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Marine resource conservation and prospects for environmental sustainability in Anuta, Solomon Islands


Richard Feinberg (email:


It has been argued that atolls have abundant, varied and dependable marine resources and that atoll-dwellers' exploitation of marine fauna has remained essentially constant since prehistoric times. According to that line of argument, modern technology, in and of itself, has had little effect on the relationship between human populations and the natural environment. A countervailing view contends that the market economy and reliance upon money have disrupted egalitarian socioeconomic systems and threatened the long-standing ecological balance. Here I consider questions of environmental sustainability and economic viability on Anuta, a Polynesian outlier in Solomon Islands. Anuta, a volcanic island, has more abundant terrestrial resources than do atolls, and all indications are that it has been a hierarchically-organized chiefdom for well over a dozen generations. Nonetheless, it is a small, seemingly vulnerable community. In reality, productivity of land and sea have remained stable at least since the 1970s, in part because of conscious, purposeful decisions intended to preserve the island's natural resources. Thus, Anutans can be described as conservationists in the technical sense used by some authors. Yet on Anuta, as elsewhere, a combination of population growth and market exchange has begun to place a strain on the environment and raises questions for their system's long-term viability.