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.
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.