The role of socioeconomic factors in customary coral reef management in Papua New Guinea

Cinner, Joshua Eli (2005) The role of socioeconomic factors in customary coral reef management in Papua New Guinea. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

For generations, communities in the Pacific islands have employed a range of resource management techniques (including reef closures, gear restrictions, limiting entry, and the protection of spawning aggregations) to limit marine resource use. Because of their perceived potential to meet both conservation and community goals, these traditional resource management techniques are being revitalized by communities, governments, and conservation groups as an integral part of national and regional marine conservation plans in the Pacific. However, it is uncertain whether traditional management can provide a solid foundation for the development of these conservation strategies. Little is known about the social, economic, and cultural processes that enable communities to employ traditional management and it remains unclear if the traditional management systems will be resilient to the profound socioeconomic changes sweeping the Pacific region. Indiscriminate application of “traditional” solutions to present day problems in Pacific communities without understanding the socioeconomic context in which these systems can operate effectively may lead to disappointment with results and disenchantment with the conservation process if results do not meet expectations. Theoretical and empirical studies have identified a number of specific socioeconomic factors that may influence the ability of a community to implement or maintain traditional management, but specific relationships between socioeconomic conditions and the use of traditional management practices are still not well understood. This thesis aims to examine the socioeconomic context within which select traditional management systems operate in Papua New Guinea and further debate on how these systems may be applicable in the modern conservation context by exploring the following research questions: Do communities with traditional reef closures have different socioeconomic characteristics than communities that do not? How do traditional closure systems reflect the socioeconomic conditions of the communities that implement them? This thesis identified socioeconomic factors that may influence whether a community employs or maintains traditional management and prioritised 11 that could be collected within the research timeframe. These factors were population, size of the resource, distance to market, conflicts, settlement pattern, dependence on marine resources, modernisation, perceptions about the complexity of human-environment interactions, perceptions about the condition of the marine environment, social capital and occupational mobility. These socioeconomic factors were examined in 14 coastal communities in Papua New Guinea, five of which had traditional closures and nine of which did not. Data were collected using a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques, including household surveys, key informant interviews, participant observation, and oral histories. A technique called Rasch modelling, commonly used in psychology and education, was employed to aggregate household-level socioeconomic indicators into thematic interval-level variables. Then the socioeconomic factors in the five communities that employ traditional closures of coral reefs were quantitatively compared with the nine communities that do not. Results showed that the constructs used to measure modernisation, social capital and occupational mobility had a slight but significant relationship to the presence of traditional closures, and the construct of dependence on marine resources was strongly related to the presence of traditional closures. Two case studies were used to provide a more detailed examination of how dependence on marine resources influences whether and how communities can employ a traditional closure. One case study is from Ahus Island, Manus province where dependence on marine resources is extremely high. The other is from Muluk village on Karkar Island, where dependence on marine resources is low. These contrasting case studies help to provide more detail into the socioeconomic context within which these traditional practices operate and how a community’s dependence on marine resources may determine whether and how traditional closures may meet their goals. The thesis concludes by exploring how traditional closures in Papua New Guinea focus on providing the communities with benefits rather than biodiversity conservation and examining how this leads to a fundamentally different resource governance model than we see in western fisheries management and resource conservation. This utilitarian model of conservation may have a place in the modern conservation context of many developing countries where the social and economic burdens of Western conservation models are unrealistic.

Item ID: 1294
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Papua New Guinea, Pacific islands, resource management, marine resource use, conservation, customary resource management, traditional resource management, traditional management systems, resource governance, socioeconomic factors, traditional closures, Ahus Island, Manus, Muluk Village, Karkar Island
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2008
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 0%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 0%
14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140205 Environment and Resource Economics @ 0%
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