Lifestyle | NATION

Watchtower Drives Sneaky Poachers Away

A watchtower sitting on a lonely hillside, overlooking a vast stretch of ocean is the latest weapon in the  armoury of a fishing community in it’s battle against poaching. The
02 Oct 2014 07:02
Watchtower Drives Sneaky Poachers Away
Holy Trinity Anglican Primary School under-13 and 14 players with Fiji Airways Fijian 7s coach Gareth Baber at Albert Park, Suva on June 18, 2019. Photo: Supplied by Luke Ramasima

A watchtower sitting on a lonely hillside, overlooking a vast stretch of ocean is the latest weapon in the  armoury of a fishing community in it’s battle against poaching.

The watchtower was built by the people of Mali district, a small district made up of two islands, Mali and Vorovoro, and three other villages, Vesi, Ligaulevu and Nakawaga.

The traditional head of the district, the Turaga na Tui Mali, Ratu Meli Bogiso, said that he believed guarding the bounties of their iqoliqoli (fishing grounds) was a matter of survival.

“All we have are our marine resources. Our lands are rocky and barren, good enough only for the few root crops we plant for subsistence,” Ratu Meli said.

“Through the fish that fill our fishing grounds we are able to earn money, build our homes and send our children to school.”

Sitting, on his island home on Vorovoro, Ratu Meli worries his people are besieged by pollution that threatens to diminish the richness of their marine resources and illegal fishing.

“Two main rivers that lead away from Labasa, carrying industrial waste, pour into our fishing area. We worry about the damage that is doing.

“The poachers are an additional problem. While we set up our marine protected areas to make sure that we have a continuous supply of fish, they creep in and steal from us.

“Fish wardens will be stationed at the watchtower that gives them a birds-eye view of the fishing grounds and marine protected areas – that includes both reef systems and mangrove islands.”

The watchtower was built with the support of a project co-ordinated by WWF-Pacific.

The project is to build effective community driven governance systems in Mali district to enhance community access to food, income generating opportunities and livelihoods. It is funded by the people of Australia through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Project co-ordinator Unaisi Tagicakibau said the fish wardens had been identified and trained by Fiji’s Department of Fisheries, but they could not effectively monitor their fishing grounds without proper tools.

“WWF-Pacific supplied mobile phones, a fuel quota and other related equipment to the watchtower to help in the overall effort to protect fishing grounds with active monitoring and visibility” Ms Tagicakibau said.

“A schedule has been drawn up for the fish wardens’ rotation to ensure someone is stationed there.”

While the islanders combat illegal fishing and ensure the effectiveness of protected areas in replenishing oceans, the programme also contributes to the protection of the 260 kilometres long Great Sea Reef. It is Fiji’s largest and most complex reef system.

“It is also of local significance, supplying as much as 80 per cent of fish that feeds the domestic markets, bolstering both the fisheries sector and tourism as well through recreational pleasures like snorkelling and white sandy beaches that form part of the tourist attraction” Ms Tagicakibau said.

Feedback:  peni.drauna@fijisun.com.fj

 

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