Remote communities in the Shortland Islands and Malaita Outer Islands, who are highly dependent on fisheries and marine resources, have had their normal trading routes impacted by border closures as a result of COVID-19. The Solomon Islands’ Livelihoods Support Committee requested the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to assess options to support these affected communities through targeted income generating and food security projects.
Ministry officers conducted a socio-economic survey and fisheries needs assessment of Shortland Island communities in July 2020 and of the recommendations resulting from that assessment, two projects have now been implemented through support provided under the New Zealand funded Mekem Strong Solomon Islands Fisheries programme (MSSIF) – a targeted budget support programme to the Ministry.
The first project focuses on restoring seaweed farming, including by rehabilitating seaweed farms that were destroyed in the 2007 tsunami. With a current market price of SBD $4.50 per kilogram (an increase in previous years) there are renewed economic benefits to be gained for communities. A team from the Ministry’s Aquaculture Division and Western Province Fisheries Division carried out a site assessment, training and nursery establishment trip to Shortland Islands communities in Maleai, Gaomai, Pirumeri and Toumoa late last year. During the trip they worked with communities to establish seaweed nurseries in preparation for starting new seaweed farms in the coming months.
The second activity MSSIF has supported is the deployment of inshore Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). For coastal fishers, searching for schools of tuna is fuel consuming making it an expensive exercise. Inshore FADs close to communities, have become a common method for coastal fishers to reduce the effort of tuna catching and to provide a safer option for fishing when the weather is bad. In December, a team from MFMR’s Provincial Fisheries Division deployed a total of five FADs at Toumoa, Gaomai, Balalae, Maleai and Aleang.
For both seaweed and FAD deployment materials were supplied by the Ministry and the travel costs were funded by MSSIF. Additional work in both Shortland Islands and Malaita Outer Islands this year will be jointly supported by funds from the Livelihood Support Committee and MSSIF and will provide remote communities additional support as they manage and recover from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.