Vinaka to Sanatan Dharm Pratindhi Sabha for stepping up to champion the 4FJ campaign, becoming first major Hindu institution to back the kawakawa and donu 4-month ban.
Sanatan Dharm Fiji is an organisation that includes more than 180,000 Hindus in Fiji.
“Our scriptures teach about the importance of looking after all living things,” National General Secretary Pundit Vigyan Sharma said. “So we want to come together and join hands to save these fish by allowing them to breed in peace each year.”
Sanatan Dharm Pratindhi Sabha’s commitment follows other religious organisations coming forward to champion stewardship. Most notably the leadership of the Methodist Church of Fiji starting championing the 4FJ campaign in 2014. However, it is the first Hindu institution to publicly champion the campaign.
“We are deeply grateful for the support of Sanatan Dharm Fiji for helping spread this message and ensure our communities can continue to benefit from these fish,” said Minister of Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau.
The Ministry of Fisheries has banned all harvest, sale, buying, possession and export of these rapidly disappearing A-grade fish from the 1st of June through the 30th of September, which are their peak breeding months. The ban covers all species of kawakawa and donu.
Kawakawa and donu are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they gather predictably each year in the same channels to breed. Those sites are often fished heavily, leaving few fish behind to restock Fiji reefs. Of the known breeding sites in Fiji, 80 percent are declining or gone, Fiji government reported.
The legal ban follows four years of the 4FJ campaign, which asked people to voluntarily pledge to forego the fish during the peak breeding months. More than 20,000 publicly pledged to let them breed.
“We thank Sanatan Dharm Fiji for showing us the conservation ethic that bridges religions and faiths,” said Scott Radway, founder of cChange, the organisation that created the 4FJ campaign for the Government of Fiji. “We look forward to other institutions joining this cause. The power of the 4FJ movement has always been its champions.”
For Pundit Vigyan, the personal pledge is easy as he is a from a Brahman family and as pundit or priest, which means he is a vegetarian. However, he notes that not all members are vegetarians and some are fishermen. Kawakawa and donu are a high value commercial fish.
“We Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha support this move which is good for all. I am requesting not only Hindus but all the people of Fiji irrespective of race to support this government in good faith,” he said. “That way we will never run out of these fish in the Fiji waters.”