Tavua villages committed to healthy fisheries.
The workshop which was facilitated by WWF-Pacific and supported by the “Living with Change, Resilient Mangroves, Fisheries and People of Fiji and PNG project,” focuses on how WWF provides technical support towards enabling villagers of Tavua work towards developing their first District Fisheries Management Plan.
During the workshop, community representatives of iQoliqoli Tavua envisioned that by 2030, their qoliqoli fisheries will be healthy and sustainable through effective management as a result of strong and healthy relationships between traditional owners of their qoliqoli, the fishermen, other external stakeholders such as Government and Civil Society Organizations in addition to the Private Sector.
Major threats to their qoliqoli fisheries included over-harvesting and lack of compliance to fisheries laws such as fishing of undersized fish, pollution and littering, loss of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and climate change to name a few.
The village headman of Vanuakula, Solomoni Faga highlighted his deep concerns on how rubbish is recklessly dumped in mangroves which is affecting their traditional fishing grounds bringing with it associated risks.
“Right now rubbish is being dumped and is polluting our traditional fishing grounds (qoliqoli) which is the main source of our livelihood, rubbish from Tavua town as well as from Tavualevu village is dumped in the mangroves and when the tide is high, it takes the rubbish such as plastics, corrugated iron, cans and spills downstream to our village,” Faga said.
Mary Vauvau, a representative of Korovou village highlighted the important link that mangroves play especially in providing food supply and is a source of income for women fishers.
She said the challenge faced by women of Korovou village was the incessant cutting of mangroves for firewood.
“Mangroves are so important to our community, especially in terms of fisheries, today our mangroves are becoming scarce with less fish and crabs caught because mangroves are being chopped down for firewood as well as expanding coastal development,” Vauvau said.
She added community women have to travel long distances to Yaqara to fish for crabs because they can no longer find any within their community fishing site.
Unaisi Bakewa, the Women’s District Representative of Tavualevu village highlighted that being part of the workshop had empowered her to contribute effectively to the discussion to ensure that the issues faced by the women fishers are taken into consideration and ensure that women are part of the decision making processes as well as implementing their fisheries management plan.
“For women community development in villages, we do experience our fair share of challenges with regards to women fishers, however with the opportunity provided in working towards a vision, this has given us some clarity in terms of supporting our husbands and youths and our collective dreams towards a healthy fishery,” Bakewa said.
To address the threats to the health and sustainability of their qoliqoli, the community representatives put together some actions as part of their Fisheries Management plan that they can implement in partnership with Ministry of Fisheries, the fishermen, CSOs and Private Sector in order to their vision and sustainable development aspirations.
WWF-Pacific’s Coastal Fisheries Officer Laitia Tamata said the workshop is important because it empowers the communities of Tavua to sustainably manage their qoliqoli and fisheries to ensure recovery and sustainability of their fisheries and achieve their sustainable development aspirations now and into the future.
He highlighted that the workshop is targeted at enabling villagers of Tavua work towards developing the Tavua District Fisheries Management Plan.
" Setting the vision and establishing a plan towards making that vision a reality is not only limited to fisheries management but can be applied across the board to include church committees, women groups and budding community conservation groups as this a need in most of our communities - working without a vision and a plan is fatal,”Laitia Tamata said.