Methodist church promotes good stewardship through support for seasonal ban on kawakawa and donu

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As part of its commitment to environmental stewardship, the Methodist Church in Fiji is partnering with the 4FJ campaign to conduct outreach on the new four-month ban on kawakawa and donu, to communities across Fiji.

cChange, the organization that created the 4FJ campaign, is providing outreach training today for the church’s divisional communications officers, who are attending annual training at the Methodist Church Headquarters in Suva.

“This campaign is more than a campaign to us. This is about meeting our responsibilities of being good stewards of God’s creation,” said Rev. Wilfred Regunamada, the Secretary for Communications and Overseas Mission for the Methodist Church in Fiji. “So we want to empower our people to engage their congregations and give them a chance to do what’s right.”

cChange developed the 4FJ campaign for the Ministry of Fisheries in 2014, in response to studies that found that around 80 percent of Fiji’s known kawakawa and donu breeding grounds were rapidly declining or have been lost.  The A-grade fish are critical to meeting communities' food and income needs in Fiji.

Over the past four years, close to 16,000 individuals have publicly pledged not to catch, sell or eat kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months, to allow the fish to recover. This year, supported by the wide public support for the campaign, the Ministry of Fisheries implemented a legal ban on kawakawa and donu from June through September.

“The Methodist Church in Fiji was one of the first institutional champions of the campaign, supporting it since 2014. Its backing helped mainstream the issue of overfishing of these fish and the need for action,” said Scott Radway, founder of cChange. “That’s why we know the church’s additional support now on outreach on the legal ban is a tremendous development for the recovery of these fisheries.”

The Methodist Church is the largest religious organization in Fiji.

cChange provided a video documentary, fact sheets, and guide on all 27 species of kawakawa and donu, to help the officers conduct outreach to communities and to train additional members of the church at the district and village level to engage their respective communities.

Cross-Government Partnership For Effective Enforcement Of Kawakawa And Donu Seasonal Ban

The Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, the Fiji Navy and town councils across Fiji are joining forces with the Ministry of Fisheries to ensure the effective enforcement of the recently enacted seasonal ban on fishing, sale and export of kawakawa and donu.

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The impressive cross-government partnership formerly launched today with a workshop for the Central Division at the Fiji Police Nasova Training Facility, where police, customs, the Navy and town council staff will be trained to conduct effective outreach, and how to support enforcement actions, when necessary.

Similar workshops will follow over the next three weeks for the remaining divisions.

The partnership is the result of an outreach program developed for all key government bodies last year through the 4FJ campaign.

The Ministry of Fisheries and cChange, a regional nongovernmental organization, traveled across the country to visit key stakeholders, including sellers, to inform them of the coming ban and build support for its effective implementation.

For the workshop, cChange is providing training and tools to conduct effective outreach to key stakeholders, with the goal of increasing compliance with the ban. The Ministry of Fisheries, supported by the Pacific Community (SPC) is providing training for participants in supporting effective enforcement of the ban.

“This is a very important process because we need everyone’s support for the ban to effectively serve its purpose, especially those in the rural communities who rely on fishing for their livelihoods,” says the Ministry of Fisheries Director, Aisake Batibasaga.

“This training will help spread the message on what the ban is about, why it is important and what it means for those involved in the commercial fishing and sale of these important and highly valuable fish species,” Batibasaga added.

Kawakawa and donu are most vulnerable during spawning because they gather at the same time and at the same spots each year to breed. In Fiji, the peak breeding months for these fish species are June through September.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries, around 80 per cent of the country’s known kawakawa and donu breeding grounds are rapidly declining or have died out.

To address this, the ministry issued a public notice on 6 June announcing a legal ban on the collection, sale and exportation of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months.

The ministry implemented a grace period where fishermen and vendors were allowed to sell off any stock of these fish on the local market. The grace period expired on 11 June.

Ministry of Fisheries begins crack down on illegal sales of kawakawa and donu

SUVA, Fiji – Putting teeth in the new seasonal ban on kawakawa and donu, the Ministry of Fisheries has begun confiscating kawakawa and donu sold illegally.  

 Kawakawa and donu recently confiscated in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi

Kawakawa and donu recently confiscated in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi

“The fish that are being confiscated are intended to send an important and clear message: It is now illegal to collect, sell or export kawakawa and donu during the seasonal ban which runs from June until the end of September,” said Ministry of Fisheries Director, Aisake Batibasaga. 

Early this week, ministry officials in the Central Division confiscated the first fish from vendors located in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi. The 10 kilograms fish were seized during routine inspections carried out by central division staff who had previously conducted awareness to vendors on the seasonal ban.

Ministry of Fisheries officials noted that the fish seized were also undersize, likely indicating that the fisheries is near collapse and underscoring the need for the ban.

 Kawakawa and donu recently confiscated in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi

Kawakawa and donu recently confiscated in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi

Similar confiscations will be taking place across the country starting this week.

The ministry issued a public notice on 6 June announcing a legal ban on the collection, sale and exportation of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months. A grace period was given to fisherman and vendors to sell off any stock of these fish on the local market. The grace period expired on 11 June.

Since the public notice, the ministry has conducted awareness with vendors and provided them with a copy of the notice to ensure that they were aware of the seasonal ban. 

Sellers can now have their fish confiscated. Sellers can also be fined, with an immediate fine of $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for corporations. Violators can ultimately be fined up to $50,000 for individuals, and up to $100,000 for corporations. The level of the fine can depend on the severity of the offense and will be determined by the Fiji Court System.

The ban was enacted because of the rapid decline of the critical fisheries. According to the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, around 80 per cent of Fiji’s known kawakawa and donu breeding sites are either declining or have been lost. 

One study found fish landings of kawakawa have declined 70 per cent over 30 years, with some areas in Fiji hardly catching the prized fish anymore. 

Prior to the ban, through the 4FJ campaign, more than 15,000 people in Fiji had voluntarily pledged to forego kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months, to allow them to rebound. cChange, the organization that created the 4FJ campaign for the ministry, found in one survey conducted in the Suva-Nausori corridor that 93 per cent of the public supported the four-month ban.

Grace period for sale of banned fish expires 

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SUVA, Fiji – Starting today until the end of September, kawakawa and donu must not be collected, sold locally or exported. The Ministry of Fisheries can now confiscate any kawakawa and donu being sold in Fiji and sellers could face fines.

The ban follows a public notice issued by Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries early last week announcing a legal ban on these fish during their peak spawning season, June through September.

The ministry implemented a grace period notifying sellers that any stock caught or bought prior to the issuing of the public notice must be sold on the local market by 11 p.m. yesterday or frozen for the duration of the spawning season.

All frozen fish that remains unsold must now be bagged and labelled with the name of the fisherman or vendor as well as the date it was received. Sellers must also notify the Ministry of Fisheries in writing of the quantity of any remaining frozen stock which must be made available for inspection. 

The frozen fish stock must be stored and cannot be sold prior to 1 October.

Anyone caught not complying with the ministry’s regulations is commiting an offence and could face steep penalties.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries close to 80 per cent of Fiji’s known kawakawa and donu breeding sites are either declining or have died out.

In 2014, the ministry launched the 4FJ campaign with support from regional communications NGO, cChange, to highlight the rapid decline in size and numbers of Fiji’s kawakawa and donu. 

The wide public support for the campaign provided the foundation for the Ministry of Fisheries to pursue the legal ban on the commercial collection and sale of these fish during the peak breeding months. 

Kawakawa and Donu peak breeding season starts tomorrow

SUVA, Fiji – The Ministry of Fisheries is encouraging people across Fiji to refrain from buying, selling and eating kawakawa and donu over the next four months, as these highly valuable grouper fish species enter their main breeding season.

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According to the Ministry of Fisheries close to 80 per cent of Fiji’s known kawakawa and donu breeding sites are either declining or have died out.

“These particular fish predictably gather at the same time and at the same spots each year to breed, making them quite easy to catch in large numbers during this time which in turn, leaves few fish restock Fiji’s reefs. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening but we can do something to change this situation,” says Ministry of Fisheries Permanent Secretary, Sanaila Naqali.

“Many in our community, especially those living the rural areas rely on the ocean for food and income. So, by making a small sacrifice for four months, we not only protect these fish and our environment by letting them restock our reefs, but also our livelihoods today and, in the future,” Naqali adds.

Naqali reiterates that the Ministry is committed to implementing a legal ban on the commercial sale of these fish species in Fiji from June through September annually and finalization of the process is currently underway with relevant government ministries and stakeholders.

“We understand the importance of getting this process right so we are working to ensure that adequate time is given for awareness and compliance,” Naqali says.

“We’ve worked hard over the last three years to get the support of important stakeholders, like the fishermen, town councils and the private sector, so we expect a fairly smooth implementation of government’s directive once the ban is in place.”

The protection of kawakawa and donu fulfills a commitment that Fiji made at the UN Oceans Conference in June last year.

This follows the launch of the 4FJ campaign by the Ministry of Fisheries in 2014 to highlight the rapid decline in size and numbers of Fiji’s kawakawa and donu.

As a result, over 15,000 people, as well as the private sector, including renowned hotels and supermarket chains, voluntarily pledged not to buy, sell, eat or serve these fish species from 1 June through 30 September.

The wide public support for the campaign provided the foundation for the Ministry of Fisheries to pursue the legal ban of commercial fishing and sale of these fish during the peak breeding months.

Survey shows overwhelming support for proposed seasonal ban on kawakawa and donu

 Fiji 7s Captain Jerry Tuwai takes the 4FJ pledge not to eat kawakawa and donu during breeding season.

Fiji 7s Captain Jerry Tuwai takes the 4FJ pledge not to eat kawakawa and donu during breeding season.

SUVA, Fiji – A stunning 93 percent of the public surveyed support a proposed Fiji government ban on the fishing and sale of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months, according to a recent survey conducted in the Suva-Nausori corridor.

cChange, a communications NGO, conducted the survey to measure the support for the proposed ban and the effectiveness of the 4FJ campaign, which it created to support the Ministry of Fisheries to revive kawakawa and donu fisheries in Fiji. The survey was conducted in Suva, Nasinu, Nausori and Lami.

“This is an amazing level of support for the government’s plan to revive fish that are critical to meeting the food and income needs for Fiji’s communities,” said Scott Radway, founder of cChange. “This shows the people of Fiji are willing to come together to make a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain for the country.”

The 4FJ campaign was launched in 2014 to encourage people to voluntarily pledge to forego the fish during their peak breeding months, to give them space to breed and replenish Fiji’s reefs. Nearly 15,000 people have taken the 4FJ pledge to date.

Buoyed by the support for its campaign, the Ministry of Fisheries has proposed to legally ban the commercial fishing and sale of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months, June through September, starting this year. Fiji made the announcement as part of its voluntary commitments at the United Nations Ocean Conference, which it co-hosted in New York with Sweden last year in June.

“We want to ensure that these wonderful fish species continue to provide substantial benefits to coastal communities in Fiji,” said Fiji's Minister for the Ministry of Fisheries, Mr Semi Koroilavesau, during his address at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York City.

The Fiji submission stated that kawakawa and donu, commonly called grouper, are particularly vulnerable because they gather predictably each year in the same spots to breed. Those sites are commonly fished heavily, leaving few fish behind to restock Fiji reefs. Of the known breeding sites in Fiji, 80 percent are declining or gone, the submission states.

The cChange survey also found that about two-thirds of the people surveyed thought kawakawa and donu are less available today, smaller and more expensive than they were a few years ago.

The survey found the campaign raised awareness around overfishing issues in Fiji, with 90 percent saying they were more supportive of fishing rules and regulations. The campaign also made 86 percent want to know more about what they can do to help, and 82 percent wonder what other fish are overfished.

The survey was conducted in October, 2017. cChange was supported in the design, implementation and analysis of the survey by Edge Research, a Washington, D.C.-based, market research firm with extensive experience in campaign evaluation.

cChange interviewed 252 adult respondents, at locations in Suva, and its suburbs, including a range of ages, gender, ethnicity and wards were surveyed to ensure a representative sample. The margin of error on the sample as a whole is +/- 6.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

 

 

Fisherman's plea

Vinaka to the Fiji Times for featuring an inspiring story about our newest champion, Radike Qereqeretabua, known to many for his success as a hotelier in Fiji.

Radike is also a traditional kai wai from Dravuni Island, Ono, Kadavu, which makes him particularly concerned these days about the plight of kawakawa and donu, fish that are rapidly disappearing in Fiji. Because when the leader of the Burebasaga Confederacy calls for seafood, the kai wai must be ready to supply her demands.

King of 7s take the Pledge

The King of 7s has set out once again to lead his country to victory, but this time it’s not on the rugby field. Waisale Serevi has taken the 4FJ pledge not to eat kawakawa or donu during the months the fish breeds to allow these heavily fished resources come back from the brink of collapse. The spawning season runs June through September.