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South Pacific, Vanuatu: OceansWatch Projects this year

By OceansWatch — last modified May 09, 2014 01:35 PM
This year OceansWatch will visit about nine communities in Vanuatu with their project boat Magic Roundabout. This is their report about the work they have planned.

Published: 2014-05-08 23:00:00
Topics: Environment
Countries: New Zealand , Vanuatu

South Pacific, Vanuatu: OceansWatch Projects this year

© OceansWatch

This year we plan on visiting about nine communities in Vanuatu.

The first will most likely be Port Olry, in Santo, where an exciting coral reef restoration project was started last year, in collaboration with the Port Olry Elementary School. We are researching more effective potential local substrate materials to use to create reef gardens, and will monitor coral growth since last year.

In the villages of Dolab and Ontar, we will try to introduce the Reef Guardian program, which helps communities build a qualitative measurement of the health of their reefs to supplement more scientific approaches. Last year, the Reef Guardian program evolved considerably in Vanuatu, giving communities the ability to assess the reef as a living entity, giving it qualities of health one would use for a peer. This methods helps develop a sense of kin, and introduces within a scientific process, a traditional sense of place and ecological whole.

On Ra and Mota Lava, we will continue to monitor the new Community Conservation Areas extended during last season, and assess whether our recommendations were useful for the community's needs and the health of the reefs. Similarly, we will work with communities of Southwest Bay and the Reef Islands to provide our help, wherever it is needed, for the implementation and success of existing tabu and conservations areas.

In all communities, we will investigate the present state of the crown of thorns (COT) infestation. The COT populations have been steadily increasing throughout Vanuatu, seriously damaging the reefs and the communities that depend on it. The voracious appetite of the COTs, preying on coral polyps, marks the reef along its path, leaving coral without their colorful algae companions, white skeletons of a once thriving community. There are many methods of COTs disposal developed, but some are more effective and ecologically sound than others.

Similarly, Reef Check surveys will be conducted at all communities, weather conditions and topography-depending. Reef Check guidelines are sometimes not the most effective representation of Vanuatu reefs. The reefs most important to communities are often shallow inshore sections that are not suitable for the transect parameters established through the international standards of Reef Check. As a result, we have decided to amend Reef Check standards to fit the local context, and add other parameters, such as reef complexity, so we can put on our scientific caps and play with statistics models.

OceansWatch is excited to expand its community-based virgin coconut oil program to Vanuatu this year in the communities of Tevetwot and Vatop. The 2013 OceansWatch team developed close relationships with the villages, which are tight-knit both physically and in kinship. It was OceansWatch first contact with the communities last year, out of which stemmed a lobster Management Area. The potential for a making an income from coconut oil, is especially exciting as these communities have instilled an 11-month annual tabu on lobster catch to protect their resources, even though it was their primary source of income. The women’s co-operatives can produce virgin oil that surpasses world standards, all right in the heart of small pacific island villages.

OceansWatch in New Zealand has just received two new oil presses, which we will be christening for our volunteers this first weekend of May with a demo workshop.

Finally, we will be doing a climate change assessment within each village we visit this year, integrating ocean conservation with shoreline and land issues. We will be sharing tropical shoreline erosion control practices using coconut palms and vetiver grass, and developing livestock awareness for agricultural and shoreline habitats. If communities are interested, we will demonstrate permaculture practices like alley cropping with food crop legumes like pigeon pea and mulching over typical slash and burn methods. Our main focus is to develop strategies to improve food security in the face of climate change while minimizing land and shoreline erosion.

Find out more about OceansWatch at

If you would like to support the marine conservation work of the Vanuatu team of Charlotte Leger, Mason Myrmo and Dave Ormandy please donate here.

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