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OceansWatch PNG expedition update: Karkar Island

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 19, 2009 02:15 PM

Published: 2009-09-19 14:15:59
Countries: Papua New Guinea

The OceansWatch Magic Roundabout team, led by Chris Bone, continue to make progress on their expedition through Papua New Guinea, this time returning to Karkar Island where the yacht last visited local communities in September 2008.

The current expedition saw the team surveying 7km of reef around the north-west of the island. They then selected three possible Marine Protection Areas (MPA’s) for consideration by the local Karkar communities.

Each proposed MPA was refined after taking shallow and deep Reef Check surveys. The OW team worked with Karkar Island stakeholders for each MPA to draw up precise boundaries, taking into account the needs of the local people and beach areas in which turtles are nesting. A detailed report (see attachment below) has been drawn up to lodge the MPA’s with the National Fisheries Authority.

During the team’s stay on Karkar, another community leader expressed interest in OW running a similar program in his village. With continuing enthusiasm and involvement from Karkar communities, OW plans to establish a network of MPA’s around the whole island

Since OW’s last visit to Karkar in 2008, a Fisheries Management Committee has been set up on the island. During this expedition OW was able to contribute to their first meeting. The committee agreed to raise awareness about marine conservation in the area. Through local campaigns they hope to educate people about such issues as the importance of releasing small fish from traps, reducing the loss of invertebrates, and not targeting small fish when spear fishing.

With an increase in fish numbers at these protected sites, it is hoped that Karkar Island will soon thrive as an ecotourism destination. This in turn will provide an alternative and sustainable livelihood for much of the population. OW is already working towards assisting those in the community that want to promote and develop ecotourism on the island. In the coming months, OW will be helping to provide Karkar with an Internet presence as they build a small guest house.

OW Education and Humanitarian Projects Co-ordinator, Alison Schmidt, gave marine ecology talks at Mater Primary School on the island. As part of the OW Partnering Schools Project, fifty-one children whose families are unable to afford the Mater school fees are to receive scholarships thanks to funds raised by Kamo High School in Northland, New Zealand.

The Papua New Guinea government has agreed to pay for OW’s Karkar Water Project. The Magic Roundabout team took time on Karkar to mark out a pipe route with Carey Senior, a consultant from Auckland.

One hundred reading glasses, donated by Chris Larn, were gratefully received at the Miak Health Centre. These glasses can now be distributed according to need in the local community.

Finally, the Magic Roundabout team noticed that the elders on Karkar Island, notably Teri and Wong, have started passing on their skills to the teenage boys there. A 10m sailing canoe is currently being built and children are being taught traditional songs using Kundu drums. A Culture House has also been erected to hold artefacts. This project seems to serve very well to give many of the teenage boys a sense of purpose and direction in life.

OW will return to Karkar Island periodically in the coming years to monitor its progress and provide additional support. In continuing to provide the local people with knowledge and guidance from experienced sailors, divers and scientists, Karkar Island can maintain healthy marine environments that will provide for future generations in a sustainable way.

OceansWatch PNG expedition updates are available on the Magic Roundabout sailblog.