THE people of the Yavusa Navakavu located in the the Muaivusu Peninsula opened their marine protected area (tabu area) last month after 10 years of protecting their qoliqoli (fishing ground).
The community-based marine management initiative was initiated in 2002, through the assistance of the Institute of Applied Science (IAS) of the University of the South Pacific, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas Network (FLMMA), and by the Bose Vanua (chief's forum) of Navakavu, with a vision to sustain marine resources and food security of their future people.
IAS research said the reef area in front of Navakavu, is unique for its physical features having two blue-hole systems in the backreef area, provided a safe haven of fishes from disturbances and other impacts. Approximately 700 people live within the boundary of the community and all of them depend on the sea for their livelihood.
IAS reports the total area of the fishing ground for Navakavu is 18.6 km, however the no-take tabu area occupies 2.94 km?; 16 per cent of the total fishing ground area. Through this preservation project, Navakavu was rewarded the Most Outstanding Marine Resource Management Award by the Fiji Government in 2010 for their marine preservation project.
The tabu area of Navakavu achieved its purpose. Researchers found the sea flourishing with species, not only in numbers but also in sizes. Over 153 unique marine species were seen in the tabu area - most of which are rare from the waters of Navakavu for over 10 years.
However, while the three villages and two major settlements; Muaivusu, Nabaka, Waiqanake, Namakala, and Ucuinamono in Navakavu reaped the fruits of their preservation, the move to open the tabu area did not go down well for some marine conservational groups and enthusiasts.
While the harvest period was for only 14 days, it remains to be seen what impact the fishing has had on the population of marine species fished when the tabu area was declared open on March 16. However initial observations from the scientific team from USP IAS and Wildlife Conservation Society suggest that many of the largest fish are now gone and the fish that remains are clearly nervous around divers as results of the study known we will update.
Science suggests that after some time, it is possible to take some fish from within the tabu area, however at the moment we do not know how long the tabu needs to be in place and how much to be taken.Semisi Meo who works for the IAS of USP says the lifting of the tabu in Navakavu provides a good learning opportunity to the science community and other villagers involved in the project around the country to help answer some of these questions.
The benefits of the tabu is proven to make that section of the reef healthy and the community socio economic status can be raised.
The Navakavu MPA has now been closed again and this was officially declared on April 8.
The qoliqoli area will now be closed for three years. The MPA has now been reduced in size from 2.94 km to about two km?.