October 18, 2012

OceansWatch Continues its Marine Conservation Work in the Solomon Islands with an Expanded RC Program

The 2012 OceansWatch Team

By Glenn Edney, Reef Check Solomon Islands

OceansWatch, a long-time Reef Check partner and non-profit organization committed to marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods for island coastal communities, has just completed its third expedition to the remote Reef Islands, in the Temotu region of the Solomon Islands. OceansWatch is working with several local communities in the Reef Islands, helping them establish a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) within their customary marine areas.

The Reef Islanders have recognised that the establishment of MPAs, in conjunction with traditional management strategies and other fishing restrictions, are the best way for them to move forward in addressing the declining health of their marine ecosystems. OceansWatch was invited by these communities to assist them in setting up the MPAs, and to develop appropriate monitoring programmes to help them evaluate the effectiveness of their conservation initiatives.

This year, the OceansWatch marine science team was able to build on last year’s work by establishing six Reef Check monitoring sites within the MPAs, as well as another four sites outside the MPAs that will provide reliable scientific feedback on the effectiveness of protection measures. The team managed to complete three full replicates at each site, providing the first comprehensive information on reef health from this area. In addition, the team surveyed potential sites for the establishment of further protected areas, as part of the strategy towards developing a network approach to marine protection.

Kat Rowe, one of the marine science team members, conducting a shallow substrate line transect.

The communities of the Reef Islands rely almost exclusively on their marine environment for survival and as the foundation of their local economy, and are thus very motivated in their efforts to re-establish the sustainable use of marine resources. OceansWatch has developed the ‘Reef Guardian’ programme, incorporating aspects of the Reef Check protocol as well as qualitative assessment tools, to help such local communities monitor progress for themselves. The Reef Guardian programme combines aspects of traditional ecological knowledge with modern scientific knowledge to produce a unique monitoring programme appropriate to each community. The OceansWatch marine science team will continue to complement this local assessment with ongoing Reef Check surveys on a yearly basis. For more information about the work of OceansWatch visit www.oceanswatch.org.