Some very positive steps have been taken in the last couple of months for the protection of spinner dolphins in Moon Reef (known as ‘Makalati’ in Fijian). Firstly, an environment committee has been established for Dawasamu – the district which contains Moon Reef. The district includes 12 villages (some coastal, some inland) as well as the associated qoliqoli waters (coastal and marine areas under traditional customary ownership). The general committee includes 2-3 representatives of each clan (there are several clans per village) for the entire district. Additional people have been invited to contribute to this committee including representatives from various Fiji Government departments (Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture), the University of the South Pacific, and a few ngo’s working in the area (including WDCS of course). The long-term objectives of the committee (recently named the Vueti Dawasamu Environment Movement, DEM) is to develop a long-term, sustainable ‘ridges to reef’ management plan that proactively protects the environment while also providing livelihood benefits to the traditional owners. The work of DEM is being progressed under the framework of the locally managed marine area (LMMA) network (http://www.lmmanetwork.org) that operates in various countries across the Pacific. The Fiji network is run through the University of the South Pacific.
A first workshop to establish the mission, framework and regulations for the DEM was held in March. In addition, time was spent considering initial recommendations and areas of work – and WDCS was asked to give a presentation on our research activities for the last 2 and ½ years. Research work during this time has included work on residency patterns, habitat, behaviour and acoustics. As a result the first recommendation coming from the DEM was that Moon Reef be declared a marine protected area. This first workshop was then followed up by a 1-day information session for the Chief of Dawasamu as well as all elders of the district. This group was not only pleased with the outcome of the first workshop but concurred with the first recommendation of the MPA declaration for Moon Reef – making it official. Therefore, Moon Reef is now a MPA as declared by the traditional owners and has now also been designated as such under the regional LMMA network. The next step is for a management plan for Moon Reef to be written in collaboration between the Fiji LMMA and the steering committee of DEM (of which WDCS is a member). In the longer term, the Moon Reef management plan will be integrated and supported by the larger district-wide management plan being progressed for the entire Dawasamu district through the DEM and LMMA.