Fisheries launch new campaign to better manage marine species

Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries is stepping up its efforts to conserve fish stocks via its “4FJ Fish Smart ” campaign, aimed to help the rest of the country’s fish and critters thrive.

Officiating at the launch in Suva tonight, the country’s Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau said: “With 4FJ, the nation came together to help kawakawa and donu thrive. Now we are asking everyone to come together once again to help… through more Fish Smart practices.”

An expansion of their 4FJ Movement launched back in 2014 to improve the management of kawakawa and donu fisheries in Fiji, this campaign seeks to promote sustainable fishing practises, ensuring better management of marine species to allow Fijian communities to meet their daily food and income needs in the present time and in the future.

Scheduled to be rolled out soon via radio, the media and various digital platforms, the campaign seeks to help communities understand the harmful impacts practises such as poison root fishing; night-time SCUBA spearfishing and small mesh sizes for nets, and catching of undersized species are having on fish stocks consequently hurting livelihoods and family nutrition.

 According to one recent Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji study, it took one to two hours per day in the 1980s to catch enough fish for an entire village. By 2000, Fiji fishers could only catch enough fish for their families. Today, fishers can spend 10 to 12 hours, and most catch smaller fish, findings echoed by Vitawa villager and 4FJ campaign champion Lisala Waqalala.

“In just a generation, fishing has become much harder for us, making it harder to meet our needs, and also maintain our traditions,” said Waqalala. “But we saw with 4FJ that together we can create change. I hope we can now do it again so my grandchildren can experience the same Fiji we all grew up in.”

With the support of a science advisory committee, the 4FJ campaign created by cChange, also seeks to share practical, local solutions such as establishing and respecting community tabu areas, protecting breeding seasons and sites and raising awareness on the sizes of fish approved to be fished legally via cost-effective outreach activities that can reach most communities

For those in Fiji’s towns and cities, the Fish Smart campaign is also asking for your help, said Mafa Qiolele, Program Manager at cChange.

“As communities take action to revive fishing grounds in rural areas, people in urban areas can help them by making sure their efforts are not wasted by a few bad actors. That means pledging to not buy legally undersized fish, fish that were too small to breed and restock fishing grounds,” Qiolele said.

The campaign will also work with news media and social media to help share success stories from around the country about community-based fisheries management efforts. Working through the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area Network, the campaign will also develop Fish Smart videos, animations, drama and other new innovative outreach tools to empower grassroots networks to start inclusive, sustained community dialogues and help spur local action. A mobile phone app is also under development. Pledge events are planned nationwide.

Photo: Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau and Vitawa villager and 4FJ Campaign Champion Lisala Waqalala at the launch held in Suva tonight.

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