Local communities key to Fiji achieving protected area target

13 December 2016, CBD COP13, Cancun Mexico - In its endeavour to protect and conserve the biodiversity of Fiji, the island nation has declared a target to protect 16% of all land area by the year 2020.

So far, approximately 3% of land has been protected which meets the internationally recognised protected area status, yet there are many community and voluntary protected areas which are not yet officially recognised.

          Ms Eleni Tokaduadua presenting on Protected Areas in Fiji at the Rio Pavilion at CBD COP13

"Over 80% of the land in Fiji is in customary ownership, with strong cultural beliefs linking our people with our land and sea," said Ms Eleni Tokaduadua, the Principal Environment Officer of the Fiji Environment Department.

"In order for us to make any progress in developing protected areas there are many community consultations. As long as it is customary owned, you cannot act without having consent from the community."

Further to helping Fiji achieve its goal, a National Protected Areas Committee has been established through the National Environment Council, which makes decisions on conservation areas and helps to coordinate regulations. This is made up of people from different sectors and with different skill sets, as part of the committee there are terrestrial and marine working groups.

While progress has been noted in working towards this goal, there are key gaps as well.

"Spatial maps have been created for our terrestrial work, yet there is a lack of scientific information on our key species and habitats and further community consultation is needed to secure all areas within the proposed protected area target," said Ms Tokaduadua.

What is known, however, is that of the 36 species listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, 30 of these are listed in Fiji's Endangered and Protected Species Act for which recovery plans are in place for five species; the iguana, Fiji collared petrel, Fiji sago palm, red throated lorikeet and the acmopyle plant.

"We have a few more things on our to-do list before 2020 if we are to achieve Target 11, but we have made a good start in our protected areas work which we were doing, even before the Aichi Targets were adopted by Parties to the CBD. With Government and community support we can achieve this goal."

Fiji has also set itself the goal of committing at least 30% of its inshore and offshore areas as marine protected areas and 100% of traditional fishing grounds to come under locally managed areas.

Aichi Target 11 under the Convention on Biological Diversity is to ensure that at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

Ms Eleni Tokaduadua made her presentation on Fiji's status and roadmap towards achieving Aichi Target 11 during the Protected Areas day at the Rio Pavilion during the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico. - #PacificProtectedAreas
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