Tavua places five months ban on fish species
For the next five months, there is to be no harvesting of Kabatia or the Thumbprint Emperor (Lethrinus harak) fish species within the iQoliqolis of Tavua district.
The ban which will come to an end on December 1st was formally endorsed by the Na Turaga na Tui Tavua, Ratu Nacanieli Uqeuqe earlier this week in Tavua.
The Kabatia ban follows preliminary results of a six month fish length based – spawning per recruitment (LB-SPR) assessment that was conducted on the reef fishery in Tavua.
The results from data collected by trained community based LB-SPR monitors revealed that apart from the harvesting of smaller catch sizes, Kabatia is one of the most heavily fished species in Tavua.
In addition, size limits of 25 cm would be set when the ban comes to an end. This means, from December 1st, fishermen can only harvest Kabatias that are more than 25 cm in length.
The five months Kabatia ban is through collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Fisheries, Na Turaga na Tui Tavua, the Tavua iQoliqoli Committee, the various fishing committees in Tavua, the Ba Provincial Office, the Fiji Locally Management Marine Area (FLMMA) and WWF-Pacific.
Concerned with the rapid rate of depletion of reef fish within the Tavua iQoliqoli, Ratu Nacanieli said sustainable fishing practices is the only way forward to ensure such species continues to thrive.
“We have taken this stand now because WWF-Pacific has taken the step in identifying a problem we will be faced with in regards to our marine resources, so our decision was made entirely on the data collected. All this is for our future generation as well,” he said.
“The ban is not for us, Tavua relies mainly on marine life and this ban is part of sustaining our resources,” Ratu Uqeuqe highlighted.
Tavua District Representative, Joseva Sadulu adds having a ban put in place shows the district’s commitment towards protecting its depleting marine resources.
“This is a day we can’t forget. All the turaga ni yavusa and the Tui Tavua are all here. We are happy that everyone has agreed to this ban. It will be effective. We have been talking to the respective agencies to help see out the implementation part and that is why the Police are here as well. We also want to rope in the Navy as well. However, we are proud of working with WWF-Pacific and other stakeholders to see this come into place,” Sadulu added.
WWF-Pacific’s Coastal Fisheries Officer, Laitia Tamata says the monitoring process of the ban will be the key focus now for Tavua.
“The stakeholders have all agreed with the endorsement and they understand the concept of allowing fish to recover and to spawn at the potential that they can in order to restock their own iQoliqoli. The five months ban starts now and the monitoring is already established through their trained monitors who are already collecting data.
“Part of the survey is to monitor Kabatia in their iQoliqoli. So that will be happening monthly from July to November so that when we come back in December we will be able to provide feedback not only on the compliance and enforcement but also on the population being surveyed in their iQoliqoli,” Tamata said.
Tamata added with the Kabatia ban included in the fishing licenses conditions, a monetary penalty will be levied on commercial fishermen or those holding a fishing license if caught fishing Kabatia within the next five months.
Additional to the five months Kabatia ban, saw the revival of Tavua districts Natural Resource Management Committee or commonly referred to as the Navy Seals.
WWF-Pacific will be working closely with the Ministry of Fisheries and stakeholders over the next five months overseeing the data collection and monitoring processes.
The LB-SPR survey, was piloted in the district of Macuata in Vanua Levu, and is a method for assessing the health status of reef fish populations and how to manage it. It requires minimum amount of data which is collected by fisher communities, and can be implemented at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional stock assessments.
At its most basic, the technique uses local data on the size and maturity of fish caught, along with existing biological information to estimate whether local fish populations have enough spawning potential to sustain themselves.
For fisheries, if fish populations can achieve at least 20 percent of their natural spawning potential, they can sustain themselves. Less than that and a fishery will decline and if effective management measures are not put in place, then the fishery can collapse.
The Tavua SPR six-month assessment report showed Kabatia being harvested on the benchmark of 20 percent spawning.
The project is funded through the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and aims at demonstrating effective governance and management approaches for inshore fisheries in Fiji through collaborative national and community driven partnerships.