Lau Province Ban Night Spear Fishing, A First For Fiji

Night spear fishing destroys fish habitats, imagine a home – you are all sleeping at night and then someone comes in and kills everyone in the home – from the oldest to the youngest,
10 Jun 2021 12:38
Lau Province Ban Night Spear Fishing, A First For Fiji

THE adage, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for lifetime,’ rings true to what is starting to unfold in the Lau Province.

At a weeklong Bose Vanua – a meeting of traditional leaders from the 13 districts in the province of Lau that was held in Nadave, Tailevu – a number of landmark decisions were made targeted at spearheading unprecedented change.

Among this was the endorsement of the Lau Resource Declaration – a document that in essence, carves out the conservation and protection of the province’s marine and terrestrial resources.

A piece in the declaration that is worth highlighting is the blanket ban on night spear fishing in the province – a rarity and definitely a first for any province in Fiji.

“You can say that the endorsement by our leaders on the blanket ban on night spear fishing is indicative that the knowledge transfer from our
government and NGO partners to our people has been very clear.”

Turaga Roko Sau kei Totoya, Roko Jiosefa Cinavilakeba said: “Night spear fishing wreaks havoc on our fish stocks, it leaves a big dent in
our qoliqoli because, fishers empty their habitats when they are out there at night,”

“There have been a number of villages in the province, some islands, that have already been imposing night spear fishing bans– mainly because the resource owners see that this type is fishing has more detrimental effects on fish stocks” Roko Jiosefa said.

The Bose Ni Vanua o Lau meeting in April.

The Bose Ni Vanua o Lau meeting in April.

The Mata ni Bose ni Tikina o Kabara, Josaia Matavura said night spear fishing has been the cause for concern in his tikina (district) as they had started to see the depletion in particular fish stocks in the qoliqoli.

“Night dives are just like murdering a household at night, when everyone is asleep, and our fishers aren’t practicing conservative fishing practices.”

“What they do is bring everything in without any care for fish stocks. There are fish species that I saw when I was a young man, that are no more in our qoliqoli,” He said.

Seasoned educator and now consultant to the Bose Vanua o Lau Isikeli Karikaritu said while the ban is very much supported and welcomed on Cicia Island, where he comes from, the meeting of traditional leaders also acknowledge the means to create capacity building exercises on the ban.

“Like any venture, awareness is pivotal in getting the message out so we can have the desired effect on the ban. We also acknowledge that there are varying capacities when it comes to our qoliqoli, some islands may have an abundance in stocks while some don’t enjoy that privilege.”

“So, the question is how do we get everyone on board. We work with the bottom line – whether your qoliqoli is in abundance or not, night spear fishing is detrimental all the same.” Karikaritu said.

Conservation International Project Manager Semisi Meo, who manages the Lau Seascape program, said the ban would yield good results in the future.

“This is testament to the Vanua taking the lead role in conserving and protecting their qoliqoli. This will see the return of fish stocks that have been absent for lengthy periods” he said.

“Night spear fishing destroys fish habitats, imagine a home – you are all sleeping at night and then someone comes in and kills everyone in the home – from the oldest to the youngest,” he said.

Mafa Qiolele, program manager for cChange, the organization that created the 4FJ Fish Smart campaign, said they will be working hard to share the Lau chief story far and wide, as it shows what communities can do to improve fish catches, which are declining across Fiji.

“Smart is promoting way to ensure Fijians have enough breeding stock and see increased catches and have to spend less time catching them.

“We need to finds ways to increase the productivity of our fishing grounds, and eliminating one of the most harmful practices is a very good start,” Qiolele said.

Apart from the impact on the resources, the meeting in Nadave also discussed the other factors affect fishers.

“Health and social ills go hand in hand with night dives. A lot of night divers, suffer lifelong health implications, that only people in rural maritime communities can identify with.

“Families are also left unattended to by fathers because they are away from home for days at a time when they could be at home spending time with their children and tending to the needs of their spouses,” Said Roko Jiosefa.

“These are detrimental factors that night spear fishing brings to the fore for the fisherman and it is very relevant in the province.” he said.
Meo says the hope is that this message the Lau province has projected to the rest of Fiji will start to see the wheels of change turn.

“We are able to do this because the Vanua is taking the lead role,”

Roko Jiosefa said there is a determination that our fish stocks in Lau are dwindling because of detrimental fishing practices and we are now acting upon that now – a ban has been agreed upon.”

Roko Jiosefa added that the ban will be monitored and policed by the very people who have agreed to impose it.

“You see the vanua has its own leaders, what this does is empower the traditional fishermen, fish warden, the warriors and heralds, they take
ownership in enforcing the ban because everyone has a buy in – for the prosperity of our future generations.” He said.

For the traditional leaders of the Lau province, the Lau Resource Declaration in many ways, adheres to the adage – teach the man how to
fish and you have him sorted for a lifetime.

Many may have their reservations about the ban but for the traditional leaders, the ban in many ways conserves fish stocks for the future and
more importantly builds on dialogue that changes mindsets on how best to use our fishing grounds, today and tomorrow.

Visit the 4FJ Fish Smart website to learn more.

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