Along the Coral Coast of Fiji’s big island of Viti Levu, approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of the capital of Suva, a unique partnership exists between an international beach resort and the small fishing village adjacent to it. Years ago, the new owners of Hideaway resort did something rare – they came to the chief of Tagaqe Village in Korolevu-i-wai district, upon whose qoliqoli – or traditional fishing ground – the hotel fronts, to ask permission to use their waters for tourism.
Ratu (‘Chief’) Timoci Batirerega, whose two brothers previously presided over Tagaqe, is happy with the respect the resort owners have shown to his village’s tradition and needs. “They have worked with our
village chiefs for years all the way up to today, and give scholarships to the community for the neediest families,” he says. In addition to giving scholarships, which they’ve been doing for 11 years, the resort owners also help support the village with development needs such as providing TV for the village youth, computers for the school, buoys or markers for marine protected areas, building materials, furniture and a computer for the Peace Corps Volunteers house, worth more than $10,000 Fiji dollars (roughly US $4,500).
Korolevu-i-wai’s qoliqoli extends from the high water mark out to the reef break, about 500 meters offshore, and encompasses four adjacent villages, including Tagaqe, for a total area of 6 km2, with the resort in the middle. The fishing ground is composed of mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs, where mangrove crabs, clams, octopus, lobster, sea urchins, trochus, and reef fishes such as emperors, parrotfish, groupers, and mullets are caught. Of this, the area of reef in front of Hideaway is “tabu,” meaning that fishing is prohibited.
Due to increasing threats such as use of destructive fishing methods (specifically, undersize nets for fishing, poison fishing using derris root, and breaking/overturning corals and rocks to catch octopus), coral harvesting, pollution, and coral trampling by tourists, Ratu Timoci initiated discussions with the resort and other village chiefs within the district. After hearing on the radio and reading news of successful conservation initiatives carried out with assistance from the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) Network, Ratu Timoci wanted to find out more about what they could do to address their threats. Annie Wade, who manages Hideaway resort together with her husband Robert, contacted Alifereti Tawake of FLMMA for help.
17° 48′ 41.2416″ S, 177° 56′ 4.452″ E