Deep in the South Pacific, there is a small island called Oneata, which is one of the three hundred and twenty-two islands that make up the Fijian Archipelago. This network of islands encompasses one of the most extensive coral reef systems in the world, and is a critical site for coral reef conservation, with an astounding 42 percent of the world’s coral species. Unfortunately, Fiji’s coral reefs are declining rapidly due to global threats like climate change and local threats like overfishing.
The Coral Reef Alliance, or CORAL for short, has worked with communities in Fiji for over fifteen years to promote sustainable management systems for fisheries and corals. CORAL initially began working with the Kubalau community in Bua Province, as they established The Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji’s largest locally managed marine area. The Namena Marine Reserve is a top global dive site, and it also provides tangible benefits to the Kubalau community in the form of increased fish size and number of catches, as well as dive tag fees from tourists. The funds from the dive tag system cover management costs of the reserve, fund community infrastructure projects like bus shelters and have provided scholarships to over two-hundred students to date.
The people of Oneata rely heavily on coral reefs to support local fishing grounds, and the community’s food security has been threatened by declining reef health and overfishing. Oneata is far from the main islands of Fiji, so there is little tourism revenue. The supply boat comes every few weeks, and while locals do grow their own cassava and vegetables they have to travel great distances to access other food markets. Fishing, therefore, is a vital source of food and income.
The Oneata community reached out to CORAL and asked for help with their locally managed marine area, citing the success of the Namena Marine Reserve. Right now, CORAL is actively working with Oneata to strategize around the creation and implementation of sustainable fishing solutions that will ensure food security and decrease fishing pressure on coral reefs.