February 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Fishing: Marine Santuaries: Shore Publishing: Since 2002, Christopher Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Vanuatu: Peace Corps Vanuatu : The Peace Corps in Vanuatu: February 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Fishing: Marine Santuaries: Shore Publishing: Since 2002, Christopher Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area

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Since 2002, Christopher Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area

Since 2002, Christopher Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area

Since 2002, Christopher Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area

Beyond 'Survivor'

By Elizabeth Yerkes
Published on 2/25/2005

North Stonington -- Although his roots grew along the Eastern Seaboard, North Stonington's Christopher Bartlett now lives in a grass hut in the South Pacific. "It's really easy to forget Connecticut's ice and snow when you're sitting on a beach, listening to waves break on a pristine reef offshore," he said. "There are actually quite a lot of things here that remind me of Connecticut: the tiny villages, the sense of community, even the lobster."

Sadly, Connecticut's lobsters have something else in common with Bartlett's new home in Vanuatu: destruction of habitat and overfishing. Since 2002, Bartlett has volunteered for the Peace Corps there, creating and maintaining a Marine Protected Area. MPAs allow little, if any, fishing so as to boost the biomass of dwindling species.

In the United States, marine sanctuaries are more common, such as the 824-square-mile Stellwagen Bank at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. Peter Auster and Ivar Babb of the University of Connecticut at Avery Point said that marine sanctuaries don't prohibit all fishing, but rather keep the areas off-limits for enterprises such as gravel miners and offshore casinos. Recent lobster population legislation, proposed by State Sen. Cathy Cook, R-Mystic, and 75 Long Island Sound fishermen, illustrates that politics and money will come before any protections begin.

The bill requests a fund to be created to pay lobstermen for release of each tail-notched female they catch. Bartlett's constituency, however, already sees boosts in biomass of "mascot animals" such as giant clam, trochus shell, four species of sea turtle, coconut crab and coral. Many Americans heard of Vanuatu, a Melanesian island in the South Pacific, through CBS's "Survivor: Vanuatu."

But it's more than a tropical Third World backdrop to a self-absorbed American TV show. It's one of the world's few Marine Protected Areas, and a winning experiment in marine conservation. The indigenous people, said Bartlett, have "no industry and there are no 'jobs.' Men work in the gardens and fish, while women take care of the children and the home." Like Connecticut lobstermen now, years ago, local fishermen realized that without some kind of management they would lose their own life support -- reef fish. To back that up, traditional landowners and participating village chiefs of Nguna and Pele islands agreed that fishing the harvestable reefs was taboo.

To prove that the MPA produces visible results, staff members survey the reef monthly. Using donated snorkel and SCUBA equipment, officers check 40 reef locations. They measure fish abundance and biomass, invertebrate diversity and coral health. In each category for the past two years, Bartlett said, they have measured increases that they report to the village and chiefs. The most successful program boosted numbers of Trochus or "top-shaped" shells. According to Bartlett, locals identified the shell as a priority. Used worldwide for buttons, jewels and ornamental inlays in wood, the Trochus can grow to 6 inches in diameter. A Trochus button-making factory still operates out of the capital, Port Vila. The MPA's Trochus hatchery has raised stock levels and can now produce more than 200,000 juvenile Trochuses in a breeding cycle, according to the Web site.

The raised juveniles are then replaced into the protected area to replenish wild stocks once they reach sexual maturity. Similarly, the giant clam hatchery spawned and grew the mollusks. The largest in the wild grow to 4 feet long. Small algae live inside the clams, and not only create brilliant colors but also turn sunlight into clams' food. Bartlett and native officers grow thousands in tanks on land.

When they reach palm size, they're released. As with the other mascot species, tribal elders have placed a taboo on harvesting giant clams. Bartlett spent much of his childhood in Florida around the sea, the mangroves and beaches. So it was no surprise, he said, that his mother "finally succumbed to what I was destined to become, and on my 13th Christmas I received a professional compound microscope." When not looking through a scope, he people-watches.

The ni-Vanatu are primarily Christian, about 55 percent literate, and have a unique take on traditional values. Bartlett was most surprised by the complete segregation of the sexes in Melanesian culture. He said they are "socially not permitted to talk or interact" with each other. They sit on opposite sides of the school, church or village meeting house. "No hand-holding. No public affection. Boyfriends and girlfriends are simply non-existent," he said. But, he added, when a baby is born, the boy and girl involved are considered married. It is official, however, when the boy purchases his bride with pigs, woven mats and sugar cane.

Bartlett returns to North Stonington for major holidays, and plans to complete his graduate work in Australia, but not until he's finished at the Nguna-Pele MPA. His undergraduate degree from University of Florida examined stingray physiology. Now when he dons fins, he's also studying traditional management of coral reefs for his doctorate. To that end, Bartlett guides neighboring village conservation officers, former "reef exploiters," to survey and monitor nearly 7,500 acres of coral, tropical sea grass beds and mangroves that have been designated part of the MPA. (ITALIC)

Bartlett needs donated equipment for reef checks, such as snorkeling gear, global positioning systems and a laptop for analyzing survey data. You can reach Bartlett by Internet to the island's satellite phone linkup: marineprotectedarea@hotmail.com

When this story was posted in February 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 7 2005 No: 438 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in over 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related reference material in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can use the Main Index to find hundreds of stories about RPCVs who have your same interests, who served in your Country of Service, or who serve in your state.

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Story Source: Shore Publishing

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Vanuatu; Fishing; Marine Santuaries



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