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Pia Harkness head and shoulders with vegetation in the background
Dr Pia Harkness

Research project title

Reconciling Conservation and Development Interests for Coastal Livelihoods: Understanding foundations for small-scale fisheries co-management in Savu Raijua District, eastern Indonesia.


Small-scale fisheries provide important income and food contributions to coastal livelihoods in tropical developing nations, and operate within complex livelihood and development contexts. Key threats including overfishing, climate change and pollution must be addressed to ensure that small-scale fisheries can continue to support livelihood outcomes. However, research shows that considerable international investment into prevailing marine conservation approaches in tropical developing nations has not resulted in proportional, long-term, sustainable fisheries or livelihood outcomes.

This PhD research examined coastal livelihoods in Savu Raijua District, in eastern Indonesia, and the implications of marine conservation and rural development policies and practices for the local communities they are designed to affect. These issues were considered within the context of the BINGO-driven Savu Sea Marine National Park (SSMNP) and the District government’s coastal development initiatives.  The thesis investigated the opportunities and barriers for the establishment of co-management as a more integrated approach to livelihood and small-scale fisheries management than the top-down MPA approach which prevails in Indonesia.

The research applied participatory and case study approaches, used mixed methods, and adopted a community participation lens and livelihood perspective. It found that households were highly dependent on small-scale fishing. Negative livelihood impacts from the national park were only avoided by a lack of enforcement, while district government programs were aligned with livelihoods, but delivered mixed outcomes. While co-management offers a more holistic approach to marine conservation and community development challenges, weak local capacities and disjointed legislation present two key barriers to the establishment of a co-management regime.

This case study confirms that in remote, developing settings such as Savu Raijua, long-term sustainable ecological and livelihood outcomes are more likely to be achieved through co-management than through top-down marine conservation models. Investment in developing co-management skills and capacity within local communities and with all levels of government and non-government implementing agencies will be essential to achieving these goals.

Research interests

Dr Pia Harkness is a PhD graduate (2020) in the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL), under the supervision of Associate Prof. Natasha Stacey. Her research project examined the implications of marine conservation and rural development policies and practices for the local communities they are designed to affect, in Savu Raijua District eastern Indonesia. With a background in spatial science, Pia’s interest in community development and environmental issues led her towards the social sciences. She has recently commenced work with a CSIRO team which focuses on transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research around knowledge co-creation, and bringing together Indigenous and western knowledge systems in environmental management. Pia holds a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management (Sustainable Development) from the University of Newcastle, Australia, and a Master of Tropical Environmental Management from Charles Darwin University.

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