On February 7th, we met Ratu Epeli, the High Chief of the Takina (kingdom), at Oarsmans Bay lodge to present a Sevu Sevu (traditional ceremony in which an offering is made in exchange for a blessing).
A discussion followed in which Ratu Epeli charted the history of his time as chief and the changing state of attitudes towards the implementation and enforcement of the Tabu zones (no fishing grounds) in the region. Ratu Epeli explained that he was fully committed to the preservation of the local environment and had been engaged in the active enforcement of the Nacula Tabu zone for many years. `
Ratu Epeli Explained that he was on the verge of lifting the Tabu and ending all enforcement of reef protection in the region as it had become too difficult to manage and enforce and most villages had lifted their own Tabu's over the years.
After hearing the strategies presented by us, the community based focus of the initiative, and the intention to interweave our work with the education program, Ratu Epeli happily passed on his blessings and full support of our research in the region and confirmed that with this new support he would continue to enforce the few remaining tabu areas in the district.
In addition to this, Ratu, has offered the research team exclusive access to dive the few remaining tabu areas and use the protected areas to run base line surveys. This will enable us to form a base line from which to compare the difference in fish stocks and biodiversity between protected areas and open fishing grounds.
Ratu Epeli, invited the team for lunch and said that he would look forward to hearing frequent updates from the us as the program progresses and the initiative evolves.
This was an incredibly positive meeting that confirmed the validity of our conservation efforts and the presence of the community support needed to make it successful.
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