Home to some of the world’s most beautiful and pristine coral reefs, Fiji is a jewel among many in the south pacific’s rich waters. Cradled between Fiji’s two main islands lies the Namena Marine Reserve, a marine protected area created in 1997 by the Fijian Kubalau community. Managed by the District of Kubulau and comprised of 10 Fijian village chiefs, the community has worked to preserve, protect, and better manage the natural marine resources that have been the Kubulau’s traditional fishing grounds for hundreds of years.
When I first started exploring the breathtaking reefs of Fiji, I took for granted these untouched reefs as a place far off the beaten path and far from the destructive habits of humans. But how quickly that has changed over the past 30 years.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Diving staff worked closely with the villages to establish Namena Marine Reserve. Every diver we take diving in the reserve pays an extra entrance fee that helps support the research and enforcement needed to keep this special reserve conserved for all to enjoy.
However, difficulty remains in the enforcement of the marine reserve laws as police and reserve managers can only do so much in an area of water nearly 70 square kilometers. Illegal poaching continues to be an ongoing struggle, and while enforcement is able to stop and catch some of the illegal activity, far too many slip through the cracks. Most recently, a boat carrying huge quantities of illegal fish was caught by enforcement officers thanks to local observers who witnessed the activity within the reserve and quickly notified OFS’s Don Santee who manages the dive operation at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji who then picked up the police authorities and headed out to catch the illegal spear fishermen at 1am on November 23rd.
With an ever-increasing demand for fish in a sea that has begun to diminish its resources, there is no doubt that illegal practices will continue unless more enforcement can be put into place. This requires the help and awareness of local community members, and equally important, the awareness of global communities in understanding the importance of conserving our oceans valuable resources.
The enforcement of marine protected areas is an unrelenting struggle for marine reserves around the world. If we are to protect the seas that we love, we must work together to enforce the laws we have created, and to instill the importance of conservation into the minds of those all across the globe.