Commissioner Eastern Division, Vitale Varo, is happy with the responses from the 4 tikinas in the Lau province after the first phase of consultation on the Lau Seascape and the Marine Protected Area 30x30 Initiative which concluded last Friday (21/10/22) at Nayau Island.

Commissioner Varo led the team of civil servants and conservation officers from the Conservation International and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which carried out consultations on 4 tikinas namely, Lomaloma, Mualevu, Cicia, and Nayau.

Summarising the consultation Mr Varo said that the support of the Vanua was overwhelming especially after the awareness presentation in each of the 4 tikinas.

“When we talk about marine protected areas, the perception was that their immediate qoliqoli will be involved but after the presentation, the people of the 4 tikinas understood that the 6 designated blocks in the Lau water are outside of the Archipelagic Waters and their importance in protecting not only our fisheries but the biodiversity in the proposed sites as well.”

“Understanding the concept of the MPA and the Prime Minister's commitment is very important and the team achieved this with a thorough and people-friendly presentation,” Mr. Varo said.

“This revelation brought about a lot of support and the people were quite happy that Government recognises the importance of the Lau seascape and more importantly our partnership with NGOs to carry out his very important work.”

“Once established, these marine protected areas will provide Fiji, and the world, with a proof of concept – demonstrating how protecting 30% of an ocean area can benefit local livelihoods, increase resilience to climate change, safeguard biodiversity, and strengthen the economy.”

Commissioner Varo further said that the second phase of consultation will be carried out for the rest of the Tikinas in the province of Lau and the third phase will be for those from the province residing in urban areas or the 2 main islands – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Conservation International marine conservation officer Semisi Meo also commended the support of the 4 tikinas saying the Government initiative to protect 30 percent of our economic exclusive zone is a win for marine biodiversity and our ocean.

“Conservation is very important for our island state and the commitment by our Prime Minister shows the significance of the Government’s obligation in safeguarding our marine resources,” said Mr Meo.

‘While we were able to work in partnership with Government on this consultation and awareness, we were able to focus also on our coral planting programme where members of our team planted coral in selected areas off the coast of Vanua Balavu.”

“For the province of Lau, their commitment was for a village to plant 3000 corals and if this is done, we can fulfil the resolution at the provincial meeting to plant 200,000 coral in the province which will be their contribution towards the 1 million coral replanting initiative.”

“We are confident that through our partnership with Government, many a good thing will come about and the future of our people is safeguarded through our commitment, determination, and resilience,” added Mr Meo.