By Kelera Serelini – Varawa

For many Fijians, coastal fisheries provide an important source of food and income.

Unfortunately, pressure on these precious resources is increasing. Many finfish and invertebrate fisheries are over-exploited, and coastal habitats are becoming degraded by poor land-use practices or destructive fishing methods.

Adding to this, Fiji’s coastal communities are vulnerable to natural and climate hazards, which negatively impact coastal fisheries and associated habitats.

Effective fisheries management is required now, to ensure that fisheries-based livelihoods will continue to be available for local communities in the future.

To better address these issues, a team of fisheries experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) together with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, are developing a training curriculum for a practical and interactive fisheries training course targeted at local communities, as well as fisheries and conservation officers.

A workshop was organised in June to get input from partners, including the Fiji Locally-Marine Managed Area network, Ministry of Fisheries, and NGOs, on the necessary content for the course.

Facilitated by Dr Rebecca Weeks from James Cook University, with WCS Melanesia Director, Dr Stacy Jupiter and Fiji Program Director, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai, participants discussed target audiences for the training manual, key objectives and what content the course would cover.

Participants also talked about existing training materials that are available, and what lessons one could learn from them in order to design a curriculum that would be well-received by Fijian communities and effective in communicating fisheries messages.

The group agreed that it was important to use local case studies wherever possible and that videos, animations, and illustrated flip charts would make learning more interesting.

The discussion was also centred on objectives for community-based fisheries management like Locally-Marine Managed Areas (LMMAs). Dr Weeks highlighted that Fijian communities have lots of different options for managing their LMMAs, which they can choose between or use in combination.

These include tabu areas, size limits on the fish that may be caught, restrictions on the fishing gears that can be used (e.g. bans on gill nets), and seasonal closures to protect fishes during their spawning season.

“The fisheries management curriculum aims to help communities to identify which management strategies will best suit their objectives, and to design them so that they will be most effective,” she said.

“To achieve this, we will draw upon the latest scientific information on fish ecology and management strategy effectiveness.”

“Working with C-Change, we will translate that information into materials that are easily accessible for communities and fishers.”

The training course will be trialled later this year.