Shankar Aswani

Roviana Women's Intermediate Disturbance of Shell Beds: Do they Enhance Harvesting Returns?

A number of papers have taunted the relationship between indigenous ecological knowledge and resource management, yet little empirical evidence exists to show that such relationship actually comes to fruition in the daily lives of coastal peoples. In this paper, I test two hypotheses drawn from Roviana (Solomon Islands) women’s indigenous ecological knowledge: (H1) That moderate human disturbance of shell beds, particularly for Polymesoda spp., enhances their habitat and increases their numbers; and (H2) Even if an area is permanently closed (as in a ‘no take’ reserve) abundance and size distribution of Polymesoda spp. is not significantly greater than temporal closures. Essentially, Roviana women claim that in the absence of human foraging, the mud substrate hardens making the permanent closures a less suitable habitat for shells.

Keywords: ecological disturbance, woman foraging, MPAs, shellfish, ecological impacts, Solomon Islands.

Figure: Roviana women shell gatherers helping with ecological research − mud compactness and shell abundance and size distribution (© Shankar Aswani).