Legacy of Love
In an interview shortly before his passing Ratu Aisea remarked, “Our greatest success with the marine protected areas is that we have been able to feed ourselves.
“It all started with a dream, we pursued conservation and now that dream is a reality,” he said.
“It was our most important and best decision yet for it addressed our food problems now and ensured food security for the future as well.
“We had to protect Cakaulevu because our lives are intimately linked with it; it is our heritage, our culture, our very livelihood.”
Cakaulevu or the Great Sea Reef is the third longest barrier reef system in the world, home to a high density of biodiversity and unique species, traversing the Macuata coastline for over 200 kilometers from the north eastern tip of Udu Point in Vanua Levu to Bua, across the Vatuira Passage, veering off along the way to hug the coastline of Ra and Ba Provinces and into the Yasawas.
In 2004, Ratu Aisea invited the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas network to facilitate a consultation that would lead to the reef protection.
More than 80 clan leaders, chiefs from the four districts of Mali, Sasa, Macuata and Dreketi converged at Naduri village and set aside a network of protected areas for replenishing and sustaining their traditional fishing grounds and the passion for conservation, dreamt by a high chief, was born.
This meeting also resulted in the commencement of an enduring relationship with the World Wide Fund for Nature and partners.
In 2005, in a momentous event, marked with rich Macuata traditions and passion, the Macuata Network of Marine Protected Areas was launched. Ratu Aisea had sufficiently challenged his people to rise to the war cry ‘Sigadamu A Vanua’.
It wasn’t easy getting to this day and only the strength, leadership and visionary passion of Tui Macuata served as a uniting force behind his people – the dream wasn’t just about those living now, but for hundreds more generations of Macuata people.
He shared his dream with the world – in 2006 Ratu Aisea was awarded the Global Ocean Conservation Award for his outstanding leadership and commitment to marine conservation.
With Ratu Aisea’s support the partnership with WWF South Pacific has seen diverse efforts in taking conservation to an integrated level; from the reconfigured network of effective protected areas through an EBM approach, financial literacy for the communities, sustainable land use management practices, sustainable financing and to the current formulation of district development plans and the first provincial Natural Resources Management strategy. He often said that development must not compromise or destroy the myriad gifts of nature.
His commitment to the environment is his greatest legacy of love for his people that must live on in the years to
come because it will benefit not just the people of Macuata but Fiji and the world as well.
WWF and its conservation partners all hail Ratu Aisea, a giant, an outstanding leader and father!!