When people feel that something is not fair, it can have consequences for the community, but also for the environment. Georgina has experienced such a case herself, when things went wrong because people thought marine management regulations were unfair.
“In one of the marine protected areas I worked on in Indonesia there were issues with the treatment of people who broke the rules,” Georgina says. Of those who illegally fished in that marine reserve only a few were prosecuted by the local government, and the local population was not happy with the laxity of the regulations.
“As a protest, the community fished together inside the protected area where fishing was prohibited. This even included the management committee of the marine protected area,” Georgina says. This was neither a success for the environment nor for the community.
Finding a fair solution in Fiji
For a recent research project on the northern coast of the island of Viti Levu, Fiji, Georgina collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an international non-profit society, and researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Michigan.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society had been asked by the communities to help develop a marine protected area , the Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park. Tourists would be asked to pay for a permit to scuba dive in the area that the communities had decided to close to fishing,” Georgina says. An approach like this is generally called a ‘payments for ecosystem service’.
“The six communities in that area were thinking through different ways of distributing those funds,” Georgina says. “So, we asked people in these communities, Indigenous iTaukei people who hold customary tenure rights to land and sea, about the fairness of five different approaches to distributing the money.”