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"First world problems"

Posted on 03 December 2014

...not so problematic.
Oh, the perfectly timed "first world problems" comment in response to someone's ludicrous quandary of whether to order dessert despite being too full or choosing between which coloured Nikes to wear. Yes -- both my quandaries. There's the moment of laughter and the immediate moment of depression. We all know this to be true. 

It's a tad different over here in Solomon Islands -- "third world problems," if you will.  I've mentioned some in my previous blog posts, but here are a few more to chew on.

Things Rachel has heard:

"I didn't go to sleep until 3AM because the line at the water spring was so long. All of Gizo was down there." The last big rainfall was last week. Most water tanks have run dry.
"If women in labour look like they need a c-section, the government flies them from their island community to the Gizo town hospital. But, if they don't end up needing one, the government won't pay for their flight back." Apparently women stranded in town with newborns happens a lot more than you would think...
"Some locals were upset because they couldn't cast their vote for the national election. The line was so long that the window of time to vote closed before it was their turn." Their votes probably wouldn't have made the election legitimate anyways. Bribery takes many forms during election time --  politicians literally hand out money in the streets.

"Hello, Rachel. This is ANZ Bank calling. We just exchanged some of your foreign currency, but we used the exchange rate for cheques instead of cash. We gave you too much money. Can you come back?" Never mind that -- how did they know my number?!
"Just scoop water out of that bucket to flush the toilet. The pumps are still out of commission."  Still?! It's been a month...

Alright, enough of these quotations. And yes, I know these "problems" pale in comparison to those of many others, so don't misconstrue my attempt at humour as a series of complaints -- the beauty of this country has made me quite content. The first couple photos (see right) were taken on a nearby, small island where a few of us hung out for a lazy weekend afternoon. Our own private island. I don't think it gets much better than that!


Back to business. These last two weeks I've had the opportunity to learn about two of WWF's fisheries projects here in Solomon Islands.

(1) Length-based Spawning Potential Ratio Assessment
Due to the technical complexity and cost associated with fisheries assessments, data collection in Solomon Islands has been a challenge. As a result, a new, simplified methodology (developed by Australian scientists) is now being trialed by fishermen in Ghizo, Solomon Islands. This method only requires generic knowledge of the species and its size of maturity. To date, this method has been used to collect data for over 2,500 fish (~180 species) and determine the spawning potential ratio for two priority species.

Last week, I observed WWF staff take measurements of fish to be sold in the local market. This work will continue to produce data in efforts to better inform fisheries management in Solomon Islands.

(2) Inshore Fish Aggregating Device (IFAD)
Due to increased fishing pressure on inshore reefs, WWF staff have worked with communities to build and deploy IFADs in Solomon Islands. IFADs attract higher value pelagic fish, which in turn provides communities with alternative fishing sites and reduces pressure on near shore reefs.
This week, I went out with WWF staff to conduct surveys of fish species at 3 separate reef sites near an IFAD. Besides getting bitten by what felt like a million sea lice, it was great to get out on the water and see some healthy reef.
For more information on these projects, see Related Links on the right. You will also find a link to Sara Martin's blog (past volunteer and current IFAD project coordinator), check it out! 

Rachel Wang

WWF-Solomon Islands
October 2014 - April 2015
In loving memory of Judith Hickey | my aunt, godmother, and role model
Judith told me this assignment in Solomon Islands would be life changing - that my outlook would not be as it once was. I am saddened to know that she will not be there when I return home to tell her she was right. She fought a hard battle against pancreatic cancer until her passing on November 27, 2014. Her giving nature and winning smile will be cherished by all that knew her. 

Small island near Gizo town
© WWF / Rachel Wang
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Tingo Leve and Sara Martin collect market fish data
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Fish from Gizo market
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Tingo Leve and Sara Martin conduct fish surveys near IFAD site
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Coral reef near IFAD site
© WWF / Rachel Wang