Letter to Papua New Guinea from SeaSmart

Probably the most famous SEASMART PNG animal, the Lightning Maroon clownfish.

Probably the most famous SEASMART PNG animal, the Lightning Maroon clownfish.

The Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority (NFA) first hired EcoEZ Inc. to create this program in 2007 with the hopes of being able to develop a model for sustainable, commercial development of the marine aquarium trade. EcoEZ’s program, SeaSmart, achieved this goal with spectacular results despite facing immense local problems and shortages, and a worldwide recession affecting the market for our products. Papua New Guinea (PNG) is considered a no-go country for the aquarium trade. SeaSmart proved that PNG is actually a go-to country.

Papua New Guinea is unique in that it has a large and unexploited resource base, close in access for fishers to resources (short market chain), and an interested and eager community management base. These advantages go a long way to overcome PNG’s lack of trained people (fishers, trainers, etc.), poor transport systems, high cost of doing business in PNG and a host of lessor problems. SeaSmart proved that a successful marine aquarium trade, with NFA and Provincial fisheries support, could be developed in Papua New Guinea.

Fisherwomen from the Local Papua New Guinea Local Reef Community

Fisherwomen from the Local Papua New Guinea Local Reef Community

We chose Papua New Guinea to trial the SeaSmart program because of its unique environmental, cultural and natural resource situation. PNG has the largest marine aquarium resource base in the world. The other two major countries of the coral reef triangle, the Philippines and Indonesia have overexploited their resource bases and developed their industries to be engines of exploitation and growing poverty. There are exceptions in each country but the overall prevailing trade should be considered exploitive. (See our report on this website, “A Cautionary Tale: The Marine Aquarium Trade in the Philippines and Indonesia.”)

Papua New Guinea is globally unique in its strong land tenure and resource ownership systems. These customary systems are centuries old and have proven to be a very effective home for the sustainable management and equitable use of a community’s shared natural resource base such as coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems. SeaSmart has utilized these traditions extensively in the development of its PNG marine area management systems.

Papua New Guinea Graduates

Papua New Guinea Graduates

A community’s strength lies in its people being able to use their entire marine resource base in ways that are more sustainable and equitable than past coastal fisheries. Add to this a market willing to pay for a product coming from their community because it has been managed, harvested, and or handled in a sustainable way and PNG has an opportunity to lead the growth of a global industry. Imagine a commercial marine aquarium industry in Papua New Guinea that integrates tradition and natural resource ownership with modern management, smart technology, and expanded human growth potential by satisfying and influencing already established international market needs and trends. This is the PNG SeaSmart way.

The question always facing SeaSmart in this development process was whether the trade could ever become a commercial enterprise in PNG. Despite all the odds facing SeaSmart, we were able to conclusively prove that not only was the trade a viable industry if developed wisely. The trade would train and provide jobs a whole new class of community fishers and resource managers. Thousands of people would be needed to run this trade nation wide, making this is an important employment opportunity for PNG.

PNG Students touring our Port Moresby Facility!

PNG Students touring our Port Moresby Facility!

This industry is a real opportunity for the Provinces of PNG to sustainably develop their marine resource bases utilizing a range of species of marine organisms that are not used in any other way by their communities. Through equity ownership mechanisms developed by SeaSmart for Provincial level marine aquarium facilities, training of fisheries officers, and the provision of internal supports costs stand to substantially benefit Provincial governments. (Please see our report on this website: “A Way Forward for Sustainable Reef Ecosystems and Prosperity for Coastal Communities in Papua New Guinea.”)

Mariculture Aquaculture Restoration of Coral

Mariculture Aquaculture Restoration of Coral

The impact on NFA’s ability to manage PNGs coastal resources will be improved dramatically with the addition of linked management plans for each collection area, trained fishers in a different industry with different needs, and more direct linkages with provincial government in the management and exchange of information on its coastal marine resources. This trade is worth upwards of US$100 million per annum to PNG when fully developed. By any standard, this is a trade worth investing in.

We truly enjoyed the experience of working with the communities, the provinces and NFA itself. Despite the lack of experience with the trade in PNG, we encountered so much enthusiasm about the trade. From schools groups visiting the facility to eager provincial staff and fishers to interested and caring NFA staff, we were able to develop this from an idea to reality. We believe that PNG can be and should be a global leader in this trade. If interested and would just like more information, please contact us at info@seasmart.org.

Papua New Guinea Marine Aquarium Life…Sustainable, Equitable, Affordable

David Vosseler

SeaSmart

Names of the many staff that worked to help make SeaSmart a success.

RAM: Renante Ruz, Selma Pamolak, Philip Sokou, Simeon Kodovara, Maunoa Karo, Atoy Olegario, Rito Taneo
MAP: Isabelle Cruz, Rachel Rabi, Angela Kwapena, Lorel Dandava, Luke Petai
FFD: Chris Beta, Eddie Abulag, Jose Generoso, Terence Kedama, Arnold Dano, Iga Ware, Eduardo (Toto) Mijares, Steve Robinson,
MAR: Daniel Navin, Kila Ware
EFT: Mark Schreffler, Meme Purgatorio, Lani Abulag, Charlotte, Kimori, Aia, Wala, Emily, Margaret Vala, Max Dudek
Management and Administration: David Vosseler, Kema Mailu, Antoney Carmel, Maris Tolem, Judy Vosseler, Maybel Buruka, Peter Scott, Michelle Lam, Marissa, Willy Bina