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Valuable Advice For Visiting Yachts On Custom Marine Tenure In Vanuatu

By doina — last modified Apr 06, 2006 01:06 PM

Published: 2006-04-06 13:06:27
Countries: Vanuatu

A new website has published valuable advice for yachts visiting Vanuatu's islands as people on yachts must be aware that reefs are traditionally considered as an extension of traditional lands. This ancient system of reef ownership and management is known as Custom Marine Tenure (CMT). As a rule, if you can see the reef then it is under custom tenure – where the reef drops off into deep water and the sea goes blue is untenured. (There may be local variations, however, where deepwater areas are fished, especially within bays and lagoons.)

The near-shore reefs of Vanuatu are owned by the people who live nearby and who have used them as a resource for thousands of years. Access to reefs is restricted exclusively to the clan members who have tenure over the reefs. Thus, in accordance with local custom, all outsiders, including visiting yachts, must request permission from the local population to access any marine resources found in the inshore areas of beaches, reefs, lagoons, estuaries and offshore islands. Only resources found in the deep untenured waters, such as tuna and other pelagic fish are openly accessible to cruising yachts.

The practice of Custom Marine Tenure explains why in some areas visitors may be asked to pay a small fee to anchor, or to visit special attractions. Access to all areas under CMT remains at the discretion of the local Chiefs and landowners. If visitors show respect to the local owners and simply ask first if it is OK to access an area, to collect shells or to catch some fish, you will generally find people are very receptive to your request and will in most cases be only too happy to act as your guide.

Visitors should also be aware that some areas may be considered to be taboo, while periodic fishing restrictions, or taboos, are placed over some reef areas to enable resources to rebuild. As a rule, one should ask before entering new areas in order to avoid any embarrassing situations.

Vanuatu is keen to welcome more visitors and hopes this sort of information will give people a more profound understanding and contact with its people's customs and culture.

For more information, visit