Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Waitui Tabu: Marine Conservation in Macuata

from Wendy

Two stories in the Fiji Sun this week negatively reported an incident in Naduri village when the chief and people confiscated a fisherman's boat, his catch and divided the fish between the people, demanded $2000 for the recovery of his boat, etc. Now on first reading this, I was shocked by the reaction of the Naduri people... but then there is always more to a story. Tui Macuata is a conservationist and is passionate about marine conservation in Macuata!

From Island Business - last year

International and national conservationists were delighted with the move by Macuata province, led by its paramount chief, Ratu Aisea Katonivere. Not only has his 'waitui tabu' boosted government's commitment, it has also led to the protection of the world's third longest barrier reef known as the Great Sea Reef.

It has an area of around 202,700 square kilometres and the reef is 200 kilometres in length. It is located in northern Macuata waters. According to WWF's Fiji office, a recent survey at Great Sea Reef showed that it is home to 55% of all the known coral reef fish species in Fiji, 74% of all the known coral species, 44% of the known marine flora and 44% of Fiji's endemic reef fish species.

In hosting WWF executives last month, Katonivere said the realisation that they were the custodians of one of the world's largest barrier reefs prompted him to encourage his people to support the concept of marine conservation. He said this important resource needed to be preserved for future generations of Macuata.

“What is my role as the paramount chief of Macuata? What will I leave behind when I go to meet my Creator,” he told this magazine. “Now I can go and marvel to the Lord about what I have done, in that I have created a source of livelihood, sustenance for my generation and their generations.”

Until November, the fishing taboo in Macuata's marine protected areas had been in force for only five months. But Katonivere said his people had already begun to see a marked change in the size of their marine catches.“In the past five months, we have seen God's miracle. Fish that were not seen near our shores have now been seen. Not only fish, but the same goes for seashells and mussels. “I wonder what will happen in five years' time? To me this has created a hope for an alternative source of livelihood for my people.”

Katonivere's sterling leadership has not gone unnoticed. A member of Fiji's influential council of chiefs says Macuata's leadership in marine protected areas has prompted the council to consider adopting the concept in the remaining provinces. “What Macuata has done has greatly encouraged the other provinces,” council member Ratu Ratavo Lalabalavu told ISLANDS BUSINESS. “From what we have seen, most of us are in favour of adopting marine protected areas in our provinces as this will help in providing a sustained source of livelihood for our people.”

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