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Papua New Guinea

Spreading the Reach of Community-based Marine Management in PNG


Name: Eco Custodian Advocates

Country: Papua New Guinea

Year of establishment: 2016

Type of organization: Legally recognized non-profit status


Working within Conservation Areas or Locally Managed Marine Area in Melanesian PNG often entails committing to a 15-30 year working partnership with communities. This requires extensive and ongoing time inputs, resources, and funding. Communities often view such initiatives as being run by NGOs or Government, and thus lack local ownership. This is a significant challenging when communities do not actively drive the process.

Unfortunately, the time for slow and steady action is over. We have reached the tipping point of ecological and customary resilience in many parts of the local environment due to the pressures and demands from an increasing population, industrial environmental use and climate change. Spreading the Reach sets out to put audio-visual resources into the hands of communities that can empower them to take proactive measures to cope with these changes. This empowers communities to realise the value of their environment, the value of their customary management and the value of applying ecological knowledge.

Interestingly, the locally produced videos on environmental story-telling that were originally shown on laptops by teachers on Ware island, have now been uploaded onto smart phones. This demonstrates interest from the audience and the potential for expanded outreach through mobile devices. Given the success of the videos, Eco Custodian Advocates is keen to produce a workbook support video to guide participants through the exercises.


Oceans / Coasts / Wildlife


Protection / Sustainable use / Awareness and education


Food security / Disaster risk reduction / Climate action




In our experience, these activities and the empowerment of clans and community matriarchs have resulted in a dramatic increase in ‘Locally Marine Managed Areas’ under customary law. Since 2013, clan matriarchs in the islands of Wiyaloki, Kwaraiwa, Koyagaugau and recently Anagusa, have designated multiple coral reef and fishing areas on each island for protection and management.

Youth from Wialoki were trained in monitoring of their LMMAs and trends have been positive in the improvement of fish and clam stocks in their no take areas. They have trained youth on other islands and mentored them in understanding their monitoring results and in advising the communities to encourage them. During the recent El Nino drought of 2015-16, the presence of LMMAs helped sustain nearby villages.

Poaching of these revitalized fishing grounds has been recorded, but was resolved within the community themselves, an indication of their determination in their management decisions.


The project has demonstrated a raised, collective community consciousness of better ways to manage natural resources, upon which communities depend for livelihoods, subsistence and overall well-being. Though the level of impact is variable from one community to another, many communities also demonstrate a greater appreciation and respect of their customary leaders and the environment.

Throughout the project, conservation ‘champions’ have emerged within each community. These individuals take action to implement sustainable management concepts including Ecosystem based Adaptation. These champions help define no-take areas (effectively conservation areas) and practice adaptive management of within their communities, while promoting this approach among neighboring communities. The empowerment of these conservation champions is an indication that there is sufficient drive and capacity within communities to build on their cultural strengths with applied contemporary knowledge.


This initiative has been successful trialed, refined and replicated within seven islands in Papua New Guinea’s largest maritime province, Milne Bay. The toolkit has also been distributed to the marine section of the National Conservation and Environment Protection Authority and the Papua New Guinea Centre for Locally Managed Areas, for further use on a national scale.

The Toolkit has also been dispersed across Milne Bay beyond participating communities through the teacher’s network. It is felt that promotion of the materials within schools and tertiary training institutions is the most effective method of amplification at the provincial, national and regional levels. Schools are located within communities and many students, especially at primary level, regularly walk the coastline and see changes in their environment, including sea level rise.


The Spreading the Reach approach and Toolkit is a replicable model to advance community-based marine conservation across Melanesia, the Pacific and potentially beyond. Eco Custodian Advocates is developing a complementary workbook on sea turtle management that contains exercises to record customary practices, turtle life history, habitat needs, and species management actions which, once complete, will be a sea turtle management plan. Other materials such as videos will also be created. A second workbook is being developed on a Vulnerable Bird of Paradise, focused on forest custodians/land owners and those with user rights.

While this model can be utilized broadly, the cultural context will require slight alterations and specifications to each Toolkit, in order to maximize effectiveness within the community. For example, the cartoon characters depicted in the workbook change to reflect the local context.


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