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FIJI’S OVERHARVESTED SAGO PALM FACES EXTINCTION Commercial thatching and heart of palm trade taking toll

Samisoni Nabilivalu SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 23, 2010) - In 2008, a survey conducted by Chinnamma Reddy brought to attention the alarming rate at which Fiji's sago palm trees were being harvested.

[PIR editor’s note: Chinnamma Reddy is a staff worker at Marine Ecology Consulting in Fiji.]

Other recent studies have indicated a high risk of this endemic Fijian palm becoming extinct in its coastal wetland habitats within the next year.

These were revealed at a public meeting organized by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti in Suva yesterday to highlight concerns on the increased harvest of sago palms.

The meeting heard that unchecked harvesting for commercial thatching and the "heart of palm trade" are the two main activities that are devastating sago.

The joint efforts of these three groups have resulted in the introduction of an alternative species of palm for those involved in its trade.

The peach palm which has been successfully introduced into other countries that share Fiji's dilemma is now being grown in the Sigatoka Valley.

The meeting also heard of alternative steps being taken including the launch of the Fiji Seko Palm recovery plan, in which the Government was seriously considering a complete ban on the commercial trade of Seko.

Nature Fiji has also been heavily involved in the setting up of reserves while the Serua Provincial Council has been overseeing the formation of the Sago landowners Association.

Tuesdays Seko trader's public meeting was a culmination of Nature Fiji and both government departments' efforts to keep the public aware of the sago palm saga.

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