The award was announced last week at the 2019 Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, Norway.
The Arnavons is now one of 16 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that hold the prestigious Blue Park Award, indicating that they meet the highest science-based standards for marine life protection and management.
Awards are granted after months of rigorous review by Marine Conservation Institute and an independent science council.
The award recognizes outstanding efforts by the Arnavons managers, the communities of Kia, Wagina and Katupika, the Solomon Islands Government, The Nature Conservancy and the local women’s network, KAWAKI.
All partners have worked together for more than 20 years to effectively protect this spectacular marine ecosystem now and into the future.
Arnavon Community Marine Park was also a recipient of the 2008 UNDP Equator Initiative prize. The Equator Initiative Prize is a UNDP biennially recognition for outstanding global community efforts to reduce poverty in the equatorial region through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
"The Arnavon Community Marine Park project has come a long way, thus this award is timely as the recognition of our effort and commitment,” says Derald Pitakaka, chair of the ACMP board. “We hope the Blue Park award will help to boost our commitment and effort to continue to work together with our partners to protect the Arnavon Community Marine Park.
“We also hope this will provide a brilliant example for local communities, national and regional institutions to follow the part to protect our oceans for now and the future generations,” he said.
The Arnavon Community Marine Park was established in 1995 and was declared as the country’s first national park in in 2017.
It protects 169 km2 of land and sea. These islands are home to the largest nesting site for critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles in the entire South Pacific.
It also protects significant areas of coral reef in good condition that support high species richness. The Solomon Islands is part of the Coral Triangle which is the global center of marine biodiversity, with more species of coral and fish than anywhere else on earth.
Large schools of fish and endangered green sea turtles also live amongst the deep coral reefs, lagoons and mangrove forests.
The marine park is also important for sustaining fish populations that local communities rely on for food. For example, much higher numbers of parrotfish, grouper, sea cucumbers and giant clams are found within the park compared to outside the park.
Adult fish breed within the park, and the larvae from this protected populations spills over into reefs outside the park, ensuring that there will continue to be fish for local villagers.
“This is a time of great peril for ocean life as it faces off against increasing marine industrialization and climate change,” said Professor Douglas McCauley of UC Santa Barbara, Director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative and a member of the international science council for Blue Parks.
“Blue Park Awards are shining a light on protected areas that are leading efforts to protect marine biodiversity and help promote resiliency to climate change impacts.”
By Willie Atu & Henry Kaniki
The Nature Conservancy Office,