It’s hard to judge whether the Solomon Islands are more thrilling from land or underwater: the country is in the world’s top five for fish and coral diversity, but its deep green forests lining sandy white beaches also house more species than most Pacific Island nations. But if no action is taken, the country’s beauty and natural resources could soon disappear.
About Photo: Willie Atu, Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Solomon Islands program on a beach in the Arnavon Islands of the Solomon Islands. The Conservancy works with the national government of the Solomon Islands, as well as local governing bodies and various local councils and communities to save sea turtles and plan for sustainability.
Regional demand from across Asia for timber, tuna, sea turtle eggs, and other commodities has helped fuel deforestation and overfishing in the Solomon Islands—today, entire forests are leveled, some of the world’s richest coral reefs are in danger, and the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle is fighting for survival.
Partnering for Preservation
To address the short- and long-term needs of the Solomon Islands people and their natural resources, the Conservancy works closely with the Solomon Islands Government, the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Chiefs (LLCTC), the Isabel Council of Chiefs (ICC) and local communities to protect the marine and terrestrial resources of Choiseul and Isabel Provinces. What do oceans do for you? Find out.
In addition, we work with the Solomon Islands government to advance national legislation and policies that will protect the country’s natural resources and ensure lasting food security for the people of the Solomon Islands.
Saving Sea Turtles
We’ve also helped inspire a community-based sea change in the Arnavon Islands region. A small chain of islands lying between Choiseul and Isabel Provinces, the Arnavons are the most important nesting grounds for critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles in the South Pacific. But, these nesting grounds had become hotly contested by local tribes who overhunted sea turtles to supply global markets over the past two centuries.
In 1992, local leaders recognized the need for change and reached out to the Conservancy, which worked with local governments and the communities that had formerly contested the ownership of the Arnavons and assisted them in eventually forming the Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area (ACMCA) in 1995. The ACMCA became the Pacific’s first community-based marine protected area, uniting the once-fractious communities behind a shared commitment to keeping the Arnavons off-limits to fishing and protecting the islands’ threatened sea turtle populations.
As a result, local people are now finding employment as conservation officers and the number of Hawksbill sea turtle nests that are laid annually in the Arnavons has doubled. Populations of giant clams, sea cucumbers and oysters have also risen. In 2011, the Conservancy formally passed the ACMCA management torch over to a board composed of local community members, signaling the self-sufficiency of the protected area and the success of one of the region’s great recovery stories.