Property rights to the Republic of Vanuatu's extensive reef and lagoon areas are held by traditional land owners. current legislation confers on indigenous customary owners of land, ownership and usage rights of areas extending out to the sea-side of offshore reef, although in practice, many villages claim rights over sea areas that extend beyond the lega1 limit. In effect, therefore, reef areas are seaward extensions of land over which landowners – usually those adjoining the reef - can claim ownership. Notwithstanding individual ownership rights, reefs and lagoons remain predominantly common property where all members of a given village are free to carry out fishing and related activities. However, overall control of village reef and lagoon areas is usually the responsibility of the village council, comprising village chiefs and elders, and in some cases, an area council composed of leaders from several villages. Vanuatu is endowed with many possible reef and lagoon sites that appear suitable for the development of clam and other forms of mariculture. In effect, to develop a major mariculture project, whether commercial or predominantly village subsistence, a developer would need to approach the appropriate village authorities to seek approval of a project. In the case of individual villages, these authorities are normally the village council and chiefs and the individual reef owners. The approval by these authorities will ensure acceptance of the project by the village as a whole, as well as its co-operation during project implementation. Adopting the right approach in explaining the nature of the project to villagers and proof of the project's viability are vital prerequisites for success in winning local support. Equally important, as emphasised by many village leaders interviewed, is the need to draw up an agreement between the host village and the developer, laying out specific project objectives, mode of operation and terms and conditions of the project.


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