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Age-old traditions combine with modern science to protect Fijian reefs.

The Marine Protected Area
  • Tabu prohibits fishing on a reef.
  • Setting aside parts of reefs can improve fishing in surrounding areas.
  • Fijians are using tabu to create a network of marine protected areas.

In the early 1990’s, the size and numbers of fish on Fijian reefs were declining. In response, Fijians began to use traditional customs to create a series of marine protected areas. These protected areas can improve fishing in the waters surrounding the reef.

 Tabu and marine protected areas

Tabu is a Fijian custom that places an area off-limits and under village protection. For example, fishing is banned on a reef for 100 days after the death of a high chief as a sign of respect. Tabu is the source of the word ‘taboo’.

Fijian villages traditionally control access and the fishing rights to the coral reefs adjacent to their homes. Villages, like Votua and Naigani, are expanding the concept of tabu by prohibiting fishing on parts of their reefs for much longer periods than is traditionally done. By creating these Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), villagers hope to protect and increase the resources of their reef.

 The benefits of marine protected areas

MPAs protect fish and other organisms on the reef from interference. Fish numbers increase, and individual fish become bigger and more fertile in these areas (see “Why protect your own reef” and “Big fish” for more information). Large and high quality fish spread from the tabu area into areas where they can be caught. The protected area becomes a reservoir of fish for the villagers.

Fijian fishermen have seen improved fishing in as little as a year after protecting their reefs, and these benefits increase with time. Scientific studies are recording improved coral health and increasing fish populations.  Also, rare species are reappearing in these protected areas. 

Better fishing improves nutrition and increases income for the villagers.

 Fiji's marine protected areas

Fiji has about 177 marine protected areas, and most are managed by individual villages. Fijians are expanding this network of MPAs, and hope to protect 30% of their reefs by 2020. The concept of locally managed marine areas is so successful that it has spread to other areas, like American Samoa, Palau, and Micronesia.

 References

Aalbersberg, B. et al (2005). Village by village: Recovering Fiji’s coastal fisheries. World Resources Institute. Retrieved 10 September 2008 from http://www.grida.no/wrr/050.htm

Claudet, J. et al. (2008). Marine reserves: size and age do matter. Ecology Letters 11: 481–489.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2008). Tabu. Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved 10 September 2008 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/579821/taboo

Johannes, R. (2002). The renaissance of community-based marine resource management in Oceania. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33: 317–340.

LMMA Network. (2005). Fiji. Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) Network. Retrieved 10 September 2008 from http://www.lmmanetwork.org/Site_Page.cfm?PageID=37

Mumby, P. et al. (2007, May 15). Trophic cascade facilitates coral recruitment in a marine reserve. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(20): 8362-8367 http://www.pnas.org/content/104/20/8362.full.pdf+html

World Resources Institute. (2005). The FLMMA Process. World Resources Institute. Retrieved 10 September 2008 from http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8096

WWF. (2006, January 11). Tabu waters: Protecting Fiji’s Great Sea Reef. World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Retrieved 10 September 2008 from http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/news/stories/index.cfm?uNewsID=55580

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