By JACQUELINE SUTAHI
The first-ever environmental journalism workshop on the Suva Bay-Foreshore area was an eye-opener about amazing, abundant natural habitat at our doorstep and its gradual destruction, says The University of the South Pacific
Journalism Programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh.
The two-day workshop was organised by the USP Journalism Programme and Earth Journalism Network (EJN) with the theme ‘Causes, Impacts of Pollution in the Suva Bay and Possible Solutions’.
And according to Dr Singh, creating awareness was crucial since most Suva residents were unaware of this natural wealth and its demise.
He said the workshop filled a crucial gap in providing vital training for Pacific journalists.
“The Pacific faces numerous environmental challenges of a serious nature, but lacks dedicated environment reporters. The workshop last week helped address that shortcoming, at least to some extent,” Dr Singh said.
According to Dr Singh, journalists in Fiji and the Pacific were generalists by necessity, rather than specialists, because the industry was too small to support specialisation.
“We are fortunate that an internationally-renowned environmental journalism organisation like the EJN is assisting us in this regard, not just through their expertise, but through cash grants to carry out workshops and reporting assignments,” said Dr Singh.
The EJN Pacific Partnership coordinator, Donna Hoerder, said they were pleased to see participants from the journalism school at USP and Fiji National University, as well as media practitioners in Fiji and region learning more environmental reporting.
The workshop also included three days’ training on writing compelling and effective environmental stories as well as a field trip to the Suva lagoon.
First-year journalism students Sosiveta Korobiau (Fiji) and Leila Parina (Papua New Guinea) said the workshop provided useful skills and training to produce environmental stories while Fiji National University journalism student Loata Waqanivavalagi said the workshop was a great way to understand the science jargons and report better on the environment issues.
• Professor Vijay Naidu, former head of USP’s School of Government Development and International Affairs – shared reflections of his time as a recreational fisherman along the Suva Bay/lagoon;
• Salanieta Koro, founder of the Happy Mangroves Project – The importance of the mangrove ecosystem along the Suva foreshore;
• Dr Gilianne Brodie, USP Institute of Applied Science deputy director – changes in the diversity of opisthobranch mollusc in the Suva lagoon;
• Dr Mark O’Brien, Birdlife International Pacific’s regional programme coordinator – significance of shore birds of the Suva lagoon;
• Joeli Bili, project officer for Women in Fisheries Fiji – Women, fisheries and food security;
• Cherelle Jackson and Donna Hoerder, who spoke about the EJN Oceans Guide and best practices in environmental journalism.
• Rufino Varea, a USP postgrad researcher – Applying biomarkers for monitoring pollution impact in Viti Levu’s marine environment;
• Andrew Paris, USP a postgrad researcher – Microplastics in the greater Suva inshore area and;
• Dr Isoa Korovulavula, USP’s acting director of the Institute of Applied Science, – the impact of socioeconomic changes and conservation interventions at the Laucala Bay coastal environment.
While delivering his keynote address at the two-day workshop, Prof Naidu said the Suva foreshore had been under ‘enormous’ pressure from decades of destructive practices with little to no public awareness about the various afflictions.
He said the problems had been exacerbated by no sustained public awareness campaign, absence of environmental issues in Pacific news media coverage and lack of leadership.
The workshop was attended by USP scientists and other experts, young and upcoming researchers, youth environment champions, student journalists and media representatives.
*Jacqueline Sutahi (Solomon Islands) is a final-year journalism student at USP. She is also a senior reporter for Wansolwara, USP Journalism’s student training newspaper and online publication.