Climate change, poor waste disposal major factors to disappearing fresh water mussel fishing grounds
With Climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices and improper waste disposal becoming major threats to the survival of natural marine resources, villages and settlements of the Nailaga district gathered to actively participate in discussions aimed at raising awareness on the sustainable protection and conservation of Ba’s river delicacy.
Over the years, the fresh water mussel or kai as it is locally known has declined and this was further confirmed by participants.
“People need to stop polluting the Ba River, stop dumping their rubbish in it and it’s important to look after the health of the river,” says Asena Tagi of Soweri settlement.
Tagi, a kai fisher, added that people who use fertilizers along farms close to the riverbank need to also stop using it as it is polluting the river through runoffs and can also damage our reefs .
Ateca Nayasi of Muaruru settlement highlighted the challenges that she faces.
“Kai fishers should only fish the required limit sizes for kai. FSC factory waste water disposal into the Ba River should also be addressed as well which is probably the major pollutant contributor to the Ba River,” she said.
“I have been fishing for kai since the 1970s. Nowadays very seldom do I fish for kai. The women today are mostly catching small sizes. It is very hard to find the larger size kai. We use to catch one 50kg bag filled with large sized kai back in the 70s and 80s. Nowadays, the kai fishers usually fill a 25kg bag with small size kai,” recalled Torika Senileba of Nailaga village.
“Most of our women and young men fish for kai to support our husbands and young families who all work at the Fiji Sugar Corporation. Fishing for Kai is an additional income earner for our families. Kai is also caught not only to sell but also for our community functions added Asena Tagi.
The consultation was also a learning curve as well for the participants.
“From the workshop I am able to know where the kai in the Ba River breeds from, how long it can live and the type of water they can breed in and the things I can do to protect the kai in Ba,” Ateca Nayasi said.
WWF-Pacific’s Conservation Director, Francis Areki highlighted the consultation showed the kai fishers remained silent about the challenges they are facing.
“The women are quite aware of the issues that are happening in the Ba River. I think they need to set out a plan on how to fix some of the problems. It is also obvious the Kai is moving upstream, so there is a need for plans to be in place to assist them. Hopefully we can promote it through the Healthy Rivers campaign.
“One of the recommendations was to have a tabu placed as well as waste management processes to reduce the amount of waste going into the river in addition to a replanting programme along the riverbank to reduce soil erosion and strengthen the buffer strips,” Francis Areki said.
He added part of the organizations longer term vision is to improve the condition of the Ba River and the kai consultation was the stepping stone.
WWF-Pacific’s Climate Change Officer, Dr. Rusila Savou highlighted that the kai consultation was to gauge the communities understanding on the status of the kai in the Ba River, collect local indigenous knowledge of the kai resource, and generate actions to assist with community baselines for establishing of a fresh water protected area and enhancing sustainable harvest practices.
The Kai consultation comes under WWF-Pacific’s Pacific American Climate Fund project under the project’s output of ‘Ecosystem Services Maintenance and Restoration for Resiliency Building.