Capacity development of community stakeholders, local governement agencies and national staff gives a framework to better manage and conserve marine biodiversity in Fishery Management Areas. The SEASMART Program activities have had positive impact on local biodiversity through ecological awareness raising and improvement of the livelihood of local communities through socio-economic development.
EcoEZ Inc.’s SEASMART Program provides proper training to PNG citizens in a direct effort to sustainably manage the marine resources of the country. Nationals that are part of the SEASMART Program FMA Development Team are given the chance to learn the skills and knowledge imparted by each division with the opportunity to transfer to different divisions. The local training provided by SEASMART Program is unique in that it is transforming skills passed down by generations of fishers into a career that will guarantee the livelihood of future fishers and managers in PNG.
Resource Assessment & Management
The Resource Assessment and Management (RAM) division is responsible for evaluating and providing vital information about the abundance of marine resources as well as the health of the marine ecosystem in each community-owned Fishery Management Area (FMA). Therefore, it is crucial for each member of the RAM division to be highly proficient and familiar with the RAM surevey protocol in order to carry out resource assessments and accurately analyze baseline data of marine aquarium organisms.
Each member of the RAM division is required to have a minimum of an Open Water diving certification. They are also required to pass an initial skills examination given by the chief scientist specializing in the staff’s area of interest, such as vertebrates (fish), invertebrates (macro and micro), Bêche-de-Mer (sea cucumber), coral (species level), and substrate identification. Experienced SEASMART RAM staff must have the ability to identify species by their Latin, common name, and taxonomic classification and have required computer skills, to include being able to use Microsoft Word and Excel. Those initially specializing in vertebrate analysis also undergo underwater size estimation exercises and examinations. All SEASMART RAM staff are required to learn RAM survey protocol and TAC (total allowable catch) limits computation.
Although much depends on the staff’s commitment, the training period will take prroximately three (3) years of supervised training on RAM duties, execution, and analysis completion enable program graduates to lead a new team of RAM trainees, enhancing skills and passing them onto future marine surveyors.
Fisher & Fishery Development
The role of the Fisher and fishery Development, (FFD) division is to facilitate training programs relevant to aquarium fishery. The tasks involved in training a staff to become proficient with the application of the required skills and techniques are tremendous and varied, which usually take 6 to 12 months. During this period, the staff learns the basic art of post harvesting and handling techniques, fish identification, segregation, transportation and storage processes. Thus it is critical for FFD staff to be equipped with these relevant skills and knowledge prior to any fisher trainings or field duties within the division’s realm of duty usually carried out on a regular basis. Besides having these qualities, it is also of utmost importance that the staff be given capacity building in areas they find lacking. These areas needing enhancement are such as the proper use and application of electronic devices (e.g., GPS), teaching of expatriate staff the local lingua franca as a means for effective communication and others as the division sees fit. This will ensure the proper development of this aquarium fishery in Papua New Guinea, and will further enhance the organization’s performance as well as individual work performance.
Training of personnel to take on the role of FFD staff is usually instigated by experts in the field of aquarium and has many years of experience and training in the trade. Members of the FFD division learn from these experts the art of net making (scoop nets, barrier nets), species identification, proper post-harvest and handling and competency in performing other tasks associated with marine aquarium trade.
Mangement Area Planning
The MAP division is responsible for the establishment of the Marine Aquarium Management Area Plan for each Fishery Management Area. Therefore, the Community Development Coordinator facilitates the development of the MAP and the MAP committees. Each member of the MAP division is required to work at the village level to build relationships with local level stakeholders. They must also have the ability to assess the local aquarium fish business and existing management regimes to assist in the development of the Management Area Plan. They must also have the ability to translate data provided by the RAM resource assessment and resurvey processes into meaningful recommendations to be integrated into the Management Area Plan. The MAP division is also tasked with providing technical capacity related to the MAC Certification system.
Therefore, to be part of the MAP division, each member must have a minimum any of the following degrees: Management, Public Policy and Administration, Marine Biology, Fisheries Management or Environmental Management. Familiarity with PNG development and management policy frameworks is crucial.
Mariculture, Aquaculture & Restoration
The Mariculture, Aquaculture, Restoration Division (MAR) is a very wide and diverse division, with multiple roles and a huge variety of tasks. Assembling and Training a team of personnel to perform as staff in the MAR division is therefore no easy task.
Each staff member is required to have an in-depth knowledge of Pacific corals and coral reef ecology, as well as background in basic field biology techniques. This includes the ability to identify hundreds of species of pacific stony and soft corals, and have training in field sampling and surveying. MAR staff must also be competent in basic aquarium system operation, to include filtration, plumbing, and lighting. An advanced SCUBA certification is also necessary, as well as an extreme level of attention to detail, and being able to operate for long hours in harsh field environments (small boats, in the water, sun exposure).
Staff will also need to be competent with the use of basic tools, including metal cutting wheels, drills, saws etc due to the regular need to construct things, such as mariculture platforms, work benches, and aquaculture systems.
The time required to train an individual to become a competent MAR staff member varies, but is at least 6 months, and often about 1 year. This is assuming that a newly hired staff member is already SCUBA certified, and has some background in marine biology and coral reef ecology.
Training local villagers to be competent coral farmers is a shorter process, but still takes at least 1 month of continuous training and 2 months of intermittent training before they are able to run a coral mariculture operation without direct supervision.
Training coral farmers at the village level includes teaching: maintenance of the mariculture platforms and the corals on them, safety protocols, coral genera identification, coral propagation, and cement coral disc production.
Marine Aquarium Fishers
Prior to fisher trainings, fishers are selected based on certain selection criterion that qualifies them. They are then taught everything there is to know about the marine aquarium fishery. Usually this takes about two weeks of intensive training, and, involves part-theory and part practical while in water. The Training they receive is no different from what the FFD division members have been taught. The various skills and knowledge applicable in aquarium fishery are passed onto them from those (trainers) who are already proficient in utilizing them.
About 6 to 12 months is needed for fishers to become skillful themselves in applying what they have been taught. This is only possible through continuous and frequent practice, which should be of priority. This will enable fishers to fully develop their skills and become competent in utilizing them at the level as expected of them in aquarium fishery.
Export Trial Facility
The EcoEZ Inc. Export Trial Facility has been developing and enhancing the skills capacity of national staff since mid 2008. Since then, ETF national staff members have grown in their knowledge and skill levels to a point where only senior expatriate management is required to operate the ETF. ETF export operations initially required expatriate staff to conduct its operations while providing on the job training for the national staff members. Over the past two years, the ETF has slowly reduced expatriate trainers as national staff has become more proficient in their skills. ETF national staff members now perform the majority of ETF operations. These skills include following:
- Marine aquarium life order reviews & submission to FMA’s
- Marine aquarium organism identification
- Marine aquarium life health and quality screening
- Marine aquarium life handling, holding & transport in compliance with the Marine Aquarium Council International Standards of Best Practices
- Marine aquarium life support systems maintenance
The current skills capacity of the ETF staff have reduced shipping mortality/DOA levels down to +/- 1%. This level of mortality is exceptional in the industry. We now have national staff who are qualified to train other nationals.
The support and contribution of the Office of the Provincial Fisheries is crucial in order to ensure effective implementation of the Management Area Plans in each Fishery Management Area. The SEASMART Program has collaborated with the Provincial Fisheries in order to develop the agency’s understanding of the marine aquarium trade. It is the role of the Provincial Fisheries to manage and monitor the Management Area Plan at the local level, ensuring that this is integrated and in compliance with the National Management Plan. Often, the on-going problem of the office of the Provincial Fisheries is the lack of capacity and support from other responsible authorities. Therefore, the SEASMART Program has developed a number of trainings and workshops in order to build the capacity of the Provincial Fisheries to undertake their role in management, surveillance and enforcement.