Paper presented by Helen R Sykes and Chinnamma Reddy at The 11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress

Sacred Water

“Sacred Water”;

10 years of community managed marine protection supported by ecotourism-based income generation at Waitabu Marine Park, Fiji Islands

Helen Sykes and Chinnamma Reddy

11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress
11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress

Sacred Water

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In April 1998, a small indigenous community began one of the earliest Community-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Fiji, beginning a decade of commitment to protecting reef life for future generations. The project was a founder member of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) network, and one of the few FLMMA projects to include an income-generating community-managed tourism operation.

Annual biological monitoring since the project’s inception, undertaken by a team of scientists and community members, utilised in-water survey methods, including Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) for key invertebrate species, Manta Tows for broad-scale habitat and invertebrate assessment, Point Intercept Transects for coral cover, and Fish Underwater Visual Census (UVC). These surveys demonstrated increased fish populations within the MPA after 3 years, and increased invertebrate populations after 5 years. Fish and invertebrates important to local subsistence and commerce are harvested in the spill-over area near the MPA. Some poaching occurs inside the MPA, but so far has not significantly impacted overall populations, suggesting the ecosystem is now adequately robust to withstand some harvesting.

Coral growth was retarded by a bleaching event in 2000, but herbivory has reduced macroalgal cover within the MPA, creating better coral-growth substrate, accelerating coral settlement and recovery in comparison with heavily fished areas where macroalgae covers most available substrate, preventing new coral settlement. A small coral restoration project is thriving inside the MPA.

Socio-economic surveys have shown the MPA to have economic and social importance to the local inhabitants, and the value of the MPA as a reserve for conservation and future fish stocks has been reinforced by the income-generating potential of eco-tourism activities.

The Inter-Congress Theme

“Pacific Countries and Their Ocean Facing Local and Global Changes”

The PSI2009 theme centered on current regional and international concerns, in which science can help inform policy makers and the public.

The program was divided into five sub-sessions to address this theme in a way that facilitates multidisciplinary approaches that encompass scientific, human, socio-economic and cultural aspects.

  • Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development
  • Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
  • Health Challenges in the Pacific: Infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and health workforce
  • Culture and Politics: The stakes of modernity
  • Governance and the Economy: Future challenges for the Pacific.

The goals of the Inter-Congress were to:

  • Assess problems and issues related to local and global changes in countries and territories in the Pacific, and how these changes are both geographically based and inter-linked.
  • Gather together scientists from across the Asia-Pacific region, based on recognition that all countries and territories in the Pacific Rim and Basin face similar or linked problems.
  • Provide an opportunity for young scientists in the Pacific to garner important experience and take part in stimulating intellectual exchanges.
  • Develop productive exchanges between participants from the countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region and the communities in French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia
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