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Mangroves an important resource for Integrated Coastal Management in the province of Ra
The province of Ra located on the north-eastern coast of Viti Levu Island is one of the four important provinces that make up the Vatu-i-Ra seascape. With the help of the Fiji government, Non-Governmental Oganization’s (NGO’s) and the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS), efforts are currently underway to develop a provincial-level Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) resource plan, funded by the Coral Triangle Pacific project for Ra province. Lessons learnt from past experiences of implementing ICM in Fiji will be used to ensure a better coordinated approach towards effective sustainable coastal and marine resources management in Ra. The Institute of Applied Science has been tasked to carry out the Ra-ICM baseline survey. One of the main components of the work was to carry out mangrove assessments in Navitilevu Bay.
Over a five day period (27th-31st October) a five member team consisting of staff from the IAS Herbarium and Environment Unit surveyed mangroves across five villages (Togovere, Malake, Nayavuira, Navitilevu and Naocabau village). Surveying mangroves is a unique and arduous challenge when compared to other fauna and flora surveys. Laying straight 50m transects through thickets of Rhizophora spp. covered with mangrove oysters is not an easy feat.
A representative of the Fisheries Department based in Namarai village joined us as part of a learning and capacity building exercise for him. The stands of mangroves found along the Navitilevu Bay are relatively small when compared to the Rewa Delta. According to our team leader Mr. Alifereti Naikatini “these systems are what we call lagoonal mangroves”. These interesting systems of mangroves play important roles as a coastal resource for communities along Navitilevu Bay. Mangroves are known to play three important ecological roles:
- Act as a nursery for young marine organisms
- Prevent silt and pollutants from the interior from reading coral reefs
- Protection of the coast from large waves
The mangrove systems found around Togovere village are mostly stunted. The absence of rivers or streams will result in high salinity which is known to affect the growth of mangroves.
In Ra, mangroves (Rhizophora spp.and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) are all called “Dogo” but in some other parts of the county, for instance the Rewa and Tailevu delta we classify them into two groups “Dogo” for Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and “Tiri” for the two native species and one hybrid in the Rhizophora genus.
Figure 1 Team carrying out a transect in a Bruguiera gymnorrhiza zone near Nayavuira village.
Overall, we believe that the development of an ICM plan for Ra will result in an illuminated path on the sustainable management of resources found in the province. The ideology of ICM sits well with the Fijian culture and especially for the province of Ra. The Ra-ICM will have to evolve to address the diverse and complex problems facing the management and sustainable usage of coastal resources in modern day Ra. This will first require the government and all stakeholders to engage fully in the development of this plan, and, in particular resisting the hordes of resource hungry “Sirens” and their pernicious ways. It is hoped that this rapid mangrove assessment will help improve the development of the ICM plan in Ra.