Climate Witness: Penina Moce, Fiji
We have begun to notice that the fish and shellfish we used to be able to gather so easily are getting harder to find.
There also used to be colourful, live coral from the edge of the beach out to the reef. But now everything has gone white.
The sea is slowly eroding the coastline
We used to catch enough fish in the shallows. But now we have to go further out, and the women are spending longer and longer in the seawater. Fish used to bite quickly – now we can spend more than an hour in the seawater before we get a single bite.
The fish are often tiny. Barely enough for a meal. One of our great delicacies, the gera shelfish, is now very difficult to find.
Another thing we’ve noticed is that the sea is slowly eroding our coastline and spreading the sand over our fishing grounds. The seagrass beds have also spread quickly, clogging up the natural flow of water within the fishing grounds and burying the coral.
Scientific reviewReviewed by: Dr R. R. Thaman, Professor of Pacific Islands Biogeography University of the South Pacific
The observations by Penina Moce are very consistent with what is happening in the Pacific. Throughout the Pacific, villages are experiencing a disappearance and decline in abundance and size of important target species of finfish, shellfish, crustaceans, edible echinoderms and other important target species. In the case of Kabara, it is happening on an island with no commercial fishing and low population densities, so the declines have to be at least partially linked to environmental changes affecting the reefs and near shore ecosystems.
Changes and the loss of color on the reefs surrounding the island are clearly consistent with widespread episodes of reef bleaching and death of coral reefs experience throughout the Pacific and the Carribean. Again, because Kabara is a very rural outer island and virtually pollutant-free, the death of the reefs can be attributed at least in part to climate change and variability.
Similarly, the accelerated coastal erosion referred to by Penina Moce, is consistent with the increasing frequencyand severity of extreme events, such as storm surges and king tides, the magnitude of which has not been experienced in the lifetimes of most people on the island. This pattern is repeated in many of our small island countries, such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tonga, where recent cyclones and tidal waves have caused coastal erosion, worse than can be rememberd by most people. People’s plantations, house frontages and, in the case of Kabara, the island’s health center at Nakeleyaga,have fallen prey to the waves.
- Wilkinson, C. 2004. The status of the coral reefs of the world: 2004. Vols. 1-2. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) and Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville.
All articles are subject to scientific review by a member of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel.