Fiji is blessed with a diverse and rich marine environment that is worth billions of dollars to the economy and its value is deeply embedded in our culture. Fiji is also fortunate in that our country has many experts who work on the marine environment and understand many aspects of its biodiversity.
The Fiji Government recognises the importance of the marine environment and has, therefore, embarked upon a process to protect 30% of it in a national network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020. This bold and inspiring commitment was first made at the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Mauritius (2005) and was renewed again at the SIDS meeting in Samoa (2014). It is reflected in Fiji’s Green Growth Framework, the 5-year and 20-year National Development Plan 2017 and will also address one of Fiji’s international commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to protect at least 10% of the marine environment in a representative network of marine protected and managed areas.
Over the last 18 years an impressive number of traditional inshore fishing areas (iqoliqolis) have established management plans for temporary or permanent managed area (tabu), or no-take areas, as a key component of their Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs). LMMA establishment in iqoliqoli is supported by the Fiji LMMA network in partnership with government and non-government organizations.
“The management of iqoliqoli in Fiji has rapidly expanded, and as of 2014, 78.2% of Fiji’s iqoliqoli are now managed, covering 1.8% of Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). But, because iqoliqolis, collectively, only cover a small part of Fiji’s marine environment (2.3%), Fiji cannot meet its 30% commitment by focusing only on inshore areas,” said Mr Mason Smith, Regional Director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature-Oceania Regional Office (IUCN-ORO).
The Government, through the Ministries of Environment and of Fisheries, is working together with other government agencies and a range of stakeholders to achieve its commitment to establish a network of 30% MPAs by 2020. As part of a proposed 10 step process for setting up a network of MPAs, the nation’s marine ecosystem services have been valued.
A national report on these marine ecosystem services values was prepared by environmental economists from the University of the South Pacific under the regional project “Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries – MACBIO”. The work was conducted in close partnership with the Government of Fiji and showed that the value of marine ecosystem services for Fiji reached more than FJ$2.5 billion annually based on data for 2014.
“These marine ecosystem service values help us all to acknowledge and understand the importance of Fiji’s diverse marine environment. Fiji’s marine ecosystems contribute significantly to food security, national GDP and livelihoods and Fiji’s communities will suffer if those values are lost,” said Mr Joshua Wycliffe, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment.
And there is no better opportunity than the annual World Oceans Day to launch and share the values provided by Fiji’s marine ecosystems.
Dr Jan Steffen, Project Director for the MACBIO project stated “We are very pleased that these values are now available for government colleagues and marine resource management practitioners in Fiji. The information will assist government on a day to day basis in regard to licencing decisions, environmental impact assessments and inter-sectoral coastal and marine planning in general.”
The regional MACBIO Project has been funded over the last 5 years by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI). It is being implemented in Fiji, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu by the German Agency for International Collaboration (GIZ) in close collaboration with IUCN’s Oceania Regional Office and SPREP.
The full report, summary, infographics and factsheets can be downloaded at http://macbio-pacific.info/Resources/fiji-national-marine-ecosystem-service-valuation/