VIEWPOINT: Blue jobs in a blue world – What does that mean in the Solomon Islands?

Posted on 18 February 2014    
Jackie Thomas, WWF Coral Triangle Program Leader
© Jackie Thomas
By Jackie Thomas

It’s kind of a ritual for me to check out the main stories on ABC radio’s Pacific Beat programme at least once a day to see what’s happening around the region. That comes from living in the Pacific for more than 10 years and as an Australian living abroad, it’s hard to kick the habit. I enjoy my daily fix of ABC news.

Today I heard that the Solomon Islands is facing a classic Catch 22 situation, with a twist. In the context of a growing population (2.3% per year) it appears that there’s a paradox whereby many Solomon Islanders are unable to get jobs in a relatively small formal employment sector and employers can’t find people with the education or work experience needed, so they are looking to import skilled people.

About 80% of the 600,000 Solomon Islanders live a subsistence lifestyle, relying on their natural resources to meet their daily needs. As these people are moving to more of a cash economy -- including those in the fisheries or farming sector who face pressure on their livelihoods due to dwindling fish stocks, loss of valuable agricultural land from saltwater intrusion and the impacts of sea temperature rise and ocean acidification -- I think about the global movement towards “green” and “blue” economies and how these can work for countries in the Coral Triangle and Pacific region.

Building a blue economy

In WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme, we advocate governments and the private sector to build “blue” economies that combine the protection of high-priority places with the reduction of unsustainable practices and the promotion of social and economic equity and environmental sustainability.

How then can we make this work in the Solomon Islands, where a high proportion of the population lives in rural areas with largely subsistence lifestyles? How do we work with governments, communities, and the private sector to encourage responsible management of marine resources, protection of marine ecosystems and cultural practices, and yet continue to maintain access to those resources that will provide food, jobs, income, livelihoods, and retain those important ecosystem services vital to sustain life on the planet?

A range of interrelated solutions

It’s a challenge for sure, and one that WWF has been working to develop a range of solutions. The solutions go beyond the remit of WWF and must be targeted wider than just natural resource management. They include changes in government institutional and fiscal policies, redirection of financial investments to support innovation and sustainable development, transforming private sector and industry practices; and it requires new ways of accounting for the status of a country’s economic and environmental wellbeing.

Marine Protected Areas as a tool in sustainable development

In the marine realm, WWF’s solutions include a suite of strategies which aim to protect oceans and marine ecosystems and transform business practices for targeted sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism, while benefiting people through more secure fisheries production and livelihoods.

One such strategy is to demonstrate that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can and will bring more than biodiversity benefits, which has been the conventional focus of MPAs and Marine Managed Areas. If designed specifically for fisheries and fish production, and when fully enforced/implemented, scientific evidence shows that MPAs will play a critical role in securing fish for food and sustainable futures in the Coral Triangle. How? Through complementing conservation of high priority marine biodiversity areas and expanding effective management of coastal and marine resources for food security and livelihoods in a climate change era through innovation and collaboration.

MPAs for fisheries are an important strategy in building blue economies and supporting “blue jobs.” Other strategies include working to engage the private sector to co-invest in the protection of critical marine ecosystems and species, transforming fisheries and aquaculture businesses to aspire to eco-certification that promotes sustainable seafood and fisheries, and encouraging energy efficiency measures for the tourism sector. These are strategies that you will hear more of in the coming months as we continue our marine and fisheries work in the Coral Triangle region.

The case of Solomon Islands

For the Solomon Islands, these strategies can build on existing traditional knowledge with additional information, skills and capacity to help enhance the resiliency of marine ecosystems against climate change and other environmental impacts, rebuild fish stocks and contribute to securing sustainable livelihoods and food for people who rely on the oceans and coasts—in short, building blue economy approaches for a country and its people who are intrinsically linked to the ocean and the Island way of life.

Jackie Thomas, WWF Coral Triangle Program Leader
© Jackie Thomas Enlarge

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