POPULAR FBC Radio Fiji 2 host and director Veena Bhatnagar has signed on to be the next campaign champion for the 4FJ Movement, motivated by a call to protect a way of life she still holds dear to her heart.
Bhatnagar, a charming lady from Rakiraki, who proudly calls herself a "kai Ra," has taken the 4FJ pledge not to eat, buy or sell groupers, commonly called kawakawa and donu, from June through September. These are the peak months for these fish to breed in Fiji.
Kawakawa and donu are an important source of protein for Fiji communities and valuable to Fiji's economy. But as Fiji's population has grown and the demand for both food and income has grown, these fish stocks are declining across Fiji. The 4FJ campaign (short for For Fiji) is asking people from all walks of life take the pledge to forego these fish its spawning season to help the fish recover.
"I love to eat kawakawa and donu. It's my favourite fish, not only me but also my family and friends because it is very tasty. We all say they are the best fish because they don't have that fishy smell and the flesh is just lovely," she said.
But Bhatnagar added that when she learned about the state of the decline of these fish she felt compelled to offer her support to the campaign as one of its champions and make this personal sacrifice.
"Because if we don't come together, all of us in Fiji and make this pledge to let them breed, we won't be eating many of these in the future," she added.
These fish are not just the latest craze for Veena but rather one that she could still identify with while growing up in her little town.
"As a little five-year-old, I still remember seeing my grandma coming back from the market with this big, big kawakawa. As soon as she reaches home, my mum would clean it and cook it and then we would have it with rice and dhal," she said with a faraway look in her eyes.
In addition to making the public pledge, Bhatnagar participated in a 4FJ video and poster, which can be found on the campaign website, www.4fj.org.fj and its Facebook page www.facebook.com/4FJMovement.
Scott Radway, executive director for SeaWeb Asia Pacific, who developed the 4FJ campaign, said it was an honour to have someone of Bhatnagar's stature to join the campaign and reach out to her many followers to join the movement.
"Veena Bhatnagar has for many years dedicated her life to informing and entertaining Fiji through her work on radio and television," Mr Radway said. "So it's a real boost for our campaign that she is willing to make this personal sacrifice and provide leadership on this critical issue."
Bhatnagar joins an increasing team of champions that includes rugby star Waisale Serevi, Ratu Filimoni Ralogaivau, chef Lance Seeto and fisherman such as Lisala Waqalala.
SeaWeb Asia Pacific invites people to visit its website, www.4fj.org.fj, or office, 49 Gladstone Rd., Suva, to make their own pledge.
* Alumeci Nakeke is a Program Associate with the SeaWeb Asia Pacific Program (Fiji)