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Island and Ocean Ecosystems

28 May 2024, Suva, Fiji - Forty-eight representatives from the provinces of Namosi, Serua and Rewa met to improve the management of natural resources in the Navua Catchment and Beqa Lagoon. The meeting, held on Thursday 23 May at the Southern Cross Hotel in Suva, reviewed the findings of a series of surveys and assessment reports documenting the condition and values of natural resources, livelihoods of communities, and options for adapting to the impacts of climate change sustainably. This will lead to the development of an integrated ecosystem management plan for the Beqa-Navua Catchment area. 

The reports were developed from extensive consultations and community visits along with scientific assessments to understand the status of the marine and terrestrial environment in the area. 162 individuals from 53 communities participated in the consultations that were held towards the end of 2023. The Thursday workshop was an opportunity for community representatives to provide further input, identify gaps and discuss additional threats. Participants also considered the various options outlined for ecosystem-based management approaches in the catchment. 

The Beqa-Navua Catchment area encompasses the three provinces of Namosi, Serua and Rewa. The area ranges from mountainous forested terrain (including timber forest plantations), winding rivers and limestone gorges, down to mangroves and mudflats, sandy beaches and the lagoon and its coral reefs. It is home to numerous indigenous plants, birds and insects, bats and reptiles, and hosts a vibrant and biodiverse freshwater and marine environment. 

The natural ecosystems provide important services such as fresh water, clean air, fertile soils, medicinal plants and food to the 15,000 people who live in the area and to others who rely on activities such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries for their livelihoods. The Beqa Lagoon has long been a world-renowned shark dive site, while the Upper Navua River is a designated Ramsar wetlands site and tourist attraction. 

Development and commercial activity in the region include logging (of mahogany plantations), gravel
extraction, prospect mining, fisheries, tourism, diving and river rafting activities. A hydro-electricity scheme is also being proposed. 

Effective management of the Beqa-Navua Catchment will require an inter-province approach. 

“This is the first time we are coming together to discuss integrated ecosystem management approaches across provinces,” said Mr Remisio Qarau, Turaga ni Vanua, Draunikula Village in Galoa in the Serua Province. 

“What happens in Namosi will affect the people of Serua and Beqa at the coastal level. We need to support one another.”

Women’s Representative for the Province of Serua, Mrs Tavaita Valerau of Navutulevu, Serua highlighted the need for women to be engaged in such discussions and said, “We as women are happy to have attended this consultation, as many of us use our natural resources as well as the men. Women need to be heard in their contribution to effective management of natural resources.”

Highlighting the need to value traditional wisdom, she said, “We need to follow the methods of our ancestors, [we should] understand their values of their environment and how they utilised resources to produce healthy produce.”

Participants felt the one-day workshop was enlightening and timely.

Turaga ni Koro of Mau Village in Namosi and Yaubula representative, Mr Paula Koyaca, says it is about time for the three provinces to come together to discuss and address long term solutions. 

“These three provinces are the least developed provinces and when there are offers of money, we can be tempted to sell our resources,” he said. 

“But we need to understand that once the resources are removed, the lands are spoiled, and you don’t get to use the land again. We have to understand the value of the land for the future.” 

Mr. Ananaiasa Rokovatunawa, Mata ni Tikina (District Representative) Veivataloa and Mata ni Yaubula, Yasana, Namosi (Natural Resources Representative for Namosi) endorsed the presentations and discussions, saying, “The discussions today presented on the natural species present in our environment, and we are familiar with these and we are happy to note that they are still around. We are wary that certain large-scale developments would have a detrimental effect to these species, as well as on the natural resources that we depend on. It is therefore significant and our great responsibility to oversee the continuance of these species for our generation and the future generation.”

BIEM Project Manager, Mr Kenneth Kassem, said “SPREP is pleased to support this series of assessments and to bring together communities from across provinces towards an integrated approach to planning sustainable use and management at catchment level.” 

The Integrated Ecosystem Management plan for the Beqa Lagoon-Navua Catchment will be developed and refined based on inputs from the workshop and will provide communities with the tools and information for decision making in management of their catchment and natural resources. 

The work is part of the By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative led by the government of Fiji and the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). BIEM is a component of the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme, funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden.