1.         East Rennell (Solomon Islands) (N 854)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2013-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Proposed for adoption by the Committee – see below

Corrective measures identified

In progress 

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2006-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 56,335
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 56,000, UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust: Technical Support to East Rennell; USD 35,000, UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust: Support to East Rennell

Previous monitoring missions

March – April 2005: UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring mission; October 2012: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2015: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 30 March 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/ and indicates the following:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The official submission by the State Party of the DSOCR is welcomed and it is recommended that the Committee adopt it, and that it request the State Party to also develop a corresponding set of corrective measures to guide action towards achieving the DSOCR. An International Assistance Request to support this process has been submitted, and USD 34,500 were granted from the World Heritage Fund to support this process.

A number of important measures have been undertaken by the State Party and should be welcomed. This includes the adoption of a Cabinet Paper which provides a strategic framework for the various measures required to ensure the conservation of the property and the establishment of the inter-ministerial Core Team for Heritage, which will oversee the process. The planned national Round Table is expected to provide an important platform for further consolidation of these efforts and for inclusion of all relevant stakeholders.

The Cabinet decision to revoke and/or refuse granting any felling licences within the property should be noted. While this measure can serve as a temporary solution, in the longer term it will be important to introduce a legal mechanism, such as an application to be submitted by the customary owners, to designate the property under the Protected Areas Act and adopt its Management Plan, which would protect the property from commercial logging.

The information provided by the State Party on bauxite mining activities in Rennell is noted, in particular that the bauxite mining activities on West Rennell are using methods that are reported to have lesser environmental impacts, that no bauxite mining is taking place in the property, and that two companies have been issued mining licenses to extract bauxite pocket soils deposit in West Rennell (15 km outside the property). While the environment technical report that was prepared prior to the approval of mining licences indicates West and East Rennell are separated by a natural geographical barrier, there is an urgent need to scientifically determine the critical forest areas in West Rennell that support the ecological function of the property. It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to defer consideration of bauxite mining license applications until a better understanding of the ecological links between East and West Rennell has been achieved. 

The development of alternative income-generating activities and prioritization of efforts of different ministries in this regard are welcomed.

The information provided by the State Party concerning the current status of the rat eradication project is noted with concern, and it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to take urgent measures to clarify uncertainties about governance, in order to address this threat, in line with the proposed DSOCR. While the sustainable harvest of marine resources has been included as one of indicators in the DSOCR, no information has been provided by the State Party regarding the current situation with the use of marine resources, such as coconut crab.

While important initial steps have been undertaken by the State Party to address threats that lead to the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and establish important frameworks for the consolidation of future efforts to ensure the conservation of the property, including through the development of the DSOCR, the adoption of the Cabinet Paper and the establishment of the inter-ministerial Core Team for Heritage, further significant efforts will be required to achieve the proposed DSOCR. It is therefore recommended that the Committee call upon the international community to support the State Party in these efforts. In the meantime, it is also recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

As mentioned above, the following DSOCR has been developed by the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, and all stakeholders, and is proposed for adoption by the Committee:

 

Proposed timeframe for implementation

A timeframe of 4 years is proposed for achieving the DSOCR, starting upon its adoption by the Committee. This timeframe should enable the State Party to commence an extensive rat monitoring and/or eradication program (with international support), as well as to determine baselines for forest cover, as outlined in the indicators and their rationale below.

 

 

Indicator for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Rationale

Method of verification

ATTRIBUTES

1

Forest cover in the property is maintained measured against the 2013 baseline (time of inscription on the Danger List)  Maintaining forest cover is essential for the conservation of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), especially with regard to the unmodified forest vegetation and avifauna for which the site was inscribed under criterion (ix) on the World Heritage List.  Logging and mining reduce forest cover and threaten important forest habitat that is utilized by avifauna, and represent a material loss of natural values and protection within the property, thus directly impacting the reason for inclusion on the World Heritage List.  Satellite images determining the 1998 (time of inscription) and 2013 (time of inscription on Danger List) baseline for forest cover. Periodical analysis of satellite images indicating the current forest cover measured against the baseline. Adoption of a legal mechanism that would provide for application of the Protected Areas Act 2010 and the Rennell-Bellona Province Lake Tegano Heritage Park Ordinance 2009 to East Rennell, thus banning all logging and mining in the property.

INTEGRITY

2

Any extractive activities  in West Rennell (logging, mining) are  managed in a way that would prevent any negative impact on the OUV of the property and its integrity

Unsustainable logging and mining operations on Rennell Island have the potential to directly and indirectly impact on the OUV of East Rennell through habitat fragmentation and degradation especially near the boundary of the property. Some scientific research suggests that the forests on East Rennell are not large enough to remain ecologically functional without the forests on West Rennell. More scientific research is urgently required to determine the critical forest areas in West Rennell that support the ecological functioning and the integrity of the property and the conservation of its OUV. The results of this research will also help policy makers with the development of a sustainable forest management framework in West Rennell in time and space.

 

 

 

Development of a 1998 (time of inscription) and 2013 (time of inscription on Danger List) baseline for forest cover.

 

Periodical analysis of satellite images indicating the current forest cover measured against the baseline.

 

Critical forest areas in West Rennell that support the ecological functioning of East Rennell are identified based on sound science, and these areas are excluded from ecologically damaging activities, such as logging and mining.

 

Legal mechanism(s) regulating approval processes for any sustainable forest and mining activities in West Rennell and their management have been established, based on the ecologically critical areas described above.

 

The Code of Practice is applied to existing logging leases in Rennell Island until their completion and no activity that has the potential to impact the OUV of the property is permitted, unless ESIA has indicated that it will not create a negative impact on the property, and the necessary actions specified in the ESIA to prevent such damage are implemented.

 

 

3

Threats to the OUV of the property from already introduced invasive species have been identified and minimized and biosecurity measures have been established to prevent new introductions

The black rat is among the most widespread invasive vertebrates on islands and continents (Shiels et al., 2013). It survives well in human dominated environments, natural areas, and islands where humans are not present. Rattus rattus is typically the most common invasive rodent in insular forests (Shiels et al., 2013). Few vertebrates are more problematic to island biota and human livelihoods than R. rattus; it is well known to damage crops and stored foods, kill native species, and serve as a vector for human diseases (Shiels et al., 2013). The black rat is an omnivore, yet fruit and seed generally dominate their diet, and prey items (including eggs and hatchlings) from the ground to the canopy are commonly at risk and exploited as a result of the prominent arboreal activity of black rats. It is likely that there have been multiple introductions of black rats (and potentially other species) into West Rennell via the ocean-going barges that originally came from China and now process logs through Honiara Port, where black rats are common. Rats have been observed by local communities inside the World Heritage property.

 

The accidental introduction of the Giant African Land Snail (Achatina spp.) into Rennell Island is considered to be a serious potential threat to the OUV of the East Rennell World Heritage site and also to food security on the island. Considered one of the 100 world´s worst invasive alien species, intense concern is raised due to its adverse impact on agriculture, human health and native fauna (Vogler et al., 2013); moreover, once established this snail is impossible to eradicate.

 

More research is urgently required to understand the population dynamics of invasive rats (presence, population density, current distribution, rate of spread) and its impact on the OUV of the property. A full eradication of black rats on Rennell Island will be very difficult because of its large size (Shiels et al., 2013), therefore research will help to identify next steps and potential international support.

 

Assessment on the impact and extent of the distribution of invasive rats (Rattus rattus) on Rennell Island, and in particular on the OUV of the property.

 

Effective activities to minimize the impact of already introduced invasive species, especially via the eradication of rats, are underway, adequately funded and showing positive results (eg., rat eradication program with international support and working closely with local people and relevant state and provincial government personnel, …).

 

Effective biosecurity measures are fully operational at places of disembarkation on Rennell Island (airport, seaport, log ponds) to prevent the accidental introduction of invasive species (eg., rats, snails, ants, plants) on Rennell island.

 

4

Coconut crab and other marine resources are harvested in a sustainable manner based on traditional resource use regimes

The people of East Rennell harvest crayfish, giant clam, trochus (sea snail) and reef fish for consumption and for sale. Beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) was a key resource for income generation until a national ban on its export was imposed in 2005, which shifted the pressure to trochus. Coconut crabs, which are important for subsistence use and as a source of cash income, are harvested year-round. Crabs have disappeared from the western part of Rennell Island, and within the property the harvesting success rate is dropping, raising concerns that increased harvesting pressure may lead to localised extinction of the species. Harvesting of marine resources is essentially unregulated and traditional conservation measures have been supplanted by a more commercial approach. For coconut crab there are no community-based controls on target animals or on harvesting levels, times or durations (IUCN mission report, 2012).

 

Controls on harvesting of marine resources and coconut crabs are urgently required, including restrictions on the number and size of animals harvested, prohibition of taking pregnant females or eggs, and imposition of seasonal limits and no-take zones. A return to traditional conservation measures should be encouraged. This should be accompanied by research, survey and monitoring along with training and awareness-raising in the local community (IUCN mission report, 2012).

 

Adoption and enforcement of restrictions on harvesting levels for coconut crab (number and size of animals allowed to be harvested), establishment of no-take zones and imposition of seasonal restrictions, through the revised Management Plan for the property or another mechanism.

 

Population data for coconut crab and other key indicator species (to define) compared to baseline data (to be collected, relative to a date as close as possible to the date of inscription on the World Heritage List).

 

MANAGEMENT

5

The management plan for the sustainable management of the property has been officially adopted and is being implemented

 

A management plan would integrate the development needs of the local communities with the priorities of protecting the OUV of the property. Completing and adopting the management plan, with consent of the customary owners, will strengthen the actions and rules of the management plan, especially those that relate directly to the Protected Area Regulations and as such would be enforced through the Protected Areas Act.

 

Without continuous financial and technical support, the decisions made by the Lake Tegano World Heritage Site Association and the objectives of the management plan cannot be implemented on the ground. Once continuous support is available for basic activities, extra sources of funding for specific projects could be more easily attracted from a wide variety of sources.

 

Without a viable income-generating alternative for mining and logging, it could be difficult for local communities to continue to support the sustainable conservation of the World Heritage property. Climate change has already resulted in decreased food security and increased dependency on imported food for which cash money is necessary thus increasing the need for cash income even more in the short term.

 

The new management plan has been endorsed by the Lake Tegano World Heritage Site Association.

 

The Solomon Islands Government has allocated funding for the implementation of the management plan.

 

The Solomon Islands Government has adopted an Action Plan to prioritize East Rennell and its local communities, and to develop alternative income generating mechanisms that derive benefits from the conservation of the property’s OUV.

 

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7A.19

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7A.49, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Adopts the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) submitted by the State Party (see Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add) and requests the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, a set of corrective measures to guide action towards achieving the DSOCR;
  4. Calls upon the international community to provide support to the State Party in its efforts to implement the DSOCR and to develop sustainable livelihoods for the customary owners of the property;
  5. Commends the State Party for undertaking important steps aimed at consolidating the conservation and management of the property, including the adoption of the Cabinet Paper which provides a strategic framework for the various measures required to ensure the conservation of the property and the establishment of the inter-ministerial Core Team for Heritage which will oversee the process;
  6. Welcomes the State Party’s decision to organize a national Round Table to discuss future strategies for the property and the State Party’s commitment to ensuring the inclusion of all stakeholders in the process;
  7. Notes the Cabinet decision to revoke and/or refuse granting any felling licences for areas within the property, but considers that a permanent legal mechanism should be put in place to ensure that no commercial logging can be permitted within the property in the future, and therefore urges the State Party to expedite the designation of the property under the Protected Areas Act and the finalization of the Management Plan, with the consent of the customary owners;
  8. Also notes the information provided by the State Party that no bauxite mining activities in the property take place and also urges the State Party to defer consideration of bauxite mining license applications until a better understanding of the ecological links between East and West Rennell is available;
  9. Notes with concern that a proposal for a rat eradication project has been put on hold due to uncertainties about governance mechanisms and further urges the State Party to take urgent measures to clarify these uncertainties, in order to address the threat of invasive species, in line with the DSOCR, including by seeking international support from States Parties with significant expertise in eradication of invasive species;
  10. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
  11. Decides to retain East Rennell (Solomon Islands) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/17/41.COM/7A, WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add and WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add.2),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: