Tropical Cyclone Winston caused damage to coastlines of Vuya, Solevu, Nadi, Wainunu and Kubulau Districts in Bua Province. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in partnership with the Fisheries Department, Women in Fisheries Network-Fiji (WiFN-Fiji) and Fiji Locally Managed Area Network (FLMMA) has been working with communities in these districts to support the sustainable harvesting of mud crabs, protection of mangrove forests and the improved economic status of women mud crab fishers.

Mud crabs were selected due to the growing concerns about the number of undersize crabs being sold in markets, and they are a high value commodity largely targeted by women in coastal areas.

Conservation Scientist Margaret Fox who leads WCS’ Women in Fisheries Program has been closely monitoring the recovery of these communities following the cyclone in February. In April 2016, WCS and WIFN-Fiji did an assessment to quantify the impact the cyclone had on women fishers. They asked questions on gear damages and losses, condition of mangrove forests, and impact to livelihoods and incomes. The survey was timely given we had just completed an assessment in November/December 2015, enabling us to quantify the impact to fishers, particularly women fishers.

“Following our assessment, we found that most of the villages located between the districts of Vuya to Kubulau suffered great loss to their homes, plantation and the damage to coastlines has reduced the volume of mud crabs women can catch in a day. This means they are making less income.”

“Some villagers cannot access the mangroves, as there is a lot of broken branches and debris in the way. It was clear from our discussions with the women that it will take months before these women could go back to collecting mud crabs and be able to earn the steady income like they used to,” Margaret explained.

Women in villages that did not suffer the full brunt of the cyclone have quickly recovered and have requested that WCS start working with them again. As we re-engage with these women, we hope to learn more about how we can better support them, and if there are ways in improving the resilience of fishers to disturbances like cyclones.