Sunvoice

EDITORIAL: Making Sure 4FJ Keeps Fish In The Sea For Years To Come

We fully support the campaign to stop the sale and consumption if kawakawa and donu, as part of efforts to promote sustainable fishing practices in Fiji.  However, economic market forces
30 Jun 2015 14:00
EDITORIAL: Making Sure 4FJ Keeps Fish In The Sea For Years To Come
It’s hard changing life-style habits overnight, particularly when it comes to eating fish.

We fully support the campaign to stop the sale and consumption if kawakawa and donu, as part of efforts to promote sustainable fishing practices in Fiji.  However, economic market forces till dominate. It’s not too surprising that fish sellers, particularly in Suva, still offer the much-loved fish species at popular roadside markets at Nabua and Nausori. Much of the fish comes from Vanua Levu, who prefer to send their catch to middlemen in the Central Division. This is because they get lucrative returns for their catches when they sell the Suva-Nausori corridor.

It’s hard changing life-style habits overnight, particularly when it comes to eating fish. As advocates for turtle conservation found out several years ago, there are even cultural hurdles to overcome.

Turtle meat is considered a delicacy, reserved for big occasions, and often raises the stature of the hosts, when it is served to guests. However, some compromises have been reached, and by all accounts, Fijian turtle-meat lovers have modified their eating patterns and our marine turtles are now fully protected from harvesting.

SeaWeb Asia Pacific, the organisers of the kawakawa and donu campaign, might want to check with WWF Pacific, one of their partner organisations, on why the turtle ban campaign was so successful.

SeaWeb faces a few significant challenges, the first being the lack of penalties for anyone caught selling or consuming kawakawa or donu during the recommended ban period.  The particular species of fish, breeds from June to September, hence the ban’s focus on these months.

The decline in their stocks has been blamed on over-fishing during this crucial period.  This is an issue that can be channelled through the Ministry of Fisheries to consider.  However, our view is that any knee-jerk legalistic approach will be highly unpopular and more awareness is needed. Strengthening the legal framework can be considered a work in progress at the moment.

Namena Marine Reserve, in Kubulau, Bua remains the template for marine conservation in Fiji. Way before concerns about over-fishing and declining fish stocks became the dominant narrative in conservation circles, Kubulau elders were already planning to manage their marine areas in the early 1980s.

Given that much of the donu and kawakawa sold in the Suva-Nausori corridor is caught in Vanua Levu, a strong monitoring network needs to be put in place. There are strong suspicions that commercial fishermen are poaching their catch from Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Vanua Levu.  These areas are the equivalent of mother lodes, with fish sizes and quality fetching premium prices in the markets of Suva and Nausori.

This needs the support of the vanua, and extensive consultations and awareness programmes are needed to promote the sustainability of our fish stocks.

As we’ve discussed, there are success stories and we hope the 4FJ campaign, that has been endorsed by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. emulates the success of previous marine conservation campaigns.

Feedback: josuat@fijisun.com.fj

 



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