CORAL's activities in Fiji stretch back to 2001, and our comprehensive Coral Reef Sustainable Destination (CRSD ) work to strengthen the Namena Marine Reserve launched in 2004. We are now seeing real and measurable progress from our approach. We have designed a business plan and are developing sustainable financing projects for the Namena Marine Reserve, and we provide technical support to the Kubulau Resource Management Committee (KRMC)—a community-based body charged with managing the region’s marine resources—in its operation of the marine reserve. We facilitate close working relationships between marine recreation providers and members of the local community on issues of marine area management and decision-making. And on the nearby island of Taveuni, we assist the Waitabu Marine Park with improvements to its local management of the reef. In addition to our conservation programs staff located at CORAL’s San Francisco headquarters, we employ three Fiji-based field staff to aid in all program execution.
CORAL’s work in Fiji seeks to measurably improve management effectiveness of the Namena Marine Reserve and the Waitabu Marine Park through implementation of our CRSD model.
The Namena Marine Reserve, located off the southwest coast of the island of Vanua Levu, was created in 1997 to respond to the combined pressures of increased fishing, tourism activity, and poaching on the reef. When CORAL started working with the reserve several years later, the local Kubulau community wanted to improve its resources and management of the reserve.
To this end, CORAL facilitated the development of a successful and transparent user fee system that supports a variety of community initiatives and general management of the marine reserve. User fee revenues have been used to offset school fees and build bus stops in an economically depressed area of the Kubulau District. In addition, CORAL has offered training in Sustainable Marine Recreation (SMR) for local marine recreation providers as a means of increasing knowledge and experience of responsible tourism business practices. With CORAL’s help, the KRMC has created an environment of trust and open communication among local stakeholders. All eight dive operators that currently visit the Namena Marine Reserve support the park and fully comply with its user fee system.
Because CORAL staff and field representatives have consistently delivered on our commitments, we have become a well-regarded partner to the community. As a result, we have recently expanded the geographic focus of our work to include the entire scope of the community’s traditional fishing grounds—known as Qoliqoli—of which the Namena Marine Reserve is a significant portion. Along with such project partners as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), CORAL has launched several ambitious projects designed to elevate the entire Kubulau Qoliqoli Conservation Corridor (KQCC) to a level of conservation excellence, against which CORAL hopes to measure all future project sites.
In 1998, the residents of Waitabu Village designated a significant portion of their Qoliqoli, or traditional fishing grounds, as a no-take zone, thus creating one of the first marine protected areas in Fiji. With the dedication of local community leaders in partnership with CORAL and other non-governmental organizations, the Waitabu Marine Park celebrated ten years of healthy coral reefs in 2008.
Most recently, CORAL provided a microgrant to Waitabu Marine Park to purchase twenty brand-new masks and snorkels for the snorkel tourism business from which the park earns the bulk of its yearly income. And in an effort to increase camping tourism within the marine park, CORAL provided funds to purchase a lawn mower that park leaders will use to keep camping areas safe and well groomed.
Fiji field representative Sirilo “Didi” Dulunaqio was joined by field representative Heidi Williams in 2007, allowing CORAL staff to meet regularly with dive operators, the local community, and other stakeholders to develop customized training and materials for the region.
The two examples below demonstrate how CORAL’s unique and multifaceted CRSD approach to conservation reduces reef threats and improves MPA effectiveness while simultaneously addressing local community needs.
Directly addressing the ongoing threat of anchor damage to the reef, particularly by live-aboard dive boats operating within the Namena Marine Reserve, the mooring project is a strong example of how conservation efforts can also benefit the local community. With the installation of environmentally responsible mooring buoys located near local villages, dive tourists are connected with community members, who have the opportunity to develop locally-owned and operated small businesses geared to the dive tourism market. The revenue generated by these microenterprises provides financial benefits to the community, allowing further progress toward the CRSD goal of sustainable financing.
In 2007, CORAL staff facilitated extensive consultations and negotiations among all Namena dive operators, prioritizing six dive sites in use within the reserve and suffering from ongoing anchor damage. With the support of a CORAL microgrant, moorings were installed at these sites to provide appropriate anchorage for all dive operators, including visiting live-aboards. All dive operators have agreed to discontinue the use of anchors within the Namena Marine Reserve, and we are confident that our efforts will effectively eliminate this significant threat to the reef within the reserve.
One of the first reef threats identified in the Kubulau Qoliqoli Conservation Corridor was poaching. Since the Namena Marine Reserve was designated locally as a no-take area, it was disconcerting to discover that among the poachers were some local Kubulau community residents. Through proactive consultation with the community, CORAL learned that the main demographic engaged in poaching was young adult males. Many of these same individuals were also members of the community’s rugby team, which was in great need of uniforms and the financial means to attend local tournaments. With the support of a CORAL microgrant, the rugby team purchased new uniforms bearing the logos of the Namena Marine Reserve, the KRMC, and CORAL, which allowed the team to participate in a regional tournament (sponsored by WWF) in Macuata. Team members attended a meeting that underscored the importance of the marine reserve to the community, provided information about marine conservation, and emphasized how the uniforms and tournament costs were direct benefits of the marine reserve’s existence.