By Sangeeta Mangubhai

Fiji was hit by Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston on 20 February, 2016, the worst to be experienced by the tiny nation with estimated total value of the damages and losses for the country at FJ$1.99 billion, according to a Post Disaster Needs Assessment by the Fiji Government. However, the timing of the PDNA did not allow the collection of new data to quantify the impact of Cyclone Winston on fisheries-dependent communities.

On the request of the Ministry of Fisheries, a post-disaster socioeconomic questionnaire was developed to assess the impact of Cyclone Winston on fisheries-dependent communities in Fiji. The aim of assessment was to:

  • Estimate the impacts of Cyclone Winston on fishing infrastructure (e.g. boats, engines and gear) and provide a monetary estimate to government of damages and losses;
  • Assess the communities’ dependence on local fisheries to determine the impact on food security and livelihoods; and
  • Provide a transparent system for ranking impact to local communities to help guide the recovery and rehabilitation efforts of government and development agencies.

The results from the study can inform national recovery and rehabilitation efforts and support the Ministry of Fisheries, regional agencies, development agencies and NGOs to be more strategic and systematic in their support to local communities.

According to the report “Impact of Tropical Cyclone Winston on Fisheries Dependent Communities in Fiji” produced by the Wildlife Conservation, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network, the University of the South Pacific, the Coral Alliance and Global Vision International, coastal villages who rely heavily on fisheries for livelihood were found to have been worst affected as most of them were in the direct path of the cyclone.

Overall damages and losses to boats, engines, fishing and post-harvest gear, and to fish aggregating devices ranged from FJ $205,578 to FJ $954,581, and totalled FJ $2,964,139. There were large differences in the losses and damages to boats and engines across districts and provinces, often based on their precise location within the cyclone impact zone. Individual districts recorded losses and damages up to $93,481 for boats, and up to $151,834 for boat engines.

Data collected on damages and losses to fishing gear and post-harvest gear were gender dis-aggregated to capture gear preferences by men and women. For example, SCUBA gear and spear guns were almost exclusively used by men. Hook and line fishing gear was used mainly by women, though not exclusively, and in general represents the highest proportion in terms of value of gear damaged or lost for both men and women.

With inputs from the Department of Fisheries and partners, a number of criteria were selected and scored to rank the impact of Cyclone Winston on fisheries infrastructure, livelihoods and subsistence within the surveyed districts. This approach provides a fair and transparent way to guide and target recovery and rehabilitation efforts to communities that suffered the greatest impacts and therefore in most need. The criteria selected for ranking were:

Impacts on the ability to restore fishing activities and livelihoods

  • Proportion of boats and engines damaged and lost
  • Proportion of fishing gear damaged and lost
  • Proportion of post-harvest equipment damaged and lost

Dependency on fisheries for food security and livelihoods

  • Percentage of households relying on fishing for subsistence (food security) pre-cyclone
  • Percentage of households relying on fishing as main source of livelihood pre-cyclone
  • Change in fish consumption (pre-cyclone to post-cyclone)

Twenty-one recommendations were made to help guide the rehabilitation and recovery process. For more information, click here for a copy of the report.