20 Aug 2013

Fiji's Macuata marine sanctuary benefiting the people says new chief

8:05 pm on 20 August 2013

A newly installed paramount chief in Fiji says he and his people will continue efforts to ensure the survival of their marine protected area off the country's second largest island, Vanua Levu.

Ratu Wiliame Katonivere's late brother was hailed as a champion of protected areas in the Pacific after helping set up the 50 square kilometre Macuata Marine Protected Network in the early 2000s.

The area is recognized as one of the world's most successful models and in 2006 won the Global Ocean Conservation Award.

The new chief of Macuata province, Ratu Wiliame, says the 110 thousand people of the region are starting to see the benefits.

Sally Round spoke to him during a break at the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Nadi.

RATU WILIAME: It all started from the concern that was raised some 20 years ago and then my predecessor the previous Tui Macuata who was an advocate for marine conservation came up with the idea to pick and allocate areas within the fishing grounds to be protected as marine protected areas only for the term for the sustainability of food security and to create some long-term economic gains for the fishing ground owners in the villages around Macuata. This concept has been adopted by other provinces in Fiji and we are so happy that the government with the support of the NGOs and these NGOs they are the ones that have been helping our people in the community monitor and protect the marine protected areas on the goal of getting sustainability in the community.

SALLY ROUND: And how is it going? What's the situation at the moment with fishing in those areas?

RW: The fish records from our Department, the fisheries number they have noted the increase in fish caught and also to note that I believe some time back in 2005 or 06 some team from Australia came to do a survey and they found some species of fish that were said to be extinct or not seen in these parts are being seen now again.

SR: So sounds like a success story.

RW: It's a success story yes, I might say that.

SR: So the people of the village, of the land can still fish there for their own needs, is that how it works?

RW: For that we cannot deny that, fishing is for their daily consumption. Most of these villagers, they live on the coast so they eat fish everyday so they have to go and fish for them to eat.

SR: But they can't sell it at market?

RW: There are areas where they can go fishing for this.

SR: And how do you patrol this, do you have to patrol it?

RW: We have empowered the fishing ground owners to be the wardens of their own marine protected areas.

SR: So what, when they are out fishing?

RW: When they are out fishing, yes, when they are out and see any boat that is illegally there so they might just report it and we have a system to go through.

SR: And does it work, how many boats do you see making incursions into your sanctuary?

RW: Well the last three years I've only received five, but they were mostly commercial fisherman.

SR: Are they foreign vessels?

RW: No, they are just local but they are commercial, big boats yeah.

SR: Can you see this taking off do you see this as a model for sustainable fishing?

RW: It is the way forward for us we're beginning to see the benefits of it and we hope too, we will continue to ensure mechanisms are put in place to protect for the continuity of this.