Vanua Levu, Fiji - June 24, 2009 - At a traditional ceremony held on June 15, the Namena Marine Reserve, a project site of the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), was officially reaffirmed as a marine protected area (MPA) with a traditional blessing by villagers of the Kubulau District in Bua, Vanua Levu. The ceremony ensures that the area will remain tabu for the next five years, maintaining its status as a "no-take" zone closed to fishing and resource extraction. The ceremony, attended by CORAL field representative Moala Tokata'a, demonstrates and strengthens the community's continuing commitment to conservation.
The ceremony was held in Kiobo Village, where the new chief of the Kubulau District, Tui Kubulau Ratu Apenisa Vuki, honored three MPAs in the Kubulau fishing grounds. Three boats filled with chiefs and special guests traveled to the MPAs, which were blessed by ministers from Kubulau and the neighboring district of Wailevu. The rest of the community celebrated the important day on land.
This conservation measure will help to protect the coral reef ecosystem, marine resources, and economic security of the Kubulau District by promoting underwater tourism as an economic alternative to extractive practices. Villagers will derive tourism income from the Namena Marine Reserve while retaining fishing rights in the surrounding areas, where fish stocks will benefit from their proximity to the no-take zones.
Located off the southwest coast of the island of Vanua Levu, the Namena Marine Reserve was created in 1997 to respond to the combined pressures of increased fishing, tourism activity, and poaching on the reef. CORAL began working with the Kubulau community in 2003 to improve management of the reserve.
Since that time, CORAL has facilitated the development of a successful and transparent user fee system that supports a variety of community initiatives and general management of the reserve. User fee revenues have been used to offset school fees and build bus stops in one of Fiji's least developed regions. In addition, CORAL has offered training in sustainable marine recreation to local marine recreation providers as a means of increasing knowledge and experience of responsible tourism business practices.
For more information, contact 1-888-CORAL-REEF.
The Coral Reef Alliance unites and empowers communities to save coral reefs. We provide tools, education, and inspiration to residents of coral reef destinations to support local projects that benefit both reefs and people. Originally founded in 1994 to galvanize the dive community for conservation, CORAL has grown from a small, grassroots alliance into the only international nonprofit organization that works exclusively to protect our planet's coral reefs. Find us online at www.coral.org.