“Despite providing a wide array of multiple benefits and ecosystem services, mangroves in Fiji and around the globe are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to urban expansion, tourism development and creation of waste disposal sites. The loss of mangroves can reduce or even decimate important fish and bird habitats, resulting in economic losses to communities that rely on mangroves for both subsistence and income livelihood.”
This was emphasised by the Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Dr Mahendra Reddy while launching the Ministry of Environment’s Conservation and Management of Fiji’s Mangrove Ecosystems Policy in commemoration of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem 2021.
“Various studies have shown that mangroves are being destroyed at 3-5 times greater than average rates of forest loss. Over a quarter of the original mangrove cover has already disappeared. Mangrove ecosystems contribute to the wellbeing, food security, and protection of coastal communities worldwide. They support rich biodiversity and provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans. Mangroves also act as a form of natural coastal defence against storm surges, tsunamis, rising sea levels and erosion. Their soils are highly effective carbon sinks, sequestering vast amounts of carbon,” Dr Reddy said.
“In the Pacific region, Fiji has the third largest mangrove ecosystem which has been estimated to be around 43650ha. (National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2020 – 2025). The Department of Environment is currently reviewing this data together with the relevant stakeholders. Coastal ecosystems produce and sequester significant amounts of carbon (“blue carbon”), which has been well documented. Blue carbon in mangroves represents one of highest values of carbon stocks per hectare and could play an important role in climate change mitigation.”
The Minister also announced the Ministry of Environment’s partnership with WWF-Pacific on the Bezos Mangrove Initiative – funded by the Bezos Earth Fund – founded by Jeff Bezos, the Chairman and CEO of the Online Retail Giant Amazon. “Under this new trilateral partnership, a combined investment of FJD$600,000(US$300,000) has been secured and will be used to protect and restore mangroves, which sequester carbon and protect coastal communities from the ravages of climate-accelerated weather events. A Mangrove Management regulation under the Environment Management Act 2005 and a national guideline will be developed to restore degraded mangrove ecosystems as part of the initiative,” Dr Reddy said.
WWF Pacific’s Director Mark Drew added today’s event draws attention to the importance of protecting and conserving mangroves worldwide including Fiji.
“We believe that although nature can exist without people, people cannot exist without nature and it is imperative to find balance. In Fiji specifically, our efforts have centred on the Great Sea Reef- locally known as Cakaulevu-in doing so, enhancing community resilience and the resiliency of coastal ecosystems they depend on-mangroves included,” he said.
“WWF is focusing increasing efforts towards Nature-Based Solutions-using principles of restoration ecology, building with nature and people-inclusive conservation. Additionally, recognising both the urgent need to increase conservation investments and the opportunity to engage the private sector, WWF is working to identify modalities of conservation financing here in Fiji and beyond.”
“Central to WWF’s work is supporting host country governments efforts to conserve and protect natural resources. Our view is if we can work with and support national and sub-national government priorities we will advance a common agenda of achieving sustainable development,” he said.
Fiji’s Mangrove Ecosystems Policy will enforce and strengthen existing protection measures on Fiji’s mangrove ecosystem with efforts to halt further mangrove losses and supports the restoration of degraded mangrove ecosystems and their functions. It will further promote mangrove stewardship and community partnership through vigorous community engagement, public awareness and outreach campaigns.
This story was published by the Fijian Government on 26 July 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.