The Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Sea Turtle Restoration Project and the people of Karkum Village recently launched the new Karkum Conservation Area in the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea, a common turtle nesting site of the critically endangered Western Pacific leatherback turtle species.

Conservation Deeds in Papua New Guinea are the result of a community-driven process that creates a locally managed conservation area, and a long-term community stake in the protection of natural resources in ways that also meet the economic and social needs of the community.

Conservation Deeds are a relatively new innovation in PNG, spearheaded by the work of the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG)

The first everĀ  Forest Conservation Deed was signed by eleven clans of Wanang village in the Sogeram region, of Madang province, PNG. That event, which was the culmination of two years training and community facilitation by BRG, took place at Wanang village on June 1, 2000. Activities leading up to and following that event contributed toward the blocking of the operations and expansion of Madang timbers in the Sogeram Forest Management Area. For the past ten years, there has been no logging in the area.

Sea Turtle Restoration Project is now applying this model to coastal/maritime communities of Madang as our pilot project site in the Western Pacific region. We envision a maritime conservation process planned and implemented by the partners: each local (coastal) community, Gildipasi planning committee (local CBO), Mirap and KarKum STRP committees, STRP and facilitators. Community members are the ones to actually set up their marine conservation areas, management rules and eventually sign conservation deeds.

In 2007, Western Pacific campaigner Wencelaus Magun developed and facilitated a two yearlong series of conservation deed training workshops in villages along the north coast of Papua New Guinea.

Wenceslaus Magun worked closely with community partners to hold trainings and community development activities for a total of 6 villages representing approximately 3,500 people. Through this process, the communities came together for workshops in sea turtle and marine resource protection identify conservation measures to which they will choose and commit in exchange for support of community needs, such as health centers and library books. Additionally, the communities have requested help fighting the threat of deep-sea mining. As the conservation deed process continues, we are providing assistance and consultation to villagers on the best way to address these threats.

Wenceslaus Magun has developed a core group of activist volunteers to assist with the conservation deed process and other efforts in the region. The volunteers in several communities have conducted land and marine-based resource surveys to provide detailed parameters for the developing conservation deeds. Village leaders and volunteers, as well as individual resource owners, are highly interested in moving the conservation deed process forward. We will continue to conduct resource awareness seminars, surveys, and deed development into 2009 and beyond in the region.