Moving mountains for Fiji’s Fisher Women
“I never dreamt that I, a community representative would be chosen to represent Fiji at the United Nations Oceans conference in New York.” she said.
“I will try my very best to express the most that I can on the topic of Women Healers of the Ocean, the topic says a lot about women, mothers and girls.”
“I am representing these women who go out fishing, come back late, manage to sell their catches, put food on the table and continuously care for their families.”
Tarusila who is originally from Lomanikoro in Bua is a conservationist with the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA) since 2008.
She is the only woman who represents her district of Bua during resource management meetings by being the voice of FLMMA to the women who remain silent providers and are the heart and soul of the community and family.
Since 2015, she has become part of a team that has been advocating to women fishers in different provinces across Fiji on a project for mud crabs.
Mud crab (Scylla serrata) is a delicacy in many fisher communities around Fiji, as well in local restaurants and in the tourism industry, however in recent years there has been a decline in its population.
“Mud crabs hold a special significance in many communities and this may differ in some tikina’s,” Tarusila said.
“In Ba and Tavua, the mud crabs are a totem and its during traditional ceremonies that ladies are required to present a basket which usually consists of up to 50 or more mud crabs,” she said.
“These mud crabs are now on a decline due to overconsumption, overfishing, habitat destruction due to developments and climate change.”
She adds that work on the conservation of mud crabs has been inspiring given the support from women fishers, youths and men.
“I am fully committed to the mud crab project and I was chosen by Wild Life Conservation Society (WCS) to take up the post of Representative for Women Fishers not only for the province of Bua but for the women of Fiji.”
“We are working with 14 villages and most of the villages we have visited support the idea of protecting the natural habitats of the mud crabs.”
“During village meetings, it’s great to see women highlight the need to place tabu areas or protected sites and their voices are heard in these meetings which is encouraging and at the same time youths and men of the village are supporting this initiative,” she said.
Tarusila continues to play an integral position in her advisory role to the leaders within her province on matters concerning natural resource management and continues to be an inspiration to those working around her.