Vanua-Tai Network gathered in September last year for their 13th Annual General Meeting held in Efate, Vanuatu. The annual meeting brings together community monitors and government officers to share feedback, learn from each other and celebrate achievements to improve marine resources.

93 Vanua-Tai Turtle monitors and 6 fisheries authorized officers from all 6 provinces of Vanuatu descended upon Emua village for a week long gathering.

During the meeting, all the monitors shared the reports for each provincial subnetwork. They shared the challenges and achievements they had faced since the last meeting in 2020.

Some challenges that almost all subnetworks mentioned were:

  • Chiefs don’t always work with monitors

  • Monitors are unsure how to apply for additional funding

  • Have to travel long distances with limited or no funds
  • Communication problems

Assistance provided by Wan SmolBag and Vanuatu Fisheries Department throughout the past year has helped subnetworks to overcome challenges and led to achievements mentioned below:

  • Set-up of new marine and terrestrial conservation areas in their communities.
  • Access to additional funding.
  • Collaboration with the Area Administrator, Area Secretary and chiefs.
  • Close collaboration with the Fisheries Department

The participants were also given the opportunity to provide feedback on the National Review of turtle management & conservation undertaken by Francis Hickey from the Vanuatu Cultural Center. The Vanuatu Fisheries Department also participated and shared information on data collection and committed to better assist the subnetworks as much as possible.

The meeting concluded with field trips. One group went to a coral planting site on Pele Island and observed a wide range of different coral planting techniques. The second group went to Takara village and observed the conservation area that had been temporarily opened for trocha harvesting. Chief Eddie from Takara said this conservation site had helped them to ‘cushion’; the impact of COVID. The Chief will be closing the site again at the end of the year.

This meeting was organized and facilitated by the Wan SmolBag Theatre with funding from the PEUMP Programme.

A few meeting stats:

  • 32% of monitors reported this was their first time at the Vana-Tai Annual General Meeting.

  • 100% of monitors who had attended the previous AGM reported using what they had learned from the meeting when they returned to their villages.

  • 25% of the participants were women.

More on the Vanua-Tai Network:

The network was started back in 1995, during the year of the sea turtle.

For the last 25 years, the network facilitated by Wan SmolBag Theatre has spread across all provinces and there are now monitors on nearly every island in Vanuatu. The volunteers have worked without pay to protect, monitor and preserve turtle populations of Vanuatu.

Over the years the network has also expanded its work to include conservation of other marine and land resources. The monitors have become environmental ‘champions’ in their own villages and work as best as they can to preserve their natural environments and resources for future generations. As the fisheries department has one provincial fisheries officer for each province the monitors often act as ‘extension officers’ for fisheries as it is impossible for fisheries to get out to every community.

In 2019 Vanua-tai monitors attended training with the fisheries department to become authorised officers and there are now 9 Vanua-tai monitors who are now authorised fisheries officers, in Shefa, Malampa and Tafea and have the power to enforce fisheries laws and impose fines for violations.

The PEUMP programme is a EUR 45M Pacific regional initiative funded by the European Union (EU) and the Government of Sweden, working in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC), Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP), Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) to implement activities across six key result areas in 15 Pacific countries.