Bula vinaka and hello friends, my name is Akosita Rokomate and I am from the Fiji Islands which are located in the South Pacific. Fiji is made up of over 300 isles and 90% of teh local population is comprised of coastal communities, reliant heavily on their marine resources for survival. I am currently working with a small, isolated island community in the northern province of Macuata, an island called Kia. On Kia, people depend on fishing as their number one source of income. However, increasing fishing pressure, caused by a number of factors such as commercialisation of the resource, better fishing technology and an increase in population is damaging the marine ecosystem and resulting in lower catches. This has serious implications, not only for the local community's livelihoods but also for the species diversity in a marine environment of global significance; as Kia island sits on the Great Sea Reef, which is the third largest barrier reef system in the world. Our surveys revealed a lack of knowledge and awareness amongst Kians as a main contributory cause of unsustainable resource use and a lack of compliance with fishing rules and regulations. And so the title: Building Blocks for Youth Empowerment in Marine Conservation in Fiji was born - to improve marine environmental stewardship through youth education and recognizing the vital role they play in addressing these issues. The purpose of this project is to build on themes and concepts already established and develop the capacity of voluntary environment youth groups called the Reef Rangers and Conservation Ambassadors of Kia Island. For the foreseeable future, our team will continue to build the capacity of individuals, explore partnerships and expand the network of youth groups to other communities outside of Kia, ensuring the widespread reach and the sustainability of this work. This approach is preferred becasue it is community-driven, fostering the exchange of knowledge and experiences in the name of marine conservation for generations to come.
This work is funded by the Kate Stokes Memorial Award and Melinda Gray Ardia Foundation