On Better Ocean Policy and Conservationists Catching Undersized Fish

Our first few weeks in Fiji have been a series of juxtapositions. Aimee and I live in an admittedly grimy, traffic ridden city but are only a bus ride away from pristine beaches.  I spend my working hours researching Ocean Policy Frameworks in the South Pacific but still happily chow down on tuna which is almost assuredly undersized.  Everyone has been so kind and generous since we have arrived.  Our landlords gave us the last avocado off their tree our first week here.

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In which Californians discover rain exists

Bula vinaka and hello!

It’s amazing to think we’ve been in Suva for three weeks already, or should I say, only three weeks? We’ll be here until the end of August, so although three weeks sounds like a fairly decent amount of time to spend on a tropical island, we still have a lot to accomplish, both for our CBE Summer Fellowship work at IUCN and in terms of checking off our bucket lists. I’ll describe some of our experiences and let Alex, my fellow CBE Fellow at IUCN Oceania, cover the rest.

Our first week was relatively slow as we were getting settled and de-jet-lagged. Our upstairs neighbors/landlords took us out for yum-cha, usually called dim-sum in the states, two days in a row the first weekend we were here. We’ve been told it’s easy to gain weight in Fiji since food is cheap and plentiful. The population in Fiji is very diverse and so are their religions, customs, and food. It rains a lot and there are plenty of mosquitoes, but it’s warm enough to wear a t-shirt almost every day.

A common sight in Suva yards.

We have pretty much settled in to work at the IUCN Oceania Regional Office and have narrowed down the topics for our research papers- I’ll be working on a paper centered around ecosystem services in the Pacific Islands Countries and Territories, threats to these services and the state of affairs in dealing with these threats on a local and regional level. Luckily, right upstairs from our office (the Pacific Centre for Environmental Governance or PCEG) is another office belonging to the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Islands Countries (MACBIO) team. They have recently completed ecosystem valuation reports for several Pacific Island nations including Fiji, which will be very helpful for my research.

Good ol’ PCEG office.

The office pupper, Coco, also known as Stubnub due to her short, fat tail.

Speaking of MACBIO, one of their team members became the adopted mommy of a tiny, malnourished kitten that followed someone into the office on our first week of work. The kitten, newly named Ginger, is now much healthier, and more pesky, and will try to crawl in your lap and eat your lunch.

Dirt-nosed, flea-covered kitten on day 1.

Slightly cleaner, flea-less and less scrawny kitten on day 3.

Last weekend Alex and myself, plus an additional significant other who came to visit me for the week (because, free lodging in Fiji!) took the ubiquitous taxi about twenty minutes north of our house in Tamavua up to Colo-i-suva (pronounced tholo-ee-soovah with a hard th-sound, meaning “the head/top of suva) forest park and encountered waterfalls galore. Coming from drought-stricken California, this was a real treat. We enjoyed frolicking in the many swimming holes and watching the impressive dives the locals made off the rope swing in the lower pools area.

One of many towering waterfalls we encountered on our hike.

Of course Bryan had to take a dip in the pool with the tallest waterfall.

Action shot!

Obligatory fake yoga pose.

A sketchy bridge that we traversed one at a time.

Other highlights of our stay so far include: kava ceremonies with the IUCN crew on Fridays after work, an ocean-themed quiz night, and a traditional Fijian feast called a “lovo” put on by the office during which hot stones and packets of food were buried in the ground for cooking. Kokoda, palusami, dalo (taro), and nama salad were some of the traditional foods that were served, and they were delicious.

Lovo is ready!

Kava is scooped from the “tanoa” and served in “bilo”, small coconut shell bowls.

We’re heading out early today from work to go check out Pacific Harbor, one of the towns near Suva which supposedly has better weather and nice beaches. Tomorrow morning we are going on a world-famous shark dive, so I’ll be sure to post about our experiences later. Til next time, moce (moe-thay) and peace out!