IN a major boost for the 4FJ campaign, Vitawa in Rakiraki District has banned catching kawakawa and donu from June through to September.
The 4FJ campaign (short for For Fiji) is seeking pledges from across Fiji not to eat, buy or sell the fish during its peak breeding months, June through to September. The voluntary pledge is intended to help these fish recover as they are a key food and income source for families but have rapidly decreased in recent years.
But for Vitawa, it is now a village policy.
4FJ champion fisherman Lisala Waqalala, who lives in Vitawa, first raised the issue at a village meeting. Over successive meetings, all the leaders of the mataqali, or clans, agreed that protecting the fish during the breeding season was important to protecting village livelihoods.
Other communities have placed tabu, or bans, on the sites where these fish breed. This is the first time a village has made the 4FJ pledge village policy. Mr Waqalala originally joined the 4FJ campaign when he learned that the reason for the decline of these fish, commonly called grouper, was largely due to the fact that people were heavily fishing them during their breeding months.
These fish are targeted because they are easy to catch when they gather in large numbers each year to breed.
"I am a fisherman and have seen that its numbers are getting less and less every year and smaller too," he said.
Most people in the village had already taken the 4FJ pledge so village chairman Sitiveni Sikitoro said the next step of making the pledge a policy made sense.
* The author works for SeaWeb Asia Pacific, which leads the campaign.