In Western nations, Fiji is often regarded as a far-off paradise filled with sunlit beaches and dazzling oceans. Although beautiful, Fiji isn’t perfect and has a few problems of its own to contend with. Overfishing, development, and pollution all threaten Fiji’s natural beauty. Successful conservation programs engage and encourage local communities to take charge of their natural resources, and the MacArthur Foundation (see IP’s profile) is supporting local management with a $950,000 grant to the World Conservation Society (WCS), its partner in Fiji.
The World Conservation Society has offices around the world and its Fiji-based office has been focusing on ecosystem management with local communities. A recent study by WCS and its research partners has shown that locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) play an increasingly important role in Fiji’s marine protection strategies. Their report estimates that LMMAs will protect between 12 and 18 percent of Fiji’s coastal and inshore habitat by 2020. As the name would suggest, LMMAs are wholly managed at the local level, often involving co-management between community leaders and state government agencies or NGOs. The emphasis on local management encourages buy-in and the participation of those that matter most – the people who use and rely on the local resources.
The MacArthur grant will targets WCS’s work in Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. The area is a critically important seabird site offering refuge to a large breeding colony of black noddies, as well as red-footed boobies and lesser frigatebirds. Vatu-i-Ra Island is also a breeding area for hawksbill turtles. Unfortunately, not all the local fishermen are aware of the state’s goal to give the area a ‘protected’ designation. The MacArthur grant will thus help WCS expand and strengthen local level management, while also helping to develop provincial level coastal management plans and strengthen the science behind the management interventions.
MacArthur’s large grant to WCS will support their work in Fiji over the next three years.