Eco Custodian Advocates is a Papua New Guinean conservation organisation that promotes marine management and community driven conservation education through the recognition of traditional knowledge.
Eco Custodian Advocates is based in Milne Bay province, located at the southern tip of Papua New Guinea. Eco Custodian Advocates emerged from a Conservation International programme which operated in Milne Bay for 20 years (1996 and 2016) and progressed to being a locally run organisation.
Eco Custodian Advocates’s core work centers around customary marine management in the region and encouraging the use of this approach to other communities and language groups in Milne Bay and beyond. Traditional closures of fishing grounds (called ‘Gwala’, ‘Hivi’, or ‘Doi’) in the region are promoted as a tool for managing marine resources. In the past, these closures were used for cultural purposes, such as to honor deceased relatives, but this method has now been adapted for food security and conservation.
Eco Custodian Advocates uses digital tools (audio and video recordings) to document traditional regulations established by communities for their management areas. This approach is accessible to local people, and allows customary ecological knowledge, usually held by elders, to be formally recognised by government agencies. It is a key step in improving the ability of local communities to enforce their own customary rules as well as sharing knowledge across different language groups in Milne Bay.
In addition to promoting traditional knowledge and management practices, knowledge transmission across generations promotes a thriving cultural heritage.
Eco Custodian Advocates primarily has a marine focus but is keen to develop an integrated ecosystem approach, or ‘reef to ridge’ approach. This way, Eco Custodian Advocates contributes to improving biodiversity and cultural knowledge of important landscapes such as sacred sites and their role in conservation efforts. Eco Custodian Advocates works with grassroots coastal communities to educate, empower, and strengthen their advocacy to achieve sustainable environmental goals.
Eco Custodian Advocates is an excellent example of a cross-cutting partner which fits into the themes of multiple programmes, therefore Synchronicity Earth supports it through both the Biocultural Diversity Programme and the Ocean Programme.