Gender, generational perceptions and community ...

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Section title Gender, generational perceptions and community fisheries management in Lelepa, North Efate, Vanuatu
Section author(s) J. Tarisesei, Irene Novaczek
Book title Pacific voices: equity and sustainability in Pacific Islands fisheries.
Book editor(s) Irene Novaczek, Jean Mitchell, J. Veitayaki
Start page 186
End page 208
Date 2005
Abstract In recent decades there has been significant pressure on rural Vanuatu to join the cash economy. Communal sharing of resources has shifted to individual harvesting of marine resources for commercial gain, affecting gender roles, technologies used and fish stocks. The history of change in subsistence and small commercial fishing activities on Lelepa Island, north Efate, illustrates these developments. Researchers from the Vanuatu Cultural Centre collected data on traditional harvesting and management practices in 1999-2001. For this case study additional research was conducted in 2003 using observation and semi-structured interviews. While marine products remain the primary source of protein on the island they have also contributed to cash incomes, creating a dilemma for the community. For example, traditionally only women collected trochus but as it became commercially valuable men started to harvest it also and demand outstripped supply. Trochus is now uncommon. The introduction of spear guns, nets, reels and motor boats meant that by the 1970s Lelepa's other marine resources were also in decline. Green snail may be locally extinct. Beche-de-mer was fished out in the late 1970s. Many big fish, especially wrasse and grouper, are also now rare. Despite this the bulk of fish caught still goes for sale in Port Vila. Foreign companies have paid large access fees to collect fish, live corals and juvenile giant clams for the aquarium trade, but no monitoring of their activities has been done and it has had a detrimental impact on the emerging ecotourism industry. The paramount chief of Lelepa responded to these pressures by introducing traditional harvest bans and a marine protected area in the early 1990s. This was not popular with many fishermen and meant the end of fishing for elderly women. By custom, women have little say in village decision-making, but they are expected to provide food for their families and they also play an unacknowledged role in educating children about the protected area. Some species are recovering but violation of the ban by some small chiefs has led to problems of compliance and enforcement. Finding the balance between subsistence needs, economic development and resource conservation in Lelepa is likely to remain difficult and contentious.

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