Established in 1997, Namena is the largest no-take reserve in Fiji. Its 60 km2 encompass a horseshoe-shaped barrier reef and a small island called Namenalala just south of Vanua Levu, in Kubulau District. The reserve’s beautiful high-biodiversity reef boasts an incredible array of corals and invertebrates, and over 1,000 fish species. Its sheltered waters also provide refuge to migratory seasonal visitors, including spinner (Stenella longirostris) and bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) dolphins, and false killer (Pseudorca crassidens), pilot (Globicephala macrorhynchus), sperm (Physeter macrocephalus) and minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) whales. The Reserve’s benefits do not stop below the waves; Namenalala Island is an important seabird nesting area, protecting over 600 pairs of red-footed boobies, and is a nesting ground for the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtle.
In Fiji, traditional fishing grounds are known as qoliqoli, and are managed by local communities. The traditional resource owners of the Namena Lagoon are the communities of the Kubulau District, who established a committee in the 1990s to oversee fishing in their qoliqoli. The committee first banned fishing entirely in 1997, worried that unauthorized gear was harming the reef. While the ban began as a temporary measure, the Namena Reserve Dive Tag was introduced in 2004 as an alternative to re-opening the Namena Marine Reserve to commercial fishing. The voluntary dive tag, which can be purchased by anyone who swims or dives in the marine reserve incentivizes local communities to help keep the reef as pristine, beautiful and diverse as possible. Funds raised from this tag go to student scholarships and training for local fish wardens who enforce the rules of the reserve. The Namena Marine Reserve is now managed jointly by the Kubulau Resource Management Committee in partnership with dive operators.
Illegal fishing from adjacent communities and tuna long-liners threatens the biodiversity of the reef. Fish wardens must be adequately trained and compensated to ensure the rules of the reserve are upheld.
Natural Disasters like Cyclone Winston in 2016 can cause significant damage to coral reefs. Such disasters are expected to increase in light of climate change, and management schemes must consequently take such disasters into account.
WCS has been working with the Kubulau Resource Management Committee, dive operators and the Coral Alliance since 2004 to support effective management plans for the marine reserve. WCS also supports long-term ecological and socioeconomic monitoring of the marine reserve to measure the impact of the reserve on reef biodiversity and community well-being. You can read more about our research within the reserve and Kubulau’s ridge to reef management plan under Initiatives.