05 December 2016
Fiji is blessed with a diverse and rich marine environment that is worth billions of dollars to the economy and its values are deeply embedded in our culture. Fiji is also fortunate in that our country can rely on a wide range of practitioners and experts who work on the marine environment and understand many aspects of its biological diversity. However, to date, the first attempt was made to describe the diversity of Fiji’s marine environment.
Recognising the importance of the marine environment the Fiji Government has embarked upon a process to manage and protect 30% of it under a national system of marine managed and protected areas (MPAs) by 2020. A commitment, which was first made at the Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Mauritius in 2005 and again at the SIDS Conference in Samoa in 2014. This commitment has been reflected in Fiji’s Green Growth Framework and aims also to fulfill one of Fiji’s international commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity to protect and effectively manage 10% of the marine environment.
Through the Departments of Environment and Fisheries in particular the Fiji Government, is working closely with other relevant stakeholders and has initiated a medium term process to deliver on its commitment to 30% marine protected areas by 2020. Mr George Madden, Director of Fisheries, stated, “as part of this process, we realised that, to ensure the future of our ocean, we needed to describe and classify the entire marine environment of Fiji and not focus only on special or unique marine areas”.
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment, Joshua Wycliffe agreed that “we understand the interconnectedness of our marine ecosystems. To secure the benefits that Fijians derive from our seas, we must include, in our planning, a description of the entire marine environment of Fiji. In this way we can establish an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas for our country.”
The Fijian Government is being supported by the MACBIO (Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries) project and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in this effort.
This collaboration is now at the point where the Government draws upon the collective marine expertise of Fiji. The workshop reviewed, validated and revised the newly established preliminary descriptions and boundaries of marine biological regions within Fiji’s exclusive economic zone. The output from the workshop will be one of many contributions to Fiji’s efforts to protect and manage its marine resource sustainably and effectively.
Photo courtesy of Seema Deo and IUCN ORO