Honiara, 11 April 2023. The Lui Bell Memorial Post-Graduate Scholarship for Marine Species Conservation is supporting research through the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) to build understanding on the cultural aspects of dolphin use and the impact of drive hunts on the populations of these animals in the Solomon Islands.
Administered by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the scholarship is supported through the By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative of the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden.
Scholarship recipient, Mr Kabini Fa’ari Afia, will pursue a Master of Science research project with the grant. The first recipient of the scholarship in the Solomon Islands, Kabini has served in the Solomon Islands government for almost 15 years with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and has over seven years of research experience in environment and development, including gender and peace building.
Kabini hails from Malaita Province, where dolphin hunts are part of the annual cultural calendar in some communities. Little data is available on the drive hunts conducted in the last 10 years.
“My research aims to help address this gap in information in terms of which species are most targeted and develop an understanding of the cultural value of the dolphins to the communities,” says Kabini.
“I have matrilineal roots in Fanalei and Walande and am interested in understanding the rituals of the dolphin calling and the drive hunts that have been practiced seasonally for generations, and also to learn how the dolphins are still being used today for food and their teeth for traditional money.”
DNA analysis of bone and teeth will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Auckland to establish species targeted over the last decade.
Ms Karen Baird, SPREP’s Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, says, “Together, this cultural and scientific data will help inform options for the government and communities to develop effective dolphin management and conservation plans.”
The field work will commence in April this year, with DNA analysis scheduled for the mid-year. The research project will be supervised by Professor David Gegeo (SINU) and Professor Rochelle Constantine (University of Auckland).
“I am grateful to SPREP, European Union and the Government of Sweden for funding this scholarship and important research opportunity,” says Kabini.
“Scholarships are hard to access in the Solomon Islands and I am thankful to all those who encouraged me to take this step.”
He acknowledged Ruth Maetala of the local research group Dignity Pasifik, Adjunct Professor Elise Huffer at the University of the South Pacific and Karen Baird of SPREP as instrumental in supporting him through the application process.
“I encourage future local researchers in the field of climate change, environment and marine resources to utilise this research scholarship to address local information gaps that exists in our country, to better inform our government and policy makers on what should help our country moving forward,” says Kabini.
The Lui Bell Memorial Scholarship Fund was established by SPREP in 2013 to honour the life and work of the late Mr Lui Bell. The scholarship is designed to promote the development of scientific expertise for Pacific island nationals in areas related to the conservation and management of Pacific marine wildlife (turtles, cetaceans, dugongs, sharks and rays, and seabirds) threatened by the impacts of fishing. Scholarships help cover course fees and other costs directly associated with attaining the qualification, including research work, where approved by the Scholarship board. Funding for the Scholarship has been generously provided by the European Union and Government of Sweden through the Pacific‐European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is the premiere intergovernmental regional environmental organisation of the Pacific, with 21 Pacific island Members and five metropolitan Members. SPREP’s mandate is to promote cooperation in the Pacific region and provide assistance in order to protect and improve its environment and to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations. SPREP’s core priorities are Climate Change Resilience, Ecosystem and Biodiversity Protection, Environmental Governance, and Waste Management and Pollution Control. It is guided by its vision for the future: “A resilient Pacific environment, sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures.” For more please visit www.sprep.org
The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by Pacific countries. Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; the threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues to ensure inclusiveness and positive changes for Pacific island people. This seven-year PEUMP programme is funded by the European Union (EUR 35 million) and the government of Sweden (EUR 10 million). It is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in close collaboration with Non-Government Organisations and the national authorities.