Macuata Province, Fiji

By Monifa Fiu, WWF Marine Officer, Fiji Country Programme

Follow-up consultations
Communities established tabu (protected) areas during a consultation workshop in April 2005. In November 2005, a team comprising of the qoliqoli (traditional fishing grounds) committee members and WWF-Fiji staff, carried out follow up consultations regarding the status of these tabu areas.

Scoping established “Tabu” Areas
A second team scoped the established network of tabu areas and marked its boundaries to quantify the estimated area of marine protection by the community. This team included 2 Peace Corps volunteers based at villages along the network of tabu areas of the I qoliqoli Cokovata and a WWF Fiji Country staff. They set up marker buoys for these tabu areas, especially the main tabu area Talailau mangrove island, in preparation for the launch of the network of tabu (protected) areas.

Community commitment is inspiring
The crucial role the vanua (land) provides in the existing social system from the yasana (province) to tikina (district) to yavusa (tribe) to mataqali (clan) to tokatoka (household) level is evidently intact.

It has been a learning experience during our 3 week stay at Naduri village where the Tui Macuata (Chief of Macuata Province) resides. It was inspiring to see the commitment of a chief and his people towards protecting their mangroves, islands and coral reefs against the range of challenges from capitalism to a web of anthropogenic influences such as illegal and exploitative fishing, bad agricultural practices and unmanaged industrial development.

A commitment envisioned by the chief and his community: Siga Damu a Vanua encapsulates the promise of a new day as the hues of a sunset paints the sky - a war cry in tradition to rise up to the challenge of establishment of a network of tabu areas, the first in Fiji at such a scale.
Chief of Macuata and WWF Director of Asia Pacific Programme, Dr Isabelle Louis at the launch of the ... / ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
Chief of Macuata and WWF Director of Asia Pacific Programme, Dr Isabelle Louis at the launch of the network of marine protected areas in Macuata Province.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
Talailau: An island of special significance
Talailau is situated 3km off the main coastline of Macuata, about a 1/2hr punt ride that weaves through the many mangrove islands dotting the coastline. In addition to its ecological importance, this mangrove island has special cultural significance and regarded as the fish basket of the province. Fish caught for cultural ceremonies are taken from Talailau’s reefs.

This island was highlighted during the launch of the network of tabu areas in Macuata. It took several boat trips and a scope around the reefs fringing the island to realize the nature of the tabu area earmarked to be the showcase of the proposed MPA network. Scoping allowed the placement of the 4 marker bouys demarcating the boundaries of the tabu area of 19.24 sq.km around Talailau.

Kia: an island on the Great Sea Reef
Towards the upper end of the notch on the band of barrier reef which make up the Great Sea Reef, lies Kia with an island area of 2 sq. km. At a remote distance of 24 km from the mainland Vanua Levu, at first glance, Kia seems lost out in the ocean, an arid place devoid of lush vegetation surrounded by deep blue waters.

The breaks in the barrier reef are regarded as spawning areas for much of the local fisheries and important commercial fish species such as the endangered humphead wrasse. This is one of the few undiscovered places for diving in the Fiji group. It boasts of high coral cover and large marine fauna.

These marine protected areas in Macuata were the first of a series of MPAs that will form one of the world's largest networks of underwater sanctuaries.
WWF Marine Officer surveys a marker bouy demarcating the boundaries of the protected area around ... / ©: WWFSPP / Monifa Fiu
WWF Marine Officer surveys a marker bouy demarcating the boundaries of the protected area around Talailau.
© WWFSPP / Monifa Fiu
Humphead (or Napoleon, or Maori ) wrasse. / ©: WWF-Canon / Darren Jew
Humphead (or Napoleon, or Maori ) wrasse.
© WWF-Canon / Darren Jew

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