An assessment of local perceptions towards natural resource management practices in the Tuvalu Islands, South Pacific : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (MSc) in Ecology, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
As the role of local people in natural resource management continues to be recognized in global conservation interventions, so too does the need to understand the perspectives of local people towards various resource management practices. This study examines local perceptions in Tuvalu towards traditional versus modern resource management practices, and furthermore assesses compliance and enforcement with protected areas village rules or legislation at the community level in the Tuvalu Islands, South Pacific. A mixed method research approach was adopted that includes a nationwide questionnaire survey, a review of the literature and triangulation. The study findings emphasize the dedicated support for local government to deal with most of the aspects of resource management in Tuvalu.
The survey findings showed a strong preference by participants to have their Island Councils or Kaupules as the appropriate and responsible authority to be the key informant on the stock status of their natural resources, to manage their island land and marine resources, and to report and impose penalties for violations against their village resource management rules. Participants also indicated a strong preference for a mix resource management system that combines both scientific-based and traditional resource management approaches over a system that uses only traditional resource management strategies.
Despite the weakness in the enforcement of existing resource management legislation in Tuvalu, where a monetary fine and imprisonment are the main prosecution methods, monetary fines was strongly perceived in this study as the most preferred method to promote village compliance and enforcement of both formal and informal village laws. In contrast, there was little support to use other common discipline methods such as imprisonment, public shaming, and traditional penalties such as public beating, and feeding of the whole island community by the caught violators; however, this is argued as either being morally wrong or no longer valid due to the Church’s influence and the adoption of laws pertaining to human rights.
Although the findings of this study acknowledges that demographic and socio-economic factors can influence local perceptions towards resource management, there is generally very little evidence to conclude that there were significant differences in the perceptions of survey participants based on the many years they have resided in their home islands, having held a leadership role and age. The minor differences in the perceptions may be associated with lack of diversity in the culture of each island, small national population, weak hierarchy in economic status at the individual level as seen in other developing nations.
This research provides a deeper understanding of the uncertainties associated with the need and obligation to impose stricter or more resource management measures in small local communities in response to the global move to protect biodiversity. Most importantly, it emphasizes the argument to consider the influence and engagement of local government as an opportunity to promote resource management interventions in Tuvalu and in other local communities of similar constitutional settings.