Fiji will gazette two large Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) within Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape as part of their voluntary commitment towards the United Nations Ocean Conference which is currently underway in New York.
Minister for Fisheries and Oceans Champion Semi Koroilavesau confirmed that Fiji is committed to increasing the marine managed areas within Fiji, which also includes the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.
The Ministry is working to designate the Bligh Waters and Central Viti MMAs, spanning an area of 13,650 square kilometers.
Director of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Fiji Country Program Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai welcomed this.
The organisation said the move will help protect a host of wildlife species that use the ecologically unique and bountiful Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.
This includes migratory humpback whales that migrate from Antarctica to the area to breed, colorful vibrant corals, sharks, rays, more than 200 fish species and regionally significant seabird populations.
A second commitment on protecting marine mammals in Fiji reinforces the commitment to gazette the Bligh Waters and Central Viti MMAs to, protect and sustainably manage known humpback whale migration, breeding and calving areas.
“The area boasts a remarkably biodiverse array of species, both permanent and transient,” Ms Mangubhai said.
“The seascape provides for the plants and animals, and the plants and animals provide for the people in the form of food, livelihoods, coastal protection and reduction of climate change impacts.”
Among some of the other benefits provided by Vatu-i-Ra Seascape are annual tourism dollars FJ$50million (US $22.8m) and fisheries valued at FJ$20m (US 11.6 m).
There are seamounts of cultural importance, and breeding grounds for sharks, rays, turtles and a range of coral reef and pelagic fish species.
“However, unsustainable harvesting of fish, an increasing human population, growing demand for goods, and market access has led to increased pressure on the area’s natural resources.
“Unless overfishing and land-based impacts is addressed, the seascape is projected to rise to a medium to high threat level by 2030, according to the global assessment “Reefs at Risk” by the World Resources Institute.”
The Bligh Waters and Central Viti MMAs will contribute to an ecological network of the areas in Fiji aimed at restoring and preserving the health, productivity, and diversity of Fiji’s coastal and marine systems.
“With our community partners and the government of Fiji, we celebrate this special announcement. It is critical that we decrease the pressure we are putting on our ocean, and create a sustainable balance,” Ms Mangubhai said
Source: The Fiji Sun online