Saturday, 22 December 2007

"If you see this place, you would consider yourself the luckiest person on Earth." - Divester

Naduri villagersThat’s what marine biologist Aaron Jenkins says about Fiji’s Great Sea Reef. And it’s only getting better. That’s because Fiji is at the forefront of nations establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) in her territorial waters. By the year 2020, in fact, Fiji plans to have 30% of her waters under protection, which will make that island nation the largest system of underwater sanctuaries in the world.

Fiji’s Cakaulevu (a.k.a., the Great Sea Reef and the world’s third largest barrier reef) – is getting numerous waitui tabu (prohibited fishing zones) to provide sanctuary for thousands of marine species, including marine turtles, dolphins, sharks, and 43 new hard coral species. Similar MPAs have been implemented in other parts of Fiji. Locals agree that, as a result, not only do the flora and fauna appear healthier and happier, but personal incomes have risen by 35%.

I’m impressed with the fact that it isn’t just far-off government officials imposing strict regulations on remote islanders who fish for their livings. Rather, communities worked with the WWF, local politicians, NGOs and local village chiefs to help set up the MPA outside Naduri, the first of the network of marine protected areas in this part of the reef. As conservation practices spread, underwater communities are bound to become even more beautiful, meaning: Fiji will, no doubt, become even more of a premiere dive spot.

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