HONIARA ­– Malaitan communities have already benefited from the provincial government’s initiative to provide coastal communities with fish-aggregating devices (FADs).

The initiative was launched in May 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is considered to be a sustainable fishing technology that can support the coastal communities of Malaita with their fishing activities.

The program was initiated following the declaration by the national government of a nation-wide state of public emergency as COVID-19 sky-rocketed in March 2020. It was reported that the Malaita Alliance or Rural Advancement (MARA) Government supported the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office with SBD$100,000 as part of its COVID-19 livelihood program through the FAD launches.

Solomon Islands Ngongosila fisher Walter shows one of his big catches of the day. Photo: Victor Suraniu.
Ngongosila fisher Walter shows one of his big catches of the day. Photo: Victor Suraniu.

During the festive season, the sinking islands of Kwai and Ngongosila in east Malaita reaped their first harvest since the FAD was launched. The Provincial Member for Ward 16, Preston Billy, led the first harvest of fish stocks.

“Fisheries is an important source of income for the coastal communities of Malaita, and also the rest of the Solomon Islands. The pandemic has brought in a lot of challenges for our local fishing communities, thus driving the local government to aid its own people,” Mr Billy said.

 “It was a great experience to be giving back to the people of my community, being a fisherman myself before heading into provincial politics. This initiative is the best that the local government can do for its people, especially during this pandemic period.

“I was also part of the first harvest and it’s good to see that the local fishermen and their families are benefiting greatly from it,” Mr Billy said.

In Solomon Islands, Malaita Ward 16 Provincial Member Preston Billy. Photo: Ronald F. Toito’ona.
Ward 16 Provincial Member Preston Billy standing inside the run-down Adakoa Fisheries Centre. Photo: Ronald F. Toito’ona.

The Kwai Island community representative, Victor Suraniu, said they were filled with pride as beneficiaries of the local FAD program.

“Thumbs up to the MARA Government for donating and installing the FADs in the last six months. Indeed, we are very proud of what you have done for the hundreds of people who have directly and indirectly benefited from the fishing project, both from the islands and the shoreline communities from Wards 15 and 16 in East Malaita,” Mr Suraniu said.

“We also wish to show gratitude to our Provincial Member, Preston Billy for taking the lead to ensure that the FAD program reaches our shores.”

However, they are calling on Mr Billy to also try all means possible to upgrade and revive the run-down fisheries centre in the area.

Mr Billy said that plans were already in place to upgrade the old fisheries centre, which is located on the mainland.

In Solomon Islands, Malaita Provincial Ward Member Preston Billy (front) works with local fishers to prepare the local FAD for its first harvest on 14 December 2020. Photo: Victor Suraniu.
Malaita Provincial Ward Member Preston Billy (front) works with local fishers to prepare the local FAD for its first harvest on 14 December 2020. Photo: Victor Suraniu.

Malaita Provincial Fisheries Office has so far launched more than 20 FADs in the province.

Principal fisheries officer Martin Jasper said they had benefited the communities.

“This is a very successful program thus far, however more and more people are requesting for devices to be installed in their waters,” Mr Jasper said.

“For the year 2021, a total of eight FADs will be distributed: six FADs will be for mainland Malaita and two FADs for Malaita Outer Islands. This FAD distribution is a continuation from the 2020 MARA-funded program by Malaita provincial government for its people.”

Mr Jasper said the idea behind the provision of FADs was to shift people’s fishing activities from overharvesting reefs by moving to FAD-based fishing.

He said the provincial government came in to support its people because it realised the importance of this. It could also see that it was an income-generating activity for people.

He said that the FAD assistance program also had wide support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

Mr Jasper’s office is also engaged in other programs such as community-based rehabilitation management for fisheries. He said work was also in progress in other fisheries programs such as the Bina Harbour project.

In Solomon Islands, the remains of the old Adakoa Fisheries Centre, which is on the mainland, adjacent to the islands of Kwai and Ngongosila. Photo: Ronald F. Toito’ona.
The remains of the old Adakoa Fisheries Centre, which is on the mainland, adjacent to the islands of Kwai and Ngongosila. Photo: Ronald F. Toito’ona.