One way to encourage sustainable development and the management of marine and coastal resources is to introduce livelihood alternatives, allowing local residents to make an income from their customary sea space and lowering the need for fish sales. This can include the cultivation of certain seaweed species, extracts from which can be used as thickening agents for household and industrial products, ranging from cosmetics to toothpaste to beer.
During late September, 2020, the WCS team returned to two communities in the Tsoi Islands in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea, to revisit trial seaweed farms that had been installed the previous month with support from WCS. This visit enabled the team and community participants to attach seedlings of a brown seaweed species, known as Eucheuma cottonii, onto the seaweed farm ropes. The seaweed farm plots were 5m x 5m in size, and consisted of nylon ropes that ran parallel across the plot, spaced 50cm apart. The seaweed seedlings were tied to the ropes, with each seedling spaced 25cm apart and about 50cm to 70cm off the seafloor. The team and community residents also built two drying shelters for each community to dry their seaweed once harvested, which usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks. New Ireland Province has many small inhabited islands, with local people that rely on their reefs for food and livelihoods. If successful, the trial seaweed livelihoods project will help provide an alternative income to residents, allowing fishers to lower the demand on reef fish market sales in their customary waters.
The community members of both communities were supportive of the project. Local volunteers helped the WCS team with great enthusiasm and were eager to learn about the seaweed farming. Community leaders mentioned that this is a good livelihood alternative for their island communities and if the project is successful, they will go ahead and build more farms in their area.
This project is funded by Blue Action Fund.