After nine weeks of hard work and great diving the GVI Marine volunteers had the opportunity to attend, and be part of the GVI facilitated and Funded, Nacula Tikina Fish Warden and Marine Awareness Workshop on Nacula Island. Previous and existing marine management plans were discussed with these communities in order to see what has been achieved and what has failed. As GVI’s presence in the Yasawas has solidified, GVI has been able to assist with long term management plans and have a quantifiable impact on marine awareness and ultimately, conservation. As GVI volunteers, it’s safe to say we feel incredibly proud to be here and see this progress happen.
The workshop’s aims were to train local community Fish Wardens, disseminate marine awareness, review marine management plans and form a District Environmental Committee. The workshop provided assistance and continuity in methods of patrolling and maintaining Tabu areas (Marine Protected Areas) to the villages in the Nacula district, thereby further ensuring reef health and safety, and in turn providing sustainable food sources for the people of their respective villages. In assistance, and with the help of, GVI and GVI's Funding, the Fisheries Department and Assistant Roko (Head of Province)- the event had a turnout of just over 30 participants from the villages in the district, making the workshop a great success! After reviewing a previous marine management plan from 2006, new long and short-term goals were agreed upon and created for each village.
After two days of fish warden training Nacula Tikina (District) now has 28 new licensed fish wardens! We watched different representatives of each village form groups and carry out mock exercises, preparing them for possible incidents should their Tabu areas become targets of illegal fishing or occupation. It was incredibly encouraging and a proud moment as a marine volunteer to watch men and the first female Nacula District Fish Warden come together to not only sit through power point presentations for days, but to take the time to entertain acting out the possible scenarios they may face in the future. Two groups were formed, one acting as fish warden and the other as trespasser/law breaker; the wardens were encouraged to take charge and proceed in a formal manner in alerting and warning the illegal fisher to stop and to explain the legal repercussions of his actions should the situation rise. After successfully completing the workshop and exercises, the men were issued legal identifications and documents as fish wardens, ready to carry out and protect their livelihood.
Of course not all was just work, GVI staff and some volunteers were privy to some of the ceremonies that went along with an event of this importance. Some of these thing included sevusevu’s (ceremony presenting a Kava root to village chiefs, headmen and elders) kava filled circles (as a sign of respect and camaraderie) and incredible home cooked meals. Likewise, we also had time to socialize and meet some really great people. I was introduced to, and quickly became friends, with Elenoa, an extremely welcoming and friendly woman who works for the Fisheries Department. As I sat next to her in some of the presentations she explained the importance of having village participation and her role in assisting her organization by checking on the Yasawas Nacula district.
It was very comforting and incredibly humbling to see how much effort and importance is placed in caring for the Marine Protected Areas. Specifically, as a marine volunteer I feel that we really are making a difference; in carrying out our surveys and learning how to properly account for marine life we are assisting the areas and villages involved have the information they need, and information they understand to really commit to guarding their source of livelihood. We came here to be divers, but we’re doing far more than just looking at pretty fish, and the workshop was just one of the many ways we see our impact. It was definitely an educational experience and I’m very lucky to still be here to see such great progress.