Research was conducted in one of the 27 villages on the island of Ovalau – hence sharing a qoliqoli (traditional fishing ground) with four other villages. The village has set up a tabu, in this case a permanent no-take area, stretching from the shore to the reef ten years ago. It is the biggest tabu site on Ovalau and was the first to be established within the Nasinu district. However, as basically all other Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in Fiji, it is not legally gazetted and hence enforceable. This means that the community is hugely challenged by enforcement and compliance issues. Sometimes fishermen from Suva come to fish inside the tabu but some people from within the village itself, or from neighboring villages, also seem to disrespect the tabu. Especially night diving (spear fishing) has become a common problem.
Therefore, the aim of the governance research in the village was to look at the set-up of the tabu area, the institutions and decision-making processes around this, but also to get a picture of people’s perceptions of the actual objectives and benefits of the tabu. Equally important is to analyze reasons for and drivers of (non-)compliance and understanding current (local) monitoring & enforcement processes (and challenges) and how these have changed over time. With the great support of Kara, who studies Environmental Sciences at Fiji National University, as well as two local assistants (Vili and Mesake), Janne conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with women and men from different age groups.
A total of 42 persons participated in the study, including several of the village leaders – both the traditional ones as well as the ones established by the Fijian government, such as the Turaga ni Koro (village head man), which shows the interesting mix of traditional and modern governance structures in Fijian villages. In the village both women and men are engaged in fishing, although their fishing techniques and areas might vary. Many women also work in the tuna cannery in Levuka, whereas most men are also engaged in farming/gardening.
As opposed to the ‘ecological team’ the ‘social sciences team’ did not have to struggle with complex diving gear but was rather challenged with working around the busy time schedules of the villagers: in the morning people are busy with cleaning their houses, washing & cooking (especially women), in the afternoon many people do fishing or farming. In the second week people were even busier as the preparations for the funeral of the head of one of the mataqali (clan) involved the whole village. This means we had to be very flexible and be prepared to conduct our interviews and FGs anytime between 8am and 10pm – go with the flow!
In the coming weeks Janne will be doing interviews in Suva with key stakeholders for marine governance at the ‘national level’, such as the Department of Fisheries, Department of Environment, iTaukei Affairs (Ministry of Indigenous/Fijian Affairs) as well as with experts from civil society, in an attempt to answer the question of how local level marine tenure practices (dis-)connect to national level marine governance arrangements (incl. laws and polices etc.) and which potentials for aligning both governance systems exist.