Grassroots work to protect marine habitat is paying off in Fiji, which is making progress toward the goal of protecting at least 30 percent of its inshore habitats.
A new study by researchers from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, and the Wildlife Conservation Society outlined some of the successes — along with some of the remaining challenges.
“The results of the study are remarkable given that locally managed marine area networks in Fiji and the Western Pacific region are generally established only to meet local objectives, most notably to improve food security,” said Dr. Morena Mills, lead author of the paper.
The study estimated that by 2020, locally managed marine protected areas within the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) network will effectively protect between 12 to 18 percent of all coastal and inshore marine habitats in Fiji.
This ‘people power’ approach will have substantially delivered on the Aichi Biodiversity Target – an international commitment by signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity to effectively conserve 10 percent of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2020.
This locally focused approach to marine resource management is not limited to Fiji or the broader LMMA network, which also operates in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Palau, Pohnpei, the Philippines, and Vanuatu. For example, in the Philippines, over 1,500 additional local marine protected areas have been established outside of the LMMA network. However, both Fiji and the LMMA network play a leading role in this movement.
Yet, not all habitats are being protected equally, and some of the habitats that require the most protection, such as mangroves, intertidal mudflats, and coral reefs still require stricter management. Full achievement of the national targets by 2020 will require additional incentives to protect these sensitive ecosystems. Such incentives could include cash payments and/or more subtle approaches, such as national public recognition, in exchange for protecting larger or more specific areas.
“Such incentives are critical,” says Dr. Stacy Jupiter, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji Country Program, “We cannot expect local communities to bear the full cost burden of contributing to national objectives.”
In affiliation with Summit County Voice. Fiji photo by Shutterstock