I’m challenging you to be uprooted, yes, it will be done, let’s turn them up side down.
I’m ready, you think I’m afraid of you, you can’t break my defence.
You’re only a hen, I’m the rooster, let’s fight and you’ll see.
I don’t sleep and will watch you.
My strength can reach the crushing of the waves.
I will not be drowned, you think you’ll defeat me by drowning?
Your fence is only made of wawamere creapers, It’s easy to untangle.
I can uproot you, I can uproot you, yes it will be achieved.
Fijian – I Bole (translated)
Just like the ancient warriors, and more recently the Fiji 7s Rugby Team, Andrew Foran, head of the IUCN’s new Pacific Centre for Environmental Governance aim to challenge the status quo of coastal fisheries governance in the Pacific. In the month that I have been working, we have attending two meeting specific to the lucrative bêche-de-mer (often described as “sausage-shaped, rubbery animals stippled in fleshy bumps” mmmmmm yummy!) industry here in Fiji, as well as Tonga, Kiribati and Vanuatu. The goal of these meetings was to gather ministry leaders, NGOs and private sectors in developing a solution different than the long running “boom-and-bust” management that has been seen since the fisheries started 150 years ago. Last Wednesdays (29/06/16) brought together the Minister of Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management (Ex-Minister of Fisheries and Forest) as well as representatives from the Pacific Islands Development Forum and local private sectors. The issue is gaining inertia and next meeting should bring in more government stakeholders.
On a broader scale I have been meeting with many pacific fisheries experts in the region discussing the gaps in not only management of coastal fisheries, but also gaps in action and involvement from this data-rich field. So far I have discussed the topic with the fishery department directors from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community , the coordinator for the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas network, an expert in fisheries throughout the Pacific (if he’s not an author he is definitely referenced at least 4 times). Today I have the pleasure of meeting with a leading member of the Women and Fisheries Network, then Monday a Department of Fisheries representative. So many awesome (fish) people around, so little time!!!
As this project has been developing more and more we have come to determine that most of the work that has been done is strictly within the fisheries realm and tailored towards a fishery-specific audience. So, again we are challenging this, and ourselves, to create a “talanoa” style forum and paper that brings in stakeholders that have yet to be involved, but whom will be affected. OK enough work talk…..get to the sharks, temples, corals, rugby and island adventures
It has not been all work, work, work fortunately as Fiji is in fact BEAUTIFUL, both in terms of nature and the people. Josh and I have been living with a family who brought us in right away and made us “official” uncles to their son Alika Jr. Everyone in the office has welcomed us right away into their work family and suggested places to visit, and invited us to dinner, to their village, or out on the town. It’s a sense of community I have really been missing.
Other adventures include a trip to the largest hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere, diving with the shark god Dakuwaqa (check out a report on the socio-economic value of shark diving in Fiji: http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/peg/publications/report/shrkfijieconomicreportfinalpdf.pdf) , a trip to Caqalai and snake island (I’m still searching for Degei, and the 8 and 9 headed snakes), snorkeling on some of the most vibrant and vivacious corals I have ever seen, getting into rugby (the national sport here), and taking a vaka out in the Suva Harbour. Until next time, Moce!
See if you can spot all the acronyms listed above!