Abstract: In Solomon Islands the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the threatened bumphead parrotfish have formed an important component of the cultural value systems and subsistence economies for centuries. I will begin this seminar by drawing on archaeological, historical and ethnographic research to overview the history of exploitation and commercialisation of hawksbill turtles and bumphead parrotfish in Solomon Islands. I will then describe participatory research that The Nature Conservancy has led on these species over the past two decades. This research was undertaken to gain a comprehensive understanding of each species’ ecology and status. The starting point of our research involved documenting local ecological knowledge on both species. This qualitative research enabled us to obtain a wealth of information in remote poorly studied geographies, and ensured that the resource users who harvest these species were engaged in the research from the onset. Quantitate research on hawksbill turtles included establishing beach monitoring and tagging programmes at hawksbill rookeries. For bumphead parrotfish it has involved assessing the effects of night spearfishing, investigating the impacts of logging on nursery areas and determining larval connectivity using genetic parentage analysis. The key qualitative and quantitative research findings that are relevant to each species’ management are presented here. I will end this seminar by presenting an overview of how our research findings are being integrated into community-based conservation efforts that seek to mitigate some of the threats these species currently face. The community based conservation and long term monitoring at the Arnavon Islands has enabled us to provide the first known example of recovery for a western pacific hawksbill rookery. For bumphead parrotfish the most critical management step involves addressing poor land based practices that are detrimentally impacting the nursery areas of this species.
Biography: Richard is the Senior Melanesia Scientist for The Nature Conservancy. He lives in Brisbane, Australia and travels regularly to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, which is where he was raised. His background is in anthropology and marine science and he is fluent in several Melanesian languages. The majority of his time in Melanesia is spent working collaboratively with communities, governments and universities to improve the management of the oceans. One of Richards’s areas of expertise is harnessing local knowledge and community participation in order to achieve good conservation outcomes. Recently Richard and colleges have used genetic fingerprinting methods to track the dispersal of larvae produced from iconic coral reef fishes such as the bumphead parrotfish and squaretail coral trout. These research programs are ambitious in scale, but made possible by involving multiple local stakeholders that activity partake and support the field research. Richard is also interested in turtle conservation, and this year he and colleges have been able to quantify the first known example of recovery for a western pacific hawksbill rookery at the Arnavon Islands. The Aranvons is the largest rockery for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle in the South Pacific, and nest numbers and female survival rates have doubled since the Conservancy facilitated the establishment of a community based protected area here in 1995. Although a marine biologist by training, his experiences in Melanesia have led him to be a strong advocate for taking a ridges to reefs approach towards conservation, where the inter connectedness between land and sea is recognised and accounted for in conservation activities. In Solomon Islands Richard is also working with archaeologists and local partners to incorporate cultural heritage considerations in biodiversity conservation agendas. This ‘cultural landscape’ approach respects the values of the custodians of those places, hereby galvanizing far greater community buy-in for broader environmental objectives. Richard also serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. He has also coordinated the production of several outreach films with California based Film Director Jordan Plotsky.