was also considering working in Bina Harbour with other donor partners under the USAID program.

When confirming her country’s assistance, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Ann Marie Yastishock unveiled some infrastructure development the US would step in to fund.

“We are looking at developing the Bina Harbour area and also the possibilities of building the wharves in Bina Harbour,” she said.

Ms Yastishock said that, under the program, USAID would be looking at possibilities to provide clean energy that ensured rural areas far from the energy grid would also have access to energy.

“Some other areas will be the constructions of schools and health centres, as well as some areas on clean water supplies,” she said.

Ms Yastishock said that these were types of “soft” infrastructure because they had to understand those things like maintenance issues and how to procure them online.

“The issue here is we are looking at the governance type of issue,” she said.

IFC the main financier

Early this year, a team from the IFC, the private business arm of the World Bank, made a historic visit to Malaita, during which they met the premier and officials. The team which of six is putting together a project proposal to attract the investor best suited to the Bina Harbour project.

Members of the IFC team with Malaita Province Premier and officials. Photo: Wilson B. Saeni.

ICF, a triple-A rated organisation, has continued to play an important role in the project since signing an agreement with the Ministry of Fisheries last yearn. 

It is also welcome news for Malaita that IFC will take steps to invest in the project itself.  This move is cordially welcomed by the Premier and his provincial executive because of its potential to grow the provincial economy.  IFC says it will ensure that the Bina tuna-processing plant is subject to the best global practices, and that the investor selected would be among the best in the world. 

The aim is to meet international standard requirements, and that needs a lot of careful work on the part of IFC. The targeted market would be the European Union (EU). The province and IFC are well aware of the EU’s market, which includes requirements for high standards of production, processing and hygiene. 

Premier Suidani said that the province was ready to assist in whatever way it could to make sure the project was up and running for the betterment of the people of Malaita and Solomon Islands. 

The Malaita Provincial Government (MPG) noted that the World Bank-funded road-improvement project now set to roll from Gwaunaru’u to Bina would boost the Bina Harbour project via improvements in accessibility and movement of materials and people alike.

“With the involvement of IFC, MPG is very confident that the development of the Bina Harbour tuna-processing plant is in good hands,” Premier Suidani said. 

“The spin-off from the project would surely bring development to Malaita Province.”