ARNAVON Islands, located between Isabel and Choiseul provinces, is today the country’s first community marine park following a government gazette on Wednesday 10th May 2017 declaring it as an official designated protected area.
Three communities, namely Katupika, Wagina, and Kia, all combined under a network called KAWAKI to make this a reality.
“This is a milestone in the history of doing conservation in our country,” Minister for Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology Samuel Manetoali said.
Mr. Manetoali was speaking during the launching and declaration of Arnavon Community Marine Park (ACMP) at Kerihikapa Island, which was organised by The Nature Conservation (TNC) and convened officials from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Fisheries, and leaders of the provincial government, chiefs, and community members.
He said Wednesday 10th May 2017 is a special day for the country and its people, especially those that have connections to the island through blood and labour.
“We have embarked on a successful registration of a protected area under the Protected Areas Act 2010,” the minister said.
Mr. Manetoali said Arnavon Community Marine Park is registered and gazetted under Category One – a nature reserve as the most important rockery for hawksbill turtle in the Western Pacific, covering a total area of 169.09 square kilometres.
“This is a huge achievement for the communities of Arnavon Marine Conservation Area, all our partners, and the Solomon Islands,” Mr. Manetoali, who is also the MP for Gao-Bugotu, said.
He thanked and congratulated the communities and partners of Arnavon Community Marine Park and the support of The Nature Conservancy which is instrumental and supportive towards the registration and gazetting.
He also commended the role of the national government through its responsible ministries such as the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management & Meteorology (MECDM), the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and the Provincial Governments of Isabel and Choiseul, Isabel Council of Chiefs (ICC) & Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (LLCTC) who supported these programs for the past years.
“Our regional organizations like SPREP and various others including individuals and experts who rendered assistance to the Arnavon project since its early stage over the past 25 to 27 years,” he added.
“The onsite challenging task of patrolling and keeping ACMP by the hardworking rangers must also be acknowledged.”
To work in parallel with ACMP an Arnavon Community Women in Conservation Network was also established.
The network is called KAWAKI which represents Katupika, Waghena, and Kia communities.
It was registered on 27th April 2017 purposely to unite and share in this community conservation and culture.
This network is expected to provide opportunities to raise awareness and involve in the management of the Arnavon Community Marine Park and promote sustainable marine resource management.
Mr. Manetoali said as ACMP prepared to navigate a new course, the future could be more challenging.
However, he reminded all ACMP stakeholders about the three attributes of the celebration theme: Leadership, Partnership and Stewardship.
“I believe these are principles that guide conservation dynamics as keys to unlocking effective management of our marine resources.
“I ask therefore that each one of us display qualities of leadership, partnership, and stewardship as we commit to various level and our places of engagement to manage ACMP.
“ACMP will remain a model for effective community conservation throughout the Solomon Islands and elsewhere.
“With this, we must continue to reach out to others and share these lessons learned and good practices to likewise enable registration and protection of other conservation sites under the Protected Areas Act 2010,” the minister said.
Speaking at the occasion, the TNC Country Director, Mr. Willie Atu, said Arnavon Island is an example of ‘peacebuilding and good governance’.
“It is a place which creates opportunities to try new ideas.
Minister Manetoali also assured everyone present at the launching event that his ministry is committed to overseeing the implementation of ACMP as mandated under the Protected Areas Act 2010.
The ceremony also witnessed the signing of the registration certificate for ACMP to fulfill the requirement that ACMP and communities will be supported under PA Act 2010 to safeguard the area of significant marine resources.
The launching ceremony now activates the ACMP as a beacon of conservation in the Solomon Islands.
Biodiversity of Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area (ACMCA) – a total of 3 km square of land and 157 km square of the marine boundary.
Vegetation: Coastal strand forest, Mangrove swamp forest, Pandanus forest, Lowland rain forest (Sikopo Is only), 104 species of plants.
Terrestrial Fauna: 41 species of birds, 8 endemics, 8 restricted range, Sea birds, waders, shorebirds, migratory species, 4 species raptors, 6 species flying foxes and bats, 7 species reptile
Reef System: Outer reefs, lagoon reefs, submerged reef platforms, tidal flats, small areas- no surface exchange large tidal flats with surface exchange
Turtle: Hawksbill, Green turtle
Megadope: Nesting ground
Milk fish: In shallow enclosed pools on Kerehikapa Island and Sikopo Island