Tarusila Ratu

Tarusila Ratu in Navuniivi Village at the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network annual general meeting. © Dwain Qalovaki

During the annual Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network workshop in December 2014, I had the privilege to meet Tarusila Ratu, a dynamic woman, who is the Secretary for the Bua Yaubula Management Support Team (BYMST). The BYMST was formed at the FLMMA provincial network meeting in November 2012, to support local communities in Bua Province coordinate and implement local-level management in order to improve and maintain their fisheries resources.

Bua is one of four provinces in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, and Tarusila is tasked with helping coordinate with villages on their conservation initiatives. She told me that the formation of the BYMST has led to greater support for the Tikina tabu, that sits over an area where in the past fishermen used to troll nets and use other banned fishing methods to harvest reef fish. This intense fishing pressure was causing large declines in reef fish, which local communities are highly dependent on for food, and for their local livelihoods.

Tarusila explained how she worked with her community to extend the tabu area, after surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society showed that fish stocks needed more time to recover. The decision for Bua province to continue the tabu was backed up by the chiefs and supported by all the villages.

She said “Should the Government agree, I would back plans for a tabu across the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. In my opinion, we need to focus our efforts to protect our natural resources for future generations. I personally believe that we should all support efforts to protect the seascape as it will continue to feed us. We also need to protect fish and other marine organisms that call this place home.”

As I listened to Tarusila, I started to think hard about how important it was to sustain our traditions, even in these modern times. That our traditional methods of managing our resources need to be better valued and recognised. Tarusila was right – at the end of the day, we are all stewards of our natural resources and each of us has a role to play in ensuring those resources continue to thrive and support us.