Bua Lomanikoro, Nasau, Dalomo and Tiliva villages in Bua will work closely with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to assess the size at which coral reef fish mature and are ready to reproduce, and the health of fish stocks in their qoliqoli area. The will empower local communities to monitor and understand the status of their fisheries resources, and make decisions on sustainable harvesting practices.

 Some of the communities were selected based on Catch per Unit Effort (CPUE) logbooks they had been using, to measure catch rates for different gear types, over the period of 12 months from 2014 to 2015.

 The project, which is funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, will help improve effectiveness of inshore fisheries management systems in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, to ensure sustainable ecological, social and economic outcomes are achieved by these communities.

 WCS Fisheries Officer, Watisoni Lalavanua said “We will work with local communities to understand the importance of fish size as a fisheries management tool. Size of fish does matter. Large fish have the ability to produce many more young and contribution to the next generation of fish.”

Accessing fish maturity

 “These communities rely heavily on fishing as a source of income and protein in their diet and it important that they continue to meet their present needs while leaving enough fish for the future generation,” he said.

 “For example, in Dalomo and Tiliva, elders have expressed concerns on the number and the size of catch as compared to years ago. They are keen to work with WCS to set up sustainable fishing practices.

 “In Nasau, communities were interested in learning how to identify the maturity of fish and believe that this would be helpful in assisting them to determine the right of fish to harvest for consumption or to sell at the market.”

A workshop is being organised for community representatives to learn firsthand how to accurately identify different reef fish, measure the size of the fish, and assess if a fish is mature or not. As importantly, WCS will listen and learn about which fish are important to local communities and are most concerned about.