Monday, July 9, 2007

THE people of the Nabekavu, Dreketi, Macuata, Sasa and Mali have, in the past two years, implemented set actions for the use of their i qoliqoli (fishing ground) .
They have successfully set aside nine areas, totalling 117 square kilometres within the i qoliqoli as tabu (marine protected area), for the purpose of restocking the i qoliqoli.
The people of the Qoliqoli Cokovata are talking about larger fish caught near the shore as in the past and different types that had not been seen in recent years are surfacing again.
"This week we went out fishing everyday and came back with a full catch compared to few years ago when we would go out one day and have a good catch and the next three to four days we would hardly catch anything," said Emosi Baya, one of the qoliqoli committee members from Nakawaga, Mali Island.
"These changes have increasingly attracted illegal fishers into the i qoliqoli and the tabu areas," said Baya.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Fiji and partners (government, FLMMA) are working with the Macuata communities by assisting in the development and implementation of resource management plans.
It is also educating and training the community to undertake activities outlined in their management plans, training fish wardens and building community capacity (through household financial literacy training, community messaging, community biological and socio-economic surveys).
With WWFs support ending in three years, there is a commitment by WWF to assist the qoliqoli committee to secure funding with which the qoliqoli communities will continue to manage their i qoliqoli.
Long term finance
A 12 month fundraising plan (May 2007 to June 2008), with four activities, targeting $100,000, has been developed to generate funding for the management of the i qoliqoli, spearheaded by the Qoliqoli Cokovata management committee of the vanua of Nabekavu, Tikina Dreketi, Macuata, Sasa and Mali.
"A review of the 2004 management plan showed that the qoliqoli committee lacked dedicated funds or a plan to seek funds for the implementation of this plan which includes the actions by fish wardens in stemming illegal fishing," said Sanivalati Navuku, Project officers, WWF Fiji Programme.
The first fundraising event is the upcoming Great Sea Reefs (GSR) sevens rugby tournament, on November 9-10 at the Subrail Park, in Labasa. The tournament targets to raise $15,000.
Ten top national teams will be invited to participate, with part of their travel and accommodation costs supported by the qoliqoli committee through sponsorship.
A total of 56 teams are expected to participate, including boys teams of 17, 16, 15, 12, 9. The inclusion of the boys team is expected to pull in parents and families to travel to the games venue in Labasa.
Mr Baya who is involved in the fundraiser said, "the GSR sevens is not just to raise money but will help i qoliqoli owners to come together to work towards the protection of their natural resources. Working to manage our i qoliqoli has brought many of us together, from the inland villages and coastal villages for the first time. Some of us are visiting some i qoliqoli in other villages for the first time as well."
"When WWF started this project (MPA) in 2004, I was the only representative from the island of Mali.
"Today the number of representatives from Mali and other villagers has increased," he said.
"These efforts are helping re-establish our traditional links."
Other fundraising activities by the qoliqoli committee includes inviting 50 selected people in Fiji to become honorary qoliqoli owners, targeting $9000, connecting qoliqoli members living outside of Fiji, targeting $10,000 and village based fundraising and dinner by invitation, targeting $42,000.
"Effort is being made to increase the communities' involvement and participation in the management of their resources. The communities need to take ownership in protecting their natural resources starting with MPA projects," said Sanivalati Navuku, Project officer, WWF Fiji.
Fiji's precious marine ecosystem is under attack from overfishing, unsustainable and destructive harvesting of live coral and exotic fish for aquarium, and increasing levels of pollution. Climate change is also playing its part in the degradation of the marine environment.
In November 2005, seven chiefs of the province of Macuata launched the first of the country's networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the Great Sea Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world.
This came about as a result of the Great Sea Reef survey, a first in the area, conducted in 2004 with the support of WWF and partners, which highlighted its unique biodiversity. WWF has witnessed the benefits of MPAs to biodiversity and marine resources and the people who rely on them around the world.
Hence it is supporting the Government and the people of Fiji in the development and implementation of its commitment to have 30 per cent of the country's EEZ under MPAs by 2020.
Together with FLMMA and other key organisations, WWF is facilitating policy dialogue, scientific research, community capacity building and financing.