By Tevita Vuibau
A high speed chase on the high seas, poachers, and a fight to protect a fishing reserve — it all seems like something out of a movie.
But that exact sequence of events unfolded in the Namena Marine Reserve late last month as resort owners fought back against the poachers plundering the reserve for their own selfish means.
Located on the island of Namenalala off the coast of Kubulau in Bua, Moody's Namena Eco-Resort is surrounded by approximately 70km of pristine reef known as the Namena Marine Reserve.
The Kubulau bose vanua established the reserve as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 1997 to discourage the commercial overfishing and illegal poaching which at the time were decimating food fish populations for the 10 local villages.
On November 24 at 10pm, Moody's Namena Eco-Resort manager Nigel Simpson heard the sounds of a familiar engine and spotted the poachers' flashlights on the Namena barrier reef.
Previous attempts to catch poachers by Mr Simpson and the three fish wardens employed at the resort proved futile, but their efforts were rewarded that night.
He contacted his brother Captain Rodney Simpson — manager of L'Aventure Divers at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Savusavu.
Captain Simpson then contacted officer Gus Billings and at 11pm they started the one-hour trip out to Namena with five deckhands and officers on board the 32ft dive boat, Marama ni Wasa.
Officer Billings said as the Marama ni Wasa approached the reef, the poachers, thinking it might be another poaching vessel, remained in the water with their SCUBA gear and spear guns.
Only when Captain Simpson came alongside the open punt did the poachers realise what was happening.
"They quickly pulled their catch aboard and took off, leaving one of their men under water," officer Billings said.
The two boats then set off on a high speed chase around the reserve with the poachers eventually caught at 12.30 am. More....