Newly gained skills contribute to business success


In the vast blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean lies Kiritimati Island, where the shimmering waters conceal a hidden gem: Willy and the Divers, a thriving saltwater aquarium fish business. At its helm is Neera Tekarawa, a woman of resilience and determination.

Neera embarked on her path with Willy and the Divers in 2018 following the passing of her brother-in-law, who, along with her sister Gloria, co-owned the business. Assuming the manager role, Neera has skillfully overseen its operations, steering it towards continued success.

With unwavering resolve and a thirst for knowledge, Neera sought to elevate Willy and the Divers to new heights.

Her opportunity came in the form of specialised training programmes on Kiritimati Island.

With dedication, she completed courses in Maintaining Seafood Safety and Quality and Establishing and Operating a Small Seafood Business made possible through the European Union and Government of Sweden-funded University of the South Pacific (USP) Pacific European Union Marine Partnership project.

Empowered by newfound expertise, Neera has implemented innovative practices to ensure the health and integrity of her prized aquarium fish. Every aspect of the business reflected her commitment to excellence, from transportation protocols to meticulous record-keeping.

Willy and the Divers catered to a global clientele, exporting ornamental fishes to Asian markets like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore and to the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles in the United States. Among their prized catches is the flame angelfish, the most prevalent pet fish in Kiritimati waters.

The saltwater aquarium fish trade is a rarity in Kiribati, confined primarily to Kiritimati Island.

Sustainable measures implemented by the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development limit the export of flame angel fish to 1000 per month, necessitating the careful stewardship of marine resources.

Neera navigated this with grace, leveraging her newfound business knowledge to chart a sustainability course and fostering a culture of environmental stewardship within her team, instilling practices that harmonised profitability with ecological responsibility.

Central to Neera’s vision was the empowerment of her community. Willy and the Divers was more than a business; it was a family affair, with Neera, Gloria, and their children working hand in hand to realise their dreams.
Together with a dedicated team of divers, they braved the depths week after week, ensuring a steady supply of exquisite marine life, exporting approximately 500 types of aquarium fish of various species every week—the aquarium fish range in price from US$15 to US$300 per fish.

Neera reflected on her journey as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden hue over the tranquil waters of Kiritimati Island.

From loss and adversity emerged resilience and triumph. Through education, innovation, and unwavering determination, Neera is incorporating new skills and knowledge into the Willy and Divers enterprise, with hopes of setting up her business shortly.

USP is one of four key implementing partners of the PEUMP Programme. This EUR 45 million programme promotes sustainable management and sound ocean governance for food security and economic growth while addressing climate change resilience and the conservation of marine biodiversity.

It follows a comprehensive approach, integrating issues related to ocean fisheries, coastal fisheries, community development, marine conservation, and capacity building under one regional action. The PEUMP programme is housed within the Institute of Marine Resources under the School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS).

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