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Fiji’s Totoya Island Coral Reefs Declared Sacred


Totoya Island Reef, part of which was declared sacred in honor of World Oceans Day. Photo © Keith Ellenbogen

The people of Fiji’s Totoya Island have declared part of their coral reefs sacred.


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The announcement came from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Pacific Blue Foundation, Wetlands International, and the Waitt Institute, that the people of Fiji’s Totoya Island have declared part of their coral reefs sacred in honor of World Oceans Day- a day dedicated to the celebration of ocean conservation and officially recognized by the United Nations since 2008.

WCS Fiji Director, Dr. Stacy Jupiter along with a coalition of partners spent eight days exploring Totoya Island, accompanied by the island’s high chief, Roko Sau, to discover a healthy coral reef system with an exciting array of fish species. Totoya waters have plenty of fish to sustain both the vitality of the ecosystem and sustenance for the people but opening up the reefs invites foreign trade that could become dangerous to the waters and over time deplete its resources.

“Because the people have an abundance of fish stocks for food on healthy coral reefs, they are unlikely to impact the unique natural heritage of their reef system when fishing for their own subsistence,” Dr. Jupiter said in a press release. “However, the communities should take precaution to avoid the temptation to trade away their resources to outsiders.”

For many years thanks to the temptation of profit and increased commercial value of fish stocks, Totoya’s high chief avoided a ban on fishing. This month, the people of Totoya spoke up and took a stand for protection, declaring the reefs sacred to ensure a healthy future for both the people of Totoya and its reefs.

“Conservation in this area is extremely important because it not only helps preserve the ecosystem and distinct fish species, but also the livelihoods and culture of those who live here,” said Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Program in a press release.

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