I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being there right now. This is one of the Fijian islands in the Pacific, and the second largest in the group. As serene as the picture is, not all is serene for the Islanders. Fishers in Nagigi, a small community based on the south coast of Vanua Levu Island have been noticing that the number of fish and the size of fish have been decreasing, and habitat degrading – a big problem for a community heavily dependent on its marine resources. This decline isn’t necessarily down to big foreign boats coming in and taking the critters on which they depend. Instead, overexploitation and habitat destruction seems to arise from the ever-increasing number of locally based fishers. The source of this claim? The villagers of Nagigi.
In this paper, Abigail Golden from Columbia University and fellow researchers explore the idea of setting up a short-term no take marine protected area within Nagigi’s coastal tenure area (known aqoliqoli ). This idea hasn’t come from the researchers nor from any top-down government as tends to happen in western countries. Instead the idea has come from the village leaders themselves. This sort of bottom-up governance is far from unheard of. The Pacific Islands are small and numerous, and have a long history of small areas of land and coastal waters managed by local communities. Some have worked well, some have not, and many have come under strain or been lost through both technological developments, increasing population, increasing demands for resources, and cultural change. Still, a well-managed community based MPA can work well, particularly in these remoter locations, and especially were more rigorous research and recording is absent. Regardless of where you are in the world, there are a number of vital steps needed for good management. One involves getting as much information as possible – about the species that are there now, the fishing methods used, an idea of how conditions have changed, and perceptions towards different management methods. The other involves bringing the local community into the conservation planning in a meaningful way. So the team went out and conducted two types of surveys – one looking at the species living on the reef at the time, and one talking to some of the villagers themselves. Continue reading Community-based conservation to rebuild fish stocks