11 September 2008 | 15 32'S:168 08'W, Pentacost
This morning I ate breakfast with a machette and winch handle ? Yesterday a woman visited us and gave us 2 mud crabs that she had just collected from a nearby Island. In return we invited her on board and gave her some sugar (that I had been itching to get rid of!) and a pair of reading glasses. The crabs are collected at some risk as the mangroves they are found in are also where the saltwater crocodiles hang out! One mistake grabbing a crab can result in the loss of a finger and not watching your back can be much worse! 2 weeks ago a middle aged guy was taken by a croc about 40 miles south of Kavieng so ReefCheck is not without it's risks! The crabs were delicious. Leila and I had a quick trip ashore after breakfast to take glasses to the school teachers and I managed a visit to the Island canoe builder. Irene and I then spent ages in the dinghy trying to find a suitable ReefCheck site outside the tambu (protected) area. We ended up having to completely circumnavigate Nonovaul Island and spent an hour extricating ourselves from dead end channels amongst the coral and sea grass beds before we found deep water in the Strettin channel. Eventually we found what we needed I.E. 2-5 m of reef without too much current.
Our site was well away from Magic Roundabout so we brought her around and anchored in 20m. By the time we had set the transects we had 4 canoes moored alongside. Word had spread that the yacht had reading glasses on board so Leila once again had to be the OceansWatch optician!
The Reef was beautiful with lots of healthy coral, plenty of fish and interesting starfish and nudibranchs but had few or the ReefCheck indicator species. We were helped on this survey by Keithson from Mousau Island as well as Jonah and a friend from the Nonovaul Fisheries Management Committee. Jonah's friend used a home made mask made from an old tyre, glass he had found thrown away and a large pipe clip! We had Jonah for dinner once again and were encouraged to hear that the school kids had already collected 86 batteries from the reef after my talk yesterday and a little encouragement from some treats we had left the teachers to distribute.
9/9 This morning we all went ashore for a meeting with the Fisheries Management Committee and a school visit. As usual in the Pacific everyone was ? hour late and even then the church kept gradually filling as I talked. This meeting went nicely as the committee were well informed and very interested in what we had to say.
After the talk we had a lovely school visit and I did a talk to the younger ones. Of course the kids were a bit shy to ask questions but some of the teachers shared their stories of what the reef was like 20 years ago which was fascinating. As in every community we have visited the fishing has been getting worse for as long as people can remember but thankfully they are all waking up to the fact in time to do something about it. This feels like a good time for OceansWatch to have evolved, there is much we can do to help.
We surveyed the marine reserve reef in the afternoon and were very pleased to see how healthy it was. We saw species here like the Barramundi Cod that none of us had seen elsewhere in the Pacific. The reserve has been in place just 3 years but is already flourishing. Jeges saw a person sized shark so Irene may have been looking over her shoulder more than usual!
After the survey the canoes started visiting! It was non stop until well after dark. At one stage Magic Roundabout had 14 canoes alongside with 26 visitors! ? the village must have visited over the 2 days we were at Nonovaul. The reading glasses we had were very well received so THANKS VERY MUCH TO SANDRA KEEFER and her team in San Diego for collecting them all.
8-9 This morning we met with John Aiini from Ailan Wareness who briefed us about Nonovaul Island where we were headed in the afternoon to do some ReefCheck surveys with the local Community. NonoVaul has been working with Ailan Awareness now for several years so will be an important learning experience for us. Coming with us on this leg of the trip will be a local man from Moussau Island called Keithson. Keithson is very interested in marine conservation and had sought us out when he heard that we were in town. Moussau is in the StMatthias Islands wher the locals are all Seventh Day Adventists so do not harvest the fish for personal consumption. We had been looking forward to going to Moussau but unfortunately can not on this occasion. In the afternoon we headed for Nonovaul Island and set the anchor just as the sun went down.