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Fiji Time: 3:39 AM on Wednesday 23 July

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Villagers struggle as oil spill destroys food source

Dawn Gibson
Wednesday, December 05, 2012

IT will not be such a merry Christmas for locals of Waiqanake Village after damage caused by a recent oil spill affected one of their main food sources.

Concerned villager and chairperson of the qoliqoli, or fishing grounds, Asakaia Balawa told this newspaper the amount of small fish, crabs and food sources had depleted over the course of the year and it was not getting any better.

"Our lands and sea were much healthier before this especially our mangroves, but now they're being poisoned by the oil," Mr Balawa said.

He said at this time of the year in particular-the numbers of small fish and crabs were quite high. "But this year, we have noticed that there is hardly any fish around," he explained.

Efforts to get a response from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) proved futile.

The qoliqoli is made up of 22 fish traps which are monitored by Mr Balawa.

The fish caught in the traps are used to feed the villagers within the settlement and are sometimes sold to make money for the village.

"This has been difficult to do because we have found that many of the fish have been poisoned or our traps just ruined from all the oil soaked up in them," he said.

Not only have the food sources been affected, but the surrounding mangroves covering the settlements of Muaivuso, Nabaka and Namakala have also shown signs of substantial reduction. The World Wide Fund for Nature South Pacific (WWF South Pacific) said the situation caused much harm to the environment both directly and indirectly.

"The effects of oil spills on marine wildlife is direct through either ingestion of oil particles, absorption (through their skin) and inhalation … indirect effects of oil spills cause further changes in wildlife behaviour, sometimes forcing them to search longer and further for new sources of food in uncontaminated waters," explained WWF South Pacific's communications manager, Patricia Mallam.


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