Tabu – protected taboo areas

After the success we had in Matuku persuading the chiefs and headmen to install protected areas (Tabu) around the island to protect the reefs from overfishing and to ensure a sustainable use of the resources, we tackled the same issue here in Fulanga.
The problem’s the same like everywhere in Fiji (and the rest of the Pacific islands and probably elsewhere): the islands were able to sustain the population for a long time, but now with modern technology (spear guns since the 1990s, torches to go nightfishing, outboard engines to go longer distances and of course freezers to store and export fish) the numbers of fish are rapidly shrinking.
Just like in Matuku the people here are noticing the change themselves and are concerned–they are just now starting a Tabu committee and thinking of strategies to control the overexploitation. We volunteered to share info about our experiences in the Pacific, the different Tabu types in comparison (short term Rahui in Tahiti that doesn’t work at all, permanent Rahui in Rapa Iti that works very well), etc.

We got a projector from the school, a white sheet from a house, the guy from the Tabu committee brought kava (the only way to get the villagers to a gathering is the sound of pounding kava he said with a wink) and it worked–the assembly hall quickly filled up for our presentation. We try to present the main points quite simplified as many villagers don’t speak English well. The importance to keep the eco-system in balance, the role herbivores play in keeping the reef clean and the necessity to install protected zone and to limit the export. No reef no fish, no fish no reef…
The villagers were interested and the following discussion quite lively. They already have short-term tabu system: spearfishing is only allowed 6 months of the year inside the lagoon and the pass (always outside). We explained that such a system is not efficient as the fish don’t have enough time to grow and reproduce when they just leave them for 6 months. It would be much better and more sustainable for the future to have an area that is always protected, so fish can really mature in there to have a much higher reproduction rate and just fish off the “overflow” around the borders of the Tabu. It turns out that they are willing to install taboo areas, but worried that not everybody will respect them and especially that people from neighbouring islands will sneak into the pass at night to go fishing anyway… We hope it’ll work out somehow as the pass area here is really worth protecting. It’s among the top 3 reefs we’ve seen in the Pacific!

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