Ecosystem‐based management is “an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans.” EBM aims to maintain ecosystems in a healthy, productive and resilient condition so that they can meet human needs into the future. For island communities, ecosystem resilience is particularly important for recovery from strong impacts of climate change. In particular EBM emphasizes the following:
• connectivity within and between systems, such as between land and sea;
• protection and restoration of ecosystem structure, function and key processes;
• specific ecosystems and the range of activities affecting it; and
• the integration of ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives.
With partners, we developed a comprehensive ‘ridge to reef’ management plan for Kubulau District − the first of its kind for Fiji − that has been endorsed by the Kubulau Council of Chiefs in 2009. Since then, WCS has successfully supported the districts of Lekutu, Nadi, Navakasiga, Vuya, Wainunu, Solevu and Wailevu Districts launch bottom-up, community-driven EBM plans. The launching of EBM plans strengthened existing tabus (periodically harvested closures rooted in a traditional community practice) and resulted in the creation of new tabus across terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats. The EBM plans have also formalised suites of rules regulating use of natural resources on community land and customary fishing grounds (qoliqolis). These measures combined should lead to improved natural resource management and more sustainable practices, and improved ecosystem health and fisheries productivity.
With over 12 years’ experience working in Fiji, WCS has learned that success can only be achieved through building strong management systems for natural resource use, evidence-based decision making, with the right laws and policies in place, and with effective community-government co-management systems. WCS has finalised a practical hands-on facilitator’s guide to community EBM planning that can be applied at different scales in Fiji, including village, district and island. The process complies with Fijian traditional protocols, and highlights ways to empower local ownership of management plans, create open and transparent bottom-up planning processes, and promote effective co-management. The guide outlines each step in the planning process and provides facilitator notes for government, community, and NGO use.
WCS is currently working with the Bua Provincial Office and other stakeholders to now bring together individual district plans into a single integrated coastal management plan for Bua Province to ensure its long-term sustainability.