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As with many other Pacific island countries (e.g, Fiji), in Western Samoa the system of property rights on reef and lagoon areas is characterised by legal ownership by the state combined with customary ownership of fishing rights by indigenous village groups. These groups hold customary fishing and related rights over adjacent reef and lagoon areas to which all members of the group can enjoy relatively unrestricted access. Overall control of the customary fishing ground of a particular group is exercised by a village council or fono, composed of those who hold chiefly status. Western Samoa is generously endowed with reef and lagoon habitats suitable for clam and related forms of mariculture. However, to gain access to such areas for mariculture purposes, it is necessary to obtain the consent of the villagers through their village council. Whether or not such consent is obtained appears to depend on the villagers' assessment of the nature and extent of the benefits that are likely to result from a mariculture project. Village support is essential not only to gain access to a project site but also to ensure continuing cooperation on the part of villages during the implementation and production stage. Particularly important is village support to prevent fishing and other forms of intrusion on the project site.


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