The Fly River, Papu a New Guinea: Environmental Studies in an Impacted Tropical River System

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In the villages, distance from a market and main economic center is the primary driver of poverty and involvement in illegal activities Fig. The further a household is from a market, the more likely it is to be involved in illegal trading with Indonesian buyers. However, poverty does not drive involvement in illegal activitities.

In Daru only poverty does directly drive involvement in illegal activities Fig. Poorer households, which are often Fly River immigrants, are more likely to be involved, and these are probably already engaged in hunting and fishing, and have a wide range of income generating activities. However, livelihood strategies are still the main driver, driving both illegal activities and poverty.

Because they are based on the findings of the statistical regressions, the causal loop diagrams do not capture the broader contextual factors that create or exacerbate conditions for livelihoods. Lack of ownership of the natural resources immigrants exploit have meant they have to survive on subsistence activities and without a source of cash income.

However, lack of alternative livelihoods in Daru and the adjacent coastal villages has forced the immigrants to fish locally to meet their food security needs. Competition for marine resources has caused conflict with resource owners and led to the overexploitation of marine resources such as BDM. All these factors have driven illegal harvesting in the Torres Strait Protected Zone. Other indirect drivers identified by respondents in the central and eastern villages and Daru were a failing governance system, lack of awareness of fishing regulations and management, the inflexibility of the Torres Strait Treaty, and the financial incentives from engaging in the lucrative illegal trade.

In Daru and the eastern villages, where the two main problems were illegal harvesting in the Torres Strait Protected Zone to obtain BDM for sale to Indonesian traders, and conflicts between traditional inhabitants and Fly River immigrants over resources, FGD participants of both kinds agreed on the need to raise awareness:.

Traditional inhabitants also saw development of, or enforcement of existing community-based regimes and coordination among different levels of government and local communities as priorities.

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Men in the Daru and Parama FGDs were particularly interested in enforcing or establishing community-based laws to manage resources, citing ongoing initiatives in the neighboring Torres Strait Islands as potential models. A female FGD respondent expressed this recurring sentiment:. Alternative markets and value chains were proposed by FGD participants in the eastern and central villages. Traditional inhabitants in Daru also supported establishing new legal markets for fishery products, so that income from fishing could be increased and focus diverted from illegal activities:.

Others suggested adapting existing Torres Strait Treaty arrangements. In Sigabaduru, where people rely mainly on trading with the neighboring Torres Strait Islands, respondents proposed a local market in Saibai that they could freely access, or a market in Sigabaduru that could be accessed by Torres Strait islanders.

Respondents in the western villages were more hesitant in providing solutions to the problem of illegal trade with Indonesian traders and Merauke. Remote transboundary regions in developing countries often contain abundant natural resources, and many of these resources are being overexploited to supply an ever-increasing demand from Asia, often via illegal cross-border trade Fabyini et al.

Understanding the systemic issues that drive households to engage in illegal activities in transboundary regions is a prerequisite for designing effective interventions, but is rarely carried out because of the secretive nature of illegal activities and the remoteness of these regions Duffy et al. According to respondents in the South Fly, western and eastern communities were more dependent on fishing for their income-generating livelihoods and had higher levels of involvement in illegal activities with the Indonesian buyers.

Their reduced livelihood options depended on a lack of markets in the case of the western villages and in a reduced resource base in the case of eastern villages. When more profitable cash-generating activities were present, as in the central villages and part of Daru, people were less involved in the trade with the Indonesian buyers.

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Central villages mainly relied on the trade of handcrafts with the Torres Strait islands while part of the residents in Daru could engage in small-scale businesses and employment. Often the effectiveness of such projects has been questioned but empirical studies assessing such projects are scarce Wicander and Coad , Roe et al. The different behavior toward illegal activities observed in various South Fly communities is an indication that alternative livelihood projects could disincentive involvement in illegal wildlife harvest and trade under appropriate conditions.

Involvement in the trade with Indonesian buyers had a negative impact on the whole social-ecological Trans-Fly system. Traditionally, as also in neighboring Torres Strait, South Fly communities do not have the notion of the finite nature of marine resources, because of the high marine productivity of the area and the low human population Johannes and MacFarlane Concerns were however expressed for the overexploitation of some of the targeted resources, such as BDM.

The depositional web on the floodplain of the Fly River, Papua New Guinea

BDM is known to be highly vulnerable to overexploitation, and cases of overexploitation following the opening of fisheries for the Asian markets have been reported all over the world Anderson et al. The moratorium introduced by the NFA has been trying to conserve this important resource. Continuous unmonitored exploitation of this resource will have negative social-ecological impacts on the Trans-Fly system, with a loss in ecosystem services and income and higher levels of food insecurity Kinch et al.

The socioeconomic impacts of overexploitation of marine resources can be more severe for communities in Daru and surrounding villages, which are highly reliant on them. Respondents also reported a breakdown of the customary marine tenure following immigration, consistent with similar situations in other parts of PNG Cinner Customary marine tenure breakdown further increases the vulnerability of exploited species Watson Respondents also expressed their concern for the breakdown of the traditional social systems and a rise in prostitution and crime, coupled with widespread corruption.

Women were particularly vocal in discussing how income from illegal activities was not resulting in an evident economic gain for involved households nor in long-term community development. Although earnings from the illegal trade of wildlife provide a substantial income, there is not economic gain for households because of the unpredictability of the source and the volatility of earned cash van Vliet Income earned from the illegal wildlife trade often does not contribute to food security but is spent in recreational items such as alcohol Coad et al.

Distance from the markets and economic centers was the main driver for the engagement of people in illegal activities. Distance from a main economic center was also the main driver of poverty. Contrary to a body of literature on the illegal trade of natural resources, mainly conducted in Africa Lindsey et al. Only in Daru, where Fly River immigrants resettled, were the poorest households likely to be involved in the illegal trade. In this case, a limited resource base and lack of ownership of natural resources prevent immigrants to survive on subsistence activities, driving them to engage in illegal activities.

Poor households in Daru, particularly immigrants, are more reliant on the illegal activities for their food security. The strong correlation between distance from the markets, with their services and infrastructures, on one hand and engagement in illegal trade and poverty on the other is largely consistent with what is found in other studies in developing countries Twinamatsiko et al.

Lack of infrastructure and inaccessibility to markets prevent remote communities from engaging in the cash economy Gibson and Rozelle However, in remote communities located in transboundary regions, these opportunities are provided by their proximity to neighboring countries and international markets Velasco Illegal activities in transboundary regions are common economic activities, and are often part of an historical trade network forged before the delineation of current borders Tagliacozzo Also, traveling traders, described by Berkes et al. Lack of infrastructure and inaccessibility to markets have previously been found to drive poverty in remote PNG communities Gibson and Rozelle , and in the transboundary region of the Trans-Fly, traditional inhabitants cross the border to take advantage of Australian health facilities and other services in the Torres Strait Islands Lokuge et al.

These patterns are corroborated by our study, where poverty was found to be greater with increasing distance from both the domestic and the Australian markets. The lack of correlation between poverty and involvement in illegal trade in the villages of the South Fly supports Duffy et al. Interestingly, we observed a different pattern in Daru, where illegal trade was indeed found to be related to poverty.

Overpopulation, lack of employment opportunities, inadequate services and infrastructure, and a scarcity of terrestrial resources has led to legal and illegal overexploitation of marine resources. Impoverishment due to a limited terrestrial natural resources and a lack of employment opportunities, and subsequent dependence on marine resources and trade was observed particularly among Fly River immigrants in Daru, who live in settlements with no water, sanitation, cooking facilities, and have low education levels.

Suggested long-term solutions were the provision of alternative incomes not based on the exploitation of natural resources. Our analysis also suggested that more profitable alternative income-generating activities might decrease the involvement in illegal activities. Respondents recognized, however, that to be successful such interventions should be part of an integrated approach with the reintroduction of customary marine tenures and the establishment of community-based initiatives, such as organized cooperatives and community-based management, to cater for the fast changing social-ecological system.

In neighboring Torres Strait communities, a functional participatory governance system, associated with income from welfare and commercial fishing are effective deterrents against illegal trade Busilacchi et al.

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Another proposed intervention was the establishment of transboundary comanagement arrangements. An adaptive, multilateral agreement involving PNG, Australia, and Indonesia is necessary for the establishment of collaborative discussions that can manage the rapidly changing dynamics of this transboundary social-ecological system. The failure of the current PNG governance system appears to be a primary systemic cause of the declining trajectories in human and natural resource condition Butler et al. The debate about how to effectively intervene to combat the illegal harvesting and trade of natural resources has been a focus of conservation, development, and academic arenas in the last decade.

Results from our empirical study show that a mix of short- and long-term interventions are necessary in the South Fly. Results from the present study suggest that alternative livelihood interventions could be effective in diverting communities from illegal wildlife trade while improving the livelihoods in the communities.

However, it is also clear that within our study area a single intervention cannot be the overall solution to the unsustainable illegal trade of marine products. Motivations to get involved in such practices are location-specific and the systemic socioeconomic and cultural issues can vary also between communities in the same area.

In the Trans-Fly social-ecological system, illegal trade of marine resources has different drivers, which should be tackled separately. Our findings emphasize the need to find innovative governance solutions to manage the stressed Trans-Fly social-ecological system, without which severe social, economic, and environmental repercussions could soon eventuate.

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SB thanks the people and ward members of the coastal villages in the South Fly for allowing her to work and live in their communities. The authors thank staff of the local NGO Bata CDF in Daru for their assistance in the field; without their assistance we would not have been able to conduct this study.

We also thank the provincial and district fisheries officials who provided support to the study. For preliminary statistical analysis SB thanks Takahiro Shimada. Alkire, S.

Acute multidimensional poverty: a new index for developing countries. University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Allen, B. Bourke, and J. Poor rural places in Papua New Guinea.

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Asia Pacific Viewpoint Anderson, S. Flemming, R. Watson, and H. Serial exploitation of global sea cucumber fisheries.