Fiji Mangroves Reportedly Threatened By

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Trees provide defense against bad weather: conservation expert

By Nanise Loanakadavu

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 5, 2013) – Mangroves are commonly known as the rainforest by the sea.

Despite their many values, mangroves throughout Fiji are being degraded or destroyed.

They are over-harvested for firewood, suffer the encroaching reclamation works to make way for developments, housing and used as rubbish dumps.

The increasing urban populations have put our mangroves under further pressure as new settlements spring up in what is often regarded as no man's land in the swamps.

In Fiji, mangrove habitats are acknowledged to be especially important to the traditional lifestyles of its people.

Apart from physically protecting the coastlines, they are valuable sources of many different types of food, including fish, crabs, prawns, shellfish, not to forget seeds that are also consumed in many parts of the country.

The regional project manager for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Dr. Milika Sorby, said the physical presence of mangroves along the coastlines and rivers also provided the first line of defense against cyclones, high winds and storm surges.

She said development was good as long as it was properly managed.

"While developments are taking place for tourist-related projects, the sustainability of mangroves should be kept in mind," Dr. Sorby said.

"Tourist-related projects are in demand. Developments such as Denarau in Nadi, resorts and industrial developments provided employment and promoted economic growth, these have been successful."

However, she said a cost benefit analysis and proper environment assessment should be done before mangrove conversions.

While mangrove conversions were conducted in certain areas, she said some should be left alone.

Environment director Jope Davetanivalu said the draft revised mangroves management plan should be circulated for comments by mid of this year.

And the Department of Environment is hoping to get this finalized in the next three months.

He said the mangrove plans were done in 1985-1986 and the scenario had changed since then.

"We know more about the importance of mangroves, the development pressure have increased, the community awareness have improved and the data sets have changed," Mr. Davetanivalu said.

"We are now looking at mangroves in terms of livelihood, climate change adaptation, biodiversity and economic benefits."

He said the Department of Environment, through the Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihood (MESCAL) Fiji Project, had revised the National Mangroves Management Plan and the committee was working with stakeholders to strengthen mangrove management in Fiji.

He said the MESCAL project team, with stakeholders, had completed a biodiversity survey of the Rewa River mangroves and was now looking at making some economic valuation for mangrove biodiversity.

He said there was a team doing below ground carbon assessment of mangroves at present.

"All this will feed in to our baseline knowledge on mangroves and its importance at different sectors."

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