‘In village life, we help each other and work together. Everything is done as a community. We are all proud of what we have achieved together over the last ten years and over the next ten years, we would like to share our Marine Park with even more visitors and for it to become a truly self-sustaining operation to assist us all here in the village.’
(paraphrased from interview with Chief Tui Nasau)
Conserving for the Future
Waitabu Marine Park Manager, Arieta Divialagi (Eta) and daughter
Located on Fiji’s Taveuni Island, Waitabu Marine Reserve is a vibrant reef set aside for the benefit of snorkel tourism and environmental education. After conducting a marine life survey, with help from Helen Sykes of Resort Support, the traditional rural village of Waitabu decided in 1998 to set aside this area as a “no-take” reserve to replenish marine life and fish stocks. In place of income earned from fishing, the villagers lead snorkel tours to the marine park, promoting small-scale marine tourism as a consistent source of income for the villagers.
The reserve is part of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA) and, as a division of the Bouma National Heritage Park is managed by the Bouma communities and supported by CORAL, Resort Support and many other NGOs.
In 2004, Resort Support reported that in six years after the reserve was set aside, the fish life appeared to have reached a normal population level and invertebrates, such as giant clams, had reached breeding size. As of June 2004, the tourism project had earned around USD $12,000 for the community.*
Waitabu Park Staff, Lavena village manager and CORAL staff, 2008
As each visitors enters the park, they not only contribute to the management and protection of this pristine area, they also contribute to the success of the community. Fees provide funding to conduct biological studies, maintain the park and support education projects. Funds also provide the community with village infrastructure and support community health needs.
Although the Waitabu Marine Park does not allow fishing, poachers from nearby villages come to fish in the otherwise untouched area. Enforcement of the no-take zone is difficult, as the park is not legally protected but is set aside and preserved by the community. As an alternative, many villages of Fiji are providing benefits to the wider community as an incentive to support no-take zones.
*Vuki, V., M. Naqasima and R. Vave, 2000, Status of Fiji’s Coral Reefs, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) Report.
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