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Fiji Time: 4:20 PM on Saturday 19 April

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A blend of western science

Kate Findlay
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I BEGIN to see the attraction of 'the simple life' on Tuesday morning after waking up refreshed from a well-deserved sleep in Navakasobu village outside of Labasa, the home of the traditional life.

It's an idyllic place with a calm pace: children frolic on the grass as their mothers meander past like steamboats on the horizon, in no more of a rush than the clock in the living room whose hands are set permanently to 14:04:30.

Today, my WWF colleagues and I are meeting the QCMC ù the Qoliqoli Cakovata Management Committee ù to discuss the successes and challenges of managing their epic 1349 km squared fishing grounds which spans Macuata, Sasa, Mali and Dreketi districts.

The qoliqoli contains special 'tabu' areas, often breeding grounds, where fish stocks are allowed to replenish and fishing is banned.

The idea of blending western science with traditional Fijian fishing rights has been a massive success since the marine protected areas were launched in 2004, with fishers reporting that fish are now larger and closer to the shore.

The qoliqoli have become so successful in fact that they are becoming victims of their own success; I discovered talking to two QCMC members Jonasa Suvatu (Korotubu village) and Savenaca Koliniwai (Mali island).

Poachers have become attracted to their plentiful fishing grounds; Jonasa tells me with sadness that each time he goes fishing he sees two or three pirate fishing vessels. Even when the QCMC manage to catch the poachers, they have no power to prosecute them.

I even hear rumours that a poacher had successfully prosecuted someone who had caught them, although Jonasa and Savenaca are tight-lipped on the subject.

Together, my bosses and the QCMC set out a new direction for WWF's work in the area, to improve compliance and enforcement in qoliqoli waters in collaboration with its owners.

Fending off the flies ù those intensely black, fuzzy ones ù I think it's time for a nap.

* Kate Findlay is a staff member of WWF South Pacific Program's communications department. Email: kfindlay@wwfpacific.org.fj