Protected Area Management in Vanuatu

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Vanuatu is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean and is comprised of more than 80 islands dispersed over 1 300 kilometres. Its total land area is 12 190 square kilometres of which about 73% is forested, composed of both indigenous hardwood and exotic plantation forests. Approximately 80% of the population is located in rural areas, often located on remote and small islands of the archipelago. The majority of the people are involved in subsistence farming with their limited income usually being derived from copra, cattle, fishing, logging or tourism. In geological terms Vanuatu is a young country with 20% of its land surface being created in the last 200 000 years. Despite this, it has a range of endemic biodiversity including 130 vascular plant species (of which 39% are orchids), 5 species of butterflies, 5 species of ants, 57 species of land snails, 4 lizards, 2 genera of birds and 5 other endemic species, 12 species of bats and 1 dugong. Compared to many other Pacific Island countries Vanuatu has not suffered to any great extent from deforestation and loss of habitat. This is partly due to its rugged interior which makes it difficult to log and unsuitable for commercial crops. However, it does face risks from future development including logging for timber and land clearing for agricultural purposes, specifically around lowland areas and small islands where the population is concentrated. Further threats include both natural and man-made environmental disasters associated with volcanic activities, frequent cyclones, drought, flooding, pollution, deforestation and other disastrous related activities. Whilst the majority of the population still farm on a small community scale, it is imperative that protective action is taken promptly before serious degradation occurs. The protection of Vanuatu’s biodiversity is essential not only for its aesthetic value but also because it is relied upon by local communities for both their subsistence and their livelihoods. The laws considered in this paper relate to protected area management in Vanuatu with particular emphasis on the Community Conservation Area mechanism provided for under the new Environment Management and Conservation Act 2002 (EMC Act).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107
Number of pages119
JournalMacquarie Journal of International and Comparative Environmental Law
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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