Last month a team of facilitators led by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), alongside representatives from the Fijian Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, Department of Environment and from the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network attended a workshop in Koro Island in the Lomaiviti Province which is part of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.

The purpose of the workshop was to guide communities in building an island-scale plan for the sustainable management of natural resources. This workshop successfully brought together all the chiefs from the 14 villages around Koro.

Among our team of facilitators were the district representatives from Bureta and Nasinu, field officer from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation Officer Lomaiviti and the Roko Veiqaravi Ovalau. Community members from the Ovalau Yaubula Management Team also attended to learn more about island planning processes, so that they could lead a similar exercise on the island of Ovalau. This is part of a new approach WCS is trialing to build capacity for island-scale management planning in the Lomaiviti Province, through training, mentoring and on the ground experience.

Once established, these will be some of the first island-scale management plans in Fiji, that take a true bottom up, community driven, ecosystem based management approach. We are grateful for the vision and commitment of the communities in Koro, the Lomaiviti Provincial Office, various government departments and our two energetic university interns Ms. Camari Kena and Ms. Sereima Rokoqiqi. If things go according to schedule, Koro will be ready to launch their Island Ecosystem Based Management Plan by early 2016. This will be the first of its kind in Fiji. This management plan should help the communities in Koro Island on how they can better manage their resource sustainably for them today and their future generation.

At the August workshop, the representatives from the 14 villages on the island took a pledge to support the establishment of marine managed areas within the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape to ensure long term ecological and socioeconomic benefits to their province, and Fiji as a whole.

Words by Waisea Naisilisili