Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

"Safeguarding our natural environment is central to safeguarding our valued way of life"

Many fishing communities around Fiji have shifted from subsistence living to a cash economy. Local commercial fishers frequently use diving equipment and spear guns, and until recently even poison, to catch fish and earn cash. However, some communities have decided to stop the decline of their marine environment. With WWF's help, villagers have come together to create a community-based management system that makes the most of their customary ownership rights. Through the Fiji Islands Locally Managed Marine Areas Network (FLMMA), communities can learn how to manage their own marine resources. FLMMA, of which WWF Fiji is a key member, is a partnership based on a social contract to work together : communities, NGOs and government agencies are members of the network and it continues to increase its community membership.

By working with the community to identify the best strategies for local resource owners to better manage their reef and increase their capacity to manage income-generating activities, some communities have turned to the traditional practice of reserving a fishing ground to increase fish population for a traditional ceremony. Several villages have now declared lagoons off limits to fishing, diving and other damaging activities. Elders in the community, who have watched the changes in fishing methods, have noticed an increase in fish stocks.

Also working with the government is a key factor to successful protection and through the Ministry of Fisheries, WWF and FLMMA works to ensure management plans are in place for communities to manage their fishing grounds.

In 2003, The National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan (NBSAP) identified priority marine areas for protection, as well as recommends the establishment of a representative netowrk of MPAs in ecological and biological sites. WWF Fiji was part of the coalition of national stakeholders that produced the NBSAP. It is through these recommendations that, in January of 2005, at the World Summit on Small Islands Developing Nations in Mauritus, the Fiji government declared a committment to protect 30% of its waters by 2020. Once established, this would be the largest marine network in the world.