WCS-Fiji: Busy but Fulfilling Year


Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai, Director, WCS-Fiji

2015 has been a busy but fulfilling year for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Fiji Country Program, as we launched a number of fisheries initiatives including a Women in Fisheries Programme to support the economic empowerment of rural fisherwomen in Fiji.

Our management team has assisted the remaining districts in Bua Province come to the near completion of their ecosystem-based management plans, and the communities of Koro and Ovalau commence their island-based plans. WCS is now working closely with the Provincial office and district representatives to synthesize district plans into a single integrated coastal management plan for Bua Province building on the three pillars of environment, people and development.

Sea Cucumbers_VCA
WCS and Department of Fisheries staff conducting sea cucumber surveys in Bua Province

In partnership with the Department of Fisheries, our science team developed new survey and analytical skills to understand the value chains of key invertebrate fisheries in Fiji. We also applied a new analytical framework called the Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database to assess the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of locally managed marine areas and tabu areas in Fiji. Dr. Stacy Jupiter continued to lead complementary work to look at the impacts of periodic harvests from tabu areas which will be developed into guidance for best practice management that can be shared all across Fiji.


WCS continued to play a strong role on the Protected Areas Committee in 2015, and has been invited to join the BIOFIN Committee under the Department of Environment, and Fisheries Offshore Marine Reserve Committee under the Department of Fisheries. In the upcoming months, we will evaluate our conservation work to date and will formulate a new 5 year strategy for WCS-Fiji for launch in 2016, that feeds into a larger Melanesia Strategy. We will continue our commitments to integrated coastal management, ecosystem-based management at district and islands-scale, providing high-quality, scientifically-sound guidance on protected area management and policy, and fostering the enabling conditions for sustainable coastal fisheries management in 2016, while expanding our work on payments for ecosystem services.


Margaret Fox conducting socioeconomic interviews to look at impact of locally managed marine areas

Our Annual Report for 2015 I now available for downloading from


On behalf of the WCS Fiji team, we look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnerships in country and the region, while exploring new opportunities for collaboration. We thank everyone for their support and look forward to a productive and inspiring 2016.

Vinaka vaka levu,

Sangeeta Mangubhai, Director, WCS Fiji



Images by Francis Mangubhai (top), Sangeeta Mangubhai (middle), Stacy Jupiter (bottom)

Mud crabs – what are they really worth?

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Department of Fisheries staff are partnering up a second time this year to look at seafood supply chains in Fiji. Learning from our experience with sea cucumbers, we are conducting a series of surveys to understand and map out the mud crab fishery in Bua Province, all the way from the fisher to consumer.

Preparing the mud crab harvest for market in Bua province.

Preparing mud crabs for sale at markets in Vanua Levu

Mud crabs (or qari as they are known locally), are a high value species that is popular in Fiji. There is almost nothing known about the fishery in Fiji, which is dominated by women fishers. The last known data on catch volumes for example, comes from the 1980s. We are woefully in need of an update!

Women are traditionally the main harvesters of mud crab in Fiji.

Women are traditionally the main fishers of mud crabs in Fiji.

The questionnaire is designed to help understand the key consumers and how they like their product. For example, is there a particular size or quality that is expected? When is demand highest? And who are the key players in the industry and what are their roles and relationships to each other?

Catching mud crabs in the dense mangroves of Bua province.

Catching mud crabs in the dense mangroves of Bua province.

Armed with this information, the Department of Fisheries can work with all those involved in the fishery to identify opportunities and constraints to industry growth and competitiveness in Fiji. And ultimately if we understand how markets work around particular fisheries like mud crabs, we can take the right actions or put the right policies in place that ensures our fisheries are sustainable.

The first round of surveys was done in 19 villages across 8 districts in Vanua Levu over a ten day period in late November and early December. During this period Margaret Fox who leads WCS’ Women in Fisheries Program, met with both men and women fishers to ask them the catching and sale of mud crabs. At the same time WCS biologist Yashika Nand headed out to the mangroves with some of the women fishers to look at the size and species composition of these forest areas and where they were harvesting from. Over the next few weeks Yashika will be putting together a study to assess the health of mud crab populations in Bua Province. Hopefully if our surveys are successful, we will have the most up to date information on mud crabs that can be used by the Department of Fisheries to improve the management of this locally important fishery.

Words by Sangeeta Mangubhai and images by Samuela Ulacake/VCreative

Marine Spatial Planning to Protect Biodiversity and $71M Fisheries and Tourism in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape

A group picture of all the stakeholders from across Government, Industry and Civil Society Organisations

Workshop participants from across government and civil society organisations

The Wildlife Conservation Society in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests hosted the second workshop on “Marine Spatial Planning for the Vatu-I-Ra Seascape” at the Tanoa Plaza Hotel in Suva on 8-9 December, 2015. The chief guest, the Acting Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forest, Mr. Sanaila Naqali opened the workshop providing full support for marine spatial planning in Fiji.

The Fijian Government's Acting Permanent Secretary for Fisheries Sanaila Naqali opened the workshop

Acting Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests Mr. Sanaila Naqali opening the spatial planning workshop

Marine spatial planning is a tool and a practical way to create and establish a more rational use of marine space and the interactions among its uses, to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment, and to deliver social and economic outcomes in an open and planned way. This is the first time Fiji has attempted marine spatial planning over its state-owned offshore waters. We also have very few examples in the world of governments successfully applying marine spatial planning over offshore waters, so it is exciting to be leading such work in Fiji.

Fisheries Officer Tevita Vodivodidi presents on potential offshore areas

Fisheries Officer Tevita Vodivodi presents on zones for potential offshore marine managed areas

The Vatu-i-Ra Seascape is one of the most diverse and productive areas in Fiji, with the tourism and fisheries sector alone contributing at least FJ $71 million annually to the national economy. Marine spatial planning will ensure that  economic as well as cultural, social and biological values in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape are maintained in a balanced and fair way.

Discussion continues on areas that can be set aside as marine protected areas

Discussion continues on areas that can be set aside as marine managed areas in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape

Over 1.5 days, participants of the second marine spatial planning workshop reviewed areas they had identified as potential offshore (or deeper water) managed areas in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape in July 2015. Specifically they discussed and gained consensus on the placement, size and location of marine managed areas, and developed specific zones for each area. The successful establishment of potential marine managed areas in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape will make an important contribution to the government of Fiji’s commitment to protect 30% of its seas, including deep water offshore areas by 2020. This process is expected to pave a way for other important seascapes in Fiji to go through a similar planning process.

Words by Dwain Qalovaki and Sangeeta Mangubhai and images by Harriet Davis

Kilaka Forest Conservation Area


Freshwater streams flowing through Kilaka Forest

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked with the communities of Kubulau District, Bua Province, for over 10 years and has developed a strong working relationship with the Nadicake mataqali (clan) from Kilaka village that holds land tenure over the Kilaka forest.

In 2006, the clan made a commitment to protect the forest on the land parcel over which they hold tenure for at least 10 years. Although not legally binding, this commitment included a promise not to lease the land for logging. In 2009 the management of this community-managed forest park was incorporated into the Kubulau District EBM plan. Although the forest area is a national priority for conservation, there is considerable and growing pressure to log the forest.

Freshwater prawns collected from streams in Kilaka Forest


Working with the i-Taukei Land Trust Board and the Nadicake mataqali, WCS is exploring options and opportunities to establish a forest conservation area over 402 ha of native forest. Protection of the forest would insure the intactness of the forest for future generations, maintenance of clean drinking water, protection of coastal reefs, and provision of a sustainable stream of revenue to landowners.

Words by Sangeeta Mangubhai and images by Ruci Lumelume (top) and Kini Koto (bottom)


First Fijian to accept royal conservation medal

Fijian Conservationist Alifereti Tawake. Image by Russell Lovo/SeaWeb Asia Pacific

Fijian Conservationist Alifereti Tawake. Image by Russell Lovo/SeaWeb Asia Pacific

In village halls or underneath breadfruit trees in season, a soft spoken i-Taukei man called Alifereti Tawake has travelled Fiji’s fourteen provinces speaking with resource owners about protecting their natural resources for future generations.

His dedication over two decades working with communities led to the establishment of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) network in 2000. To date the FLMMA network has aided in the setting up of 466 traditional tabu areas which account for 76 percent of the country’s inshore area.

This has subsequently led the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) to award Alifereti the first Fijian to receive the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal.

Alifereti Tawake who was brought up in a traditional Fijian village says that the award ultimately recognizes globally the power of a growing network of communities that are meeting their basic needs through effective local management and it recognizes that their cumulative efforts make vital contributions to global conservation efforts and targets. Alifereti’s innovative approach to marine conservation through working with local fishermen and coastal communities to integrate cultural tradition with best practice fisheries management has advanced the practice of community-based resource management in the South Pacific.

As one of only two winners this year, the selection committee assessed their tremendous contribution to conservation, scientific credentials, and the ability to influence further conservation achievements.