Ouvéa and Beautemps-Beaupré atolls

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Both Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre ocean atolls were selected as INTEGRE pilot sites for the Loyalty Islands Province. Both are fully part of the UNESCO World-Heritage listed New Caledonia Lagoon serial property, including the buffer zone. The first atoll is 850 sq. km and the second, smaller atoll 120 sq. km with little emerged land.

INTEGRE fully subscribes to this networking approach and strives to provide support to the Loyalty Island Province and its partners in their efforts to promote and implement integrated management initiatives in this outstanding coastal area.

A regional methodology workshop was held on 20 March 2014 for all project partners and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, op- portunities and threats) analysis was conducted as a project diagnostic tool and planning aid.

This analysis helped better define the project strategy and make future activities more consistent. The specific objectives selected for the site project were as follows :

  • Strengthen and energise the site participatory management process and efforts to involve local stakeholders in preserving their heritage ;
  • Help forestall dangers that could affect the site ;
  • Showcase Ouvea’s natural and cultural heritage for the be- nefit of the community by developing ecotourism in Mouli District. 

 

Geography :

Ouvea Island is a large isolated atoll opening onto the ocean, averaging 20 metres deep and free of sedimentary input, which is why the lagoon is famous for its crystal-clear appearance. The continuous, emerged land forms a crescent with slender centre and is approximately 50 kilometres long by six wide. It is a low island rising only to 46 m. The island is extended at both ends by a string of smaller islands called the Southern and Northern Pleiades. There is an underground river system with fresh water running through a vast maze of coral karst cavities. Ouvea is the only inhabited atoll of the two with approximately 3400 population (2014 census) living in 21 tribal areas. Land tenure is exclusively traditional. There is no real urban centre, but the more populated, administrative area is Fayaoue.

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Biodiversity :

Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre Atolls have several unique biological and ecological features. In terms of land biodiversity, for example, they are home to the Loyalty Islands’ only mangroves and swamp. They have a fairly well-preserved primary forest with a small micro-endemic green parakeet, endemic giant snails and fruit bats. The coast is lined with many coconut plantations that are home to the coconut crab and host large seabird colonies of wedge-tailed shearwaters, terns and boobies. The Pleiades are a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) spawning ground. The islands are free of one major invasive species, i.e. the black rat, but other invasive predators such as the mice, feral cats and Pacific rats are found there.

In marine biodiversity terms, an IFREMER survey carried out to prepare the World Heritage application listed 675 reef fish species, some of which were found in reasonable densities, such as humphead wrasse, parrotfish, common stingrays and sharks. In September-October, the lagoon is the scene of a majestic gathering of giant oceanic manta rays. Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre are free of ciguatera (fish poisoning) microalgae that contaminate the flesh of some fish and cause food poisoning.

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Economy :

Many Ouvea Islanders emigrate to the greater Noumea area in search of more varied and numerous jobs. Despite the “exodus” (they regularly come home to work in their food gardens and take part in traditional ceremonies), the wealth earned by these “expatriates” directly benefits the island, as many redistribute their income by investing on Ouvea, building houses and buying cars, etc.

The island’s direct economy is mainly driven by the tertiary sector, i.e. health, education, public service and retail, as well as farming, tourism and fisheries.

  • Tourism consists of a few guest houses, a major hotel and several small homestay arrangements in tribal communities. Ouvea ceased to be a cruise ship destination in 2007 when excessive damage was observed on reefs caused by ships’ anchors and a major risk of ciguatera developing and spreading on the atoll was feared.
  • Commercial fishing is carried out by a fishers’ guild holding some 15 licences, which supplies a seafood packing plant at Takedji in the island’s north. Fish from Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre atolls is ciguatera-free.
  • Extensive mixed farming tends to specialise in high added-value products such as sandalwood and copra with the Wadrilla oil mill and soap factory and vanilla.

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Environmental Pressure :

There are several threats to environmental quality on Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre :

  • Shoreline erosion related to coastal development and coral quarrying (sand, coral rubble and lime gravel) for human construction and facilities ;
  • Invasive species harming native fauna and crops. Health checks at the entry points to the atolls are vital to prevent any further pests from entering, particularly black rats ;
  • Localised overfishing and unsuitable fishing methods. There are no marine protected areas yet, although eight traditional reserves (i.e. “taboo” locations) have been listed and are governed by traditional regulations ;
  • Waste, which causes pollution and nuisance issues, is not efficiently managed or disposed of ;
  • Deforestation and forest habitat depletion. Ouvea has poor fire-fighting facilities.

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Local Organisations :

The Loyalty Islands Province (PIL) Department of the Environment is tasked with managing the environment. In 2007, PIL and the Ouvea traditional chiefs signed a joint declaration recognising each other’s legitimacy in matters relating to jointly preserving the World-Heritage listed property. The traditional leaders incorporated in 2009 as a special-law grouping known as Bomene Tapu (sacred island) GDPL, a legal entity that manages development on custom land.

The GDPL has 34 members. Its purpose is to “develop and protect traditional natural-resource management practices on Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre insofar as they constitute sustainable natural-resource protection and conservation methods for the benefit of present and future generations.” So public authorities work on this basis to jointly manage the site.

Conservation International provided support for developing a governance method and the management plan that is now running for five years (2012-2017) with activities being re-adjusted yearly.

Joint management is provided by technical groups who involve all the public and private stakeholders. They are tasked with implementing the action plan based on a participatory approach through local stakeholders or outside experts with an emphasis on greater autonomy.

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A regional methodology workshop was held on 20 March 2014 for all project partners and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was conducted as a project diagnostic tool and planning aid. It is presented below :

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An action plan was developed to achieve these objectives based on three main activities.

Activity 1. Strengthen Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre lagoon governance and participatory management

The aim is to make the joint management committee operate more efficiently, improve its ability to act and help it implement its management plan. A facilitator has been recruited and will work throughout the INTEGRE project term on setting up joint lagoon surveillance by the Loyalty Islands Province (PIL) and the commercial fishers and strengthening participatory reef monitoring.

Provisional Amount : XPF 29.5 million / € 247 210

Operators : PIL, Bomene Tapu GDPL, fishers’ union

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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Activity 2. Set up an ecotourism development unit in Mouli District to showcase its natural and cultural heritage

This involves building various tourist facilities, such as a na- ture trail, picnic area, underwater trail and awareness and rule signage.

Provisional Amount : XPF 20 million / € 167 600

Operators : PIL, Bomene Tapu GDPL, fishers’ union

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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Activity 3. Organise Lekiny-Fayava traditional reserve management

This reserve is covered by the Loyalty Islands Province environmental code and is a pilot site for applying some new provisions contained in the code for local management committees and a management plan. Studies are underway to describe the shoreline and improve development on the landward mangrove fringe.

Provisional Amount : XPF 7,2 million / € 60 336

Operators : PIL, Bomene Tapu GDPL, Lekiny tribal community, University of New Caledonia, French Museum of Natural History

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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Activity 4. Invasive species control

This involves exterminating rats on a trial island to alleviate the danger to seabird colonies and develop an international consultancy for strengthening Ouvea’s biosecurity.

Provisional Amount : XPF 1,8 million / € 9 504

Operators : ASBO, PIL, Bomene Tapu GDPL

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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Activity 5. Compile a teaching material bank for heightening commu- nity awareness on lagoon protection issues by using existing aids and creating fresh material that is adapted to Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre’s specific characteristics.

There are also plans to help with school projects dealing with lagoon protection.

Provisional Amount : XPF 4.5 million / € 37,710

Operators : PIL, Bomene Tapu GDPL, GIE, primary and junior secondary schools

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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Synthesis of planned activities on the site :

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INTEGRE Project was working towards the following objectives :

  • Maintain the integrity of UNESCO World-Heritage-listed sites
  • Give fresh impetus to the participatory management process and involve local stakeholders more effectively
  • Help sustainably manage the sites and control human-induced threats

On the site of Ouvea and Beautemps-Beaupre Atolls, the balance of the activities is the following one :

- NC - C2I1 and 5 : Strengthening participatory management / awareness raising and communication

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Although not all the actions planned have been carried out, in terms of awareness raising or partnership with fishermen, the participatory dynamics of World Heritage site management have been greatly strengthened. The arrival of two additional human resources and the commitment of all stakeholders (provinces, associations, town halls) has enabled concrete management, monitoring or awareness-raising actions to be carried out.

The sustainability of this system should make it possible to pursue this dynamic. However, it will be very important for the Islands Province to become more involved in strategic and project framing, particularly with the GDPL.

For more details, consulte Activity statement

- NC - C2I2 : Structuring of an ecotourism development centre in the Muli district

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The result of this activity is disappointing. This is largely due to delays in its implementation due to the low capacity of the Loyalty Islands Province to absorb a significant additional workload. This element should be taken into account for future projects with small administrations.

Moreover, in Ouvéa more than elsewhere, the preparatory work for the developments is substantial, the customary and "owners of the places" having to give prior authorization for their realization (we are in Ouvéa on customary lands). This is why the work was carried out jointly with the Loyalty Islands Province and the GDPL, but the lack of time for discussions and obtaining agreements penalized the land trail project. As a representative of the province of the islands said at INTEGERE's closing workshop, the time of the European project is not the time of customary people and premises...

The direction of the integrated economy of the province of the Loyalty Islands will take over the development of the ecotourism pole. She had the funding validated for the construction of a new trail on the development contract envelope and the funding of a space for the underwater trail equipment. In addition, the Youth and Sports Department is responsible for training underwater guides for the underwater trail.

For more details, consulte Activity statement

- NC - C2I3 : Management of Lekiny-Fayava Nature Reserve

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The adoption of the environmental code by the province of the Loyalty Islands is a process that mobilizes the environmental service enormously, accentuated by the choice of a methodology agreed with the inhabitants of the four islands of the province. The delay is therefore very significant with regard to the initial estimates concerning the official recognition of a reserve at Lekiny and the implementation of its management plan.

Coastal erosion is a major concern for the population of Ouvéa because it directly threatens certain inhabited areas. Moreover, in Ouvéa, land is entirely of customary status, which means that urban planning rules do not apply and that development decisions are taken directly at the tribal level. Matthieu Leduff's work, carried out in partnership with the island's mayor's office, customary people and associations, has provided the population and decision-makers with tools to understand erosion phenomena. It will be continued with financial support from the Islands Province and technical support from the University and the DIMENC through the OBLIC (Caledonian Coastal Observatory) scheme and by relying on a network of people now trained. All actors are convinced of the usefulness of this work. However, without a facilitator like Matthew, there is a risk of progressive interest lost.

For more details, consulte Activity statement

- NC - C2I4 : Control of invasive species

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These two actions have benefited from the good involvement and establishment of the ASBO, a local association whose principle is to make local guides work for the realization of its actions, thus combining environmental protection, awareness and local development.

For the implementation of the biosecurity plan, which benefits from good technical and political support from the province of the Loyalty Islands, it will be necessary to create a post of animator of this plan at the PLI. The province's financial possibilities are weak today and implementation of this plan is still pending.

For the deratting of the atoll, several factors can explain the failure but we must first remember that these are difficult operations in tropical environments where rats reproduce all year round. A new operational plan has been proposed but significant financial resources are needed.

The sustainability of these two activities is not yet guaranteed. To continue the ASBO's outstanding work on the deratting of BB, funds will again have to be mobilised to undertake a new deratting trial in 2018. The 11th EDF could be a possible source of funding.

For more details, consulte Activity statement

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