Words by Yashika Nand
The month of August brings us closer to an event the Wildlife Conservation Society, Department of Fisheries and Fiji Environmental Law Association have been planning for months – the hosting of a forum for community fish wardens and enforcement agencies in the Northern division of Fiji.
Supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the forum aims at strengthening dialogue and coordination of enforcement efforts on coastal fisheries. Fish wardens will be coming from all three provinces in Vanua Levu. The forum will provide an opportunity to better understand fisheries regulations and hear from the fish wardens themselves about what the real challenges they face monitoring and patrolling their community fishing grounds.
If successful, we hope that the forum serves as a valuable platform for the Department of Fisheries, Fiji Police, prosecutors and other law and enforcement agencies to both more closely together to develop tangible solutions to address illegal fishing activities in our coastal waters.
The workshop is timely as we continue to advance the effective protection of 466 existing marine protected areas within 135 traditional fishing areas in Fiji. These locally managed marine areas have varied levels of enforcement in place. There are just too few people and resources to monitor our vast seas.
Looking forward I am optimistic of the fruits (or should that be fish!) that this forum will bear. If we can work collectively, and better support our community fish wardens we can to improve enforcement around illegal fishing, by supporting community management rules, stop poaching, reducing undersized catch, and following restrictions on fishing gears. All these things will have a positive impact on community tabu areas and improve the state of our coastal fisheries resources. Well, that is what I hope for!