A traditional fisherman, Rusiate Valenitabua instinctively knows the spawning seasons of different marine animals, fishing techniques unique to his village as well as the role that mangroves play in sheltering communities. From the coastal village of Nukui in Rewa, Rusiate Valenitabua now lives in Lomaiviti as the newly appointed provincial conservation officer.

Having completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of the South Pacific, the Rewa lad was initially posted to Serua as the provincial conservation officer before being transferred to Lomaiviti in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.

His vision is to see that the province develops sustainably where people are able to retain the traditional custodianship of resources to ensure that they are able to leave a healthy natural legacy for the children and grandchildren.

Some of the positive steps being undertaken within Lomaiviti include the ongoing conservation efforts on Gau Island to protect the endangered Fiji Petrel and Collared Petrel birds, a coral regeneration project on Caqalai Island and the planting of sandalwood trees as a high value alternative income source for the communities.

“There is now a natural resource management strategy in place for the province which we are collectively working toward. In this role, I am in constant interaction with community representatives, government and non-government partners to facilitate public consultations and advance awareness on existing programs such as climate change, natural disaster preparedness as well as to address concerns on unsustainable activities”, said Rusiate Valenitabua.

The communities from Ovalau and Koro are also working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop island-scale management plans for the two islands, that can an ecosystem-based management approach. The success of these projects and other efforts are now largely the responsibility of the Lomaiviti Province Yaubula Management and Support team which brings together representatives from the different districts to advance the wise use of its natural resources.

Words by Dwain Qalovaki and images by Lomaiviti Provincial Council