Case Study: Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area in Vanuatu



Case Study: Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area in Vanuatu
Case Study: Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area in Vanuatu
What is the Nguna-Pele MPA?
The Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area is a small, community-based and managed
organization on the islands of Nguna and Pele in central Vanuatu. The organization is
well renown throughout Vanuatu, including with government and non-government
bodies, and internationally. The name “MPA” or “Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area”
refers to the organization and not to any particular village marine reserve or any distinct
area. All communities on Nguna and Pele have the right to join the NPMPA Network.
To join, a community must have written agreement and support of the chief and council.
The community should have or begin to draft a management plan. And community must
have a conservation area or conservation committee.
By joining with the NPMPA network, communities gain power, information and
solidarity to achieve joint goals and area development priorities. The role of the NPMPA
is to provide awareness to individual villages to help them achieve sustainability and
resilience. The NPMPA can help villages design and carry out projects that match
resource use objectives. The NPMPA sources opportunities for education and training
courses to benefit individuals and communities. The NPMPA gives clout to village
requests to government bodies, and improves the power of negotiation that communities
on Nguna and Pele have with external bodies. The Nguna-Pele MPA does not have any
right, ownership, responsibility or authority over village lands, boundaries or
conservation areas. Benefits to communities of the NPMPA network are proportional to
the commitment and investment of time, energy and resources they community puts in.
The NPMPA has an organizational structure and constitution, and day to day
administration is implemented by a full-time MPA Manager. In addition, there are four
part-time staff, including a boat captain, who are the extension agents of the MPA,
responsible for community awareness, conservation activities and resource monitoring.
Manager and staff salaries come from external funding and grants. The NPMPA is
governed by management committee which is made up of representatives from each
community. To lead the management committee, an executive committee is elected by
village representatives to serve for a two year term. The executive committee chairs the
monthly meetings of the NPMPA. All representatives on the management and executive
committees are voluntary. The NPMPA has extensive infrastructure on the two islands,
which jointly belongs to all community members.
Background: In the 1990’s the Fisheries Department, as part of a trochus management
project, began speaking to communities on the North coast of Efate island on the benefits
of area closures for stock recovery. Soon Emua village had established an indefinite
closure on all species. In 1995 Wan Smol Bag created the Turtle Monitor network with a
conservation message, and an area-wide 10-year ban on turtle harvest was enacted by the
chiefs on Nguna-Pele. In 1998, the community of Mere-Sauwia created a terrestrial,
permanent protected area. In the next year Utanlangi established the first marine taboo
on Nguna. In 2002, the community of Piliura on Pele requested a Peace Corps Volunteer
to advise on the location for a permanent marine closure, which the community called a
conservation area. In 2003, four chiefs from Piliura, Worearu, Unakap and Taloa
established an informal network called the Nguna-Pele MPA.
Note: The name “Nguna-Pele MPA” or “MPA” does not refer to any particular marine
closure. Instead these terms refer to the organization/network of communities on Nguna
and Pele. Most communities on Nguna and Pele call their reserves and area closures
“Conservation Areas”. Some call the closures “tabus”. Only one village refers to its
closure as an MPA. When people on Nguna and Pele talk about the “MPA”, they are
talking about the group of community representatives that meet regularly to mutually
assist individual village efforts.
Networking Applicability: The islands of Nguna and Pele are linked by many natural,
pre-existing networks: the NaPe Council of Chiefs, the Nguna-Pele Presbyterian Session
and the Nguna-Pele Shefa Provincial Councilor/TAG. For this reason the Nguna-Pele
MPA fits well within the area’s social and political setting. It also allows for strategic
planning and scaling-up of closures from the village to regional level.
Cooperative Management: Individual villages on Nguna and Pele have complete control
over marine management within their tenured boundaries. Each community is
responsible for establishing its own rules and regulations through the most appropriate
channels (chiefs or councils). The NP-MPA provides information, advice and broad
coordination only. Requests for technical assistance from government and NGO’s
originate in a village, and are then submitted externally through the MPA executive
committee. Villages on Nguna and Pele, and the MPA organization have a long history
of cooperation with external entities. Wan Smol Bag turtle monitors are the heart and
soul of the Nguna-Pele MPA. These locally-elected monitors are the marine experts in
the area, and attend annual meetings and trainings organized by the Fisheries Department
and local NGO’s. These WSB village monitors are also commonly the village reps to the
NPMPA. Several Vanuatu Cultural Center fieldworkers are members and reps of the
NPMPAMPA. Peace Corps Vanuatu has, to-date, provided six volunteers who have
lived in different communities across Nguna and Pele. These volunteers have been
assigned to the NPMPA organization to assist with planning, education, coordination and
technical expertise. FSP Vanuatu has provided technical and material funding to some
MPA communities through its coral gardens project. The Vanuatu Environment Unit
registered the NPMPA under its EMAC Act and has supported its initiatives, providing
technical and ideological advice. The Vanuatu Fisheries Department has provided
continuous technical assistance and supported the MPA in many other ways including
invitations to important meetings and providing duty free exemptions for research and
monitoring. The Department of Lands has provided advice, support and land dispute
mediation between some MPA communities. Vanuatu-based and international donors
have continuously supported village and network-wide pilot projects and sustainability
Challenges: Some of the MPAs past pilot projects have been unsuccessful. For example,
a village-based giant clam and trochus hatchery, through providing valuable education
and awareness, was inoperable due to underestimated fuel and pump maintenance costs.
Land disputes, unrelated to the MPA, have at times caused internal friction among some
MPA member communities. A key challenge within Vanuatu as a whole is the lack of an
official mechanism for collaboration among all the organizations and departments that
support community-based resource management activities.
The Current MPA: Today 16 villages on Nguna and Pele have officially joined the
NPMPA Network. The network and its member villages are moving away from the
“pilot project” focus of the MPA’s initial years and towards internally-focused, long-term
sustainability and independence. Each community, with the assistance of the MPA
manager, staff and volunteers, is now drafting individualized management plans which
will guide long-term village development. The MPA has experienced the benefits of
working as a network, and also sees the need for regular income to support network
initiatives (meetings, admin, education, etc). Ideally, seed money should come from
MPA member communities, but village-level priorities make fundraising for the NPMPA
network difficult. The NPMPA has recently established several small-scale revenue
generating activities to support network-wide activities. The NPMPA has an MOU with
the Fisheries Department for collaboration and information sharing. There is a strong
commitment by the village members of the Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area to work
within national priorities and share lessons, resources and capacity with other ni-Vanuatu
Cutting-Edge Research at the Nguna-Pele MPA
In 2005 the Nguna-Pele MPA and scientists from James Cook University embarked on a
major research project to understand how small community conservation areas benefit niVanuatu communities and their marine resources.
Together they designed a research methodology to examine the outcomes of different
expressions of village marine closures. Specifically the team compared permanentlyclosed reserves to those opened periodically for harvest. Ni-Vanuatu and foreign
researchers used underwater visual censes to determine the abundances and biomass of
target fisheries resources inside and outside village marine closures. They considered
three communities with permanent closures and three communities that used the tabu
system of periodic harvest.
Results of the study show that both permanent and periodic closures have higher biomass
inside than outside the reserve. This suggests that small-scale village-based reserves are
effective resource management tools. Results also show that permanent and periodic
closures do not have significantly different biomass levels of target fish species. This
result suggests that opening a reserve temporarily for harvest following community needs
may be a practice compatible with conservation goals. However, the duration and scope
of the harvest should be well managed se as not to overharvest or damage the ecosystem
during reserve openings.
We also found that sedentary target invertebrates like giant clams and oysters can be
severely impacted when a village closure is opened. These results show that reserve
openings should be limited to fish and managed to protected vulnerable species that
cannot easily escape harvest.
Figure 1 Graph showing the target fish biomass inside and outside permanent and periodically
harvested village marine reserves. NS- no significant difference, D= Cohen’s effect size, >0.8 is a
significant effect.
For further information, contact:
1. Kalpat Tarip, Manager of the Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area at
[email protected] or visit
2. Christopher Bartlett, JCU Coral Reef Center of Excellence at [email protected]