The use of local resource knowledge and customary fisheries management to assist marine management in the Fiji Islands using Maumi, Fiji, as a case study
Traditional and community-based marine resource management practices can enhance the effectiveness of contemporary environmental management models. These traditional management practices, which are based on knowledge of natural and cultural systems in specific areas, provide useful lessons from which contemporary resource managers can learn about the experiences of others. Fisheries management in traditional communities is well integrated into society and people are regarded as integral parts of the ecology of the coastal zone and, therefore, the fishery.
A descriptive analysis of the interactions between human perceptions of the Maumi village people and the ecological condition of the Maumi Estuary and Namata River is provided in this thesis. The aims of this study were a) to conduct a review of existing marine management in Fiji using both academic and informally published transcripts and reports (grey literature); b) to describe local knowledge of marine habitats, customary fishing grounds and significant fish species distribution and abundance in the Namata River and Maumi Estuary; and c) to validate local knowledge through opportunistic in situ sampling with customary fishers. Fulfilling these aims will address the question of whether combined ethnological and ecological information should be used to aid traditional fisheries management in Fiji. In order to achieve these objectives several methods and techniques were used. A broad literature review was conducted, gathering information from academic databases and libraries, government departments, non-governmental organisations and other sources of grey literature in order to evaluate the current marine management practices in Fiji. Over a period of one month, interviews were carried out in Maumi Village in order to collect baseline data to provide information on resource use and related spatial and temporal variations, in and around the Maumi Estuary and Namata river mouth. Following the interviews, a group workshop was held to gauge the perceptions of current resource management and to discuss future goals and desires for marine protection and managers. Finally, an opportunistic field study with a local customary fisher was performed to assess catch rates in the area using three different traditional fishing methods. These data were then compared to that collected from the interviews to gauge the accuracy of the local people’s perceptions of their catch rates.
This study showed that local ecological knowledge (LEK) can serve a significant role in creating more socially sustainable and robust marine management plans, especially in data-poor regions such as Fiji. When used in partnership with ecological information, LEK can form a strong foundation for the development of adaptable and sustainable protected areas in Fiji. By acknowledging the perspectives of the local people and associated stakeholders in marine management initiatives, we exhibit a greater understanding for the way in which worldviews and beliefs influence our interaction with natural resources and the environment. In doing so, such information can be used to adapt management concepts to apply to local and regional spaces, encouraging greater effectiveness and local support. Further information is also needed to enlighten the relationship between social perspectives, actions, ecological status and outcomes.
Coastal communities, including Maumi Village, in Fiji depend heavily on their natural resources. Community-based protected area initiatives aid in developing management programs that protect resources for the future. With further research of surrounding settlements a management plan for the Namata River and Maumi Estuary catchment could more effectively protect the local resources for future generations.