Provided by Stacy Jupiter, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fiji and Heidi Williams, Coral Reef Alliance
The mile-long, 110-acre island of Namenalala, located off the southwest coast of Vanua Levu, is surrounded by one of Fiji’s most pristine reef ecosystems,the Namena Marine Reserve. Namena’s reefs are world-class diving destinations, and the island and reef are home to a variety of rare fish and bird species, as well as seasonal sea turtle nesting sites.
In the mid 1980s, community members began noticing drastic declines in fish due to intensive commercial fishing pressure. One of the Kubulau high chiefs, along with other community leaders, began to advocate for increased protection of traditional fishing grounds. In 1997, the traditional resource owners decided to completely ban commercial fishing to protect their reefs and fish stocks for future generations. This act was the first of its kind in Fiji.
To replace lost cash income from the sale of fishing licenses, the fishing committee agreed to introduce a “goodwill fee” to every tourist who came to swim, snorkel, or dive within the reserve. These fees were deposited into a scholarship fund to assist Kubulau’s children with education costs. Following a fact-finding trip to Bonaire Marine Park, sponsored by the Coral Reef Alliance, the community decided to upgrade the “goodwill fee” to a higher-priced user tag system in 2004. This has allowed the community to allocate half of the revenues to the scholarship fund and the remaining half to management of the marine reserve through the Kubulau Resource Management Committee. This arrangement came through extensive consultations with Namena’s dive operators and community members, assuring all stakeholders’ support and securing transparency.
Additionally, with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society, local communities developed management strategies for the fishing grounds by mapping fishing pressures, collecting data on target species abundance and size, and identifying management objectives. As a result, the communities established a protected area network in 2005 that included thirteen small, traditional closures within estuarine and reef areas; and three large, district-wide no-take fisheries areas, all with defined boundaries and management regulations. In 2009, the Kubulau chiefs endorsed Fiji’s first ecosystem-based management plan to regulate activities within the protected areas, fishing grounds and adjacent watersheds.1
Today, the Namena Marine Reserve sees around 1,700 tourists per year. Ample moorings, maintained by the community through the management fund, prevent anchor damage from dive boats and yachts. The first students supported by the scholarship fund have graduated. Fish stocks are also recovering; biomass and species diversity have begun to rebound inside the reserve.2 The case of the Namena Reserve highlights the great potential for community action combined with management knowledge to support the recovery of coastal ecosystems.
Clarke, P. & Jupiter, S. D. Law, custom and community-based natural resource management in Kubulau District (Fiji). Environmental Conservation 37, 98-106 (2010). ↩
Jupiter, S. D. et al. Effectiveness of marine protected area networks in traditional fishing grounds of Vanua Levu, Fiji, for sustainable management of inshore fisheries. 59 (Wildlife Conservation Society-Fiji and Wetlands International-Oceania, Suva, Fiji, 2010). ↩