Their main concern is ensuring the sustainable development of marine resources in Bau waters and non-government organisation Blue Ventures has volunteered to help villages on the island preserve their environment.
The NGO headquarters is based in London and two weeks ago, a team of volunteers from the organisation presented their sevusevu to Ratu Epenisa Cakobau to undertake conservation studies of the surrounding marine resources on Leleuvia Island, close to Moturiki.
As we approached the island, the volunteers greeted us with warm smiles and a simple ‘bula’ to match their traditional outfits for the sevusevu.
Briefly explaining the role of Blue Ventures, project director in Fiji Howard Foster said the environmental conservation organisation spent two years setting up the project in Fiji.
“Blue Ventures is a marine conservation organisation dedicated to the conservation, education and sustainable development in tropical coastal communities,” said Howard.
“Through our marine expeditions, volunteers from around the world join us on career breaks, student gap years and internships to work closely with our field research teams, in partnership with local communities.
“For our Fiji expedition, we are working in partnership with the locals in Bua and Leleuvia, the Ministry of Fisheries and Partners in Community Development Fiji.”
The organisation believes with the right knowledge on marine conservation, local communities in Fiji particularly coastal areas can live in harmony with their marine environments.
From studying fish species and coral to local fishing techniques, Blue Ventures have dedicated their resources to ensure the healthy sustainable development of marine resources for coastal islands like Leleuvia and Bau.
“We have a team of dedicated researchers and volunteers who study all aspects of the marine ecosystem,” said Howard.
“The results from our work help us to develop the local populations we work with in a sustainable way and propose new ideas to benefit coastal communities everywhere.”
When the formalities were done inside the Ulunivuaka (meeting house) on Bau Island, 12 volunteers from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America spent the rest of the day exploring one of the historical islands in Fiji.
Seated inside the Ulunivuaka enjoying the afternoon breeze was former vice-president of Fiji, Ratu Jope Seniloli.
He was overwhelmed by the presence of Blue Ventures in Fiji saying local communities have been abusing the marine resources for a long time.
“There’s a lot of overfishing and this has been ongoing. Seven Indians paid about $3000 to fish in these waters and there’s a need to sustain our marine resources,” he said.
“We welcome this organisation because they will help us understand more about our environment especially marine conservation.
“We’ve had a lot of visitors to the island since its development. A lot of the people on the island work in Suva.”
Ratu Epenisa shared the same sentiments and believes working hand in hand with Blue Ventures will benefit the people in Fiji.
With very little plantations on the island, Ratu Epenisa said most of the villagers from Bau, Lasakau and Soso on Bau Island were dependent on the sea for survival.
He said with an organisation like Blue Ventures channelling their resources towards sustainable development, they were fortunate to be part of the project.
“We are very lucky to have an NGO come to Bau and Leleuvia to help maintain and preserve our fishing grounds and marine resources,” Ratu Epenisa said.
“Fishing is one of the main sources of income for most of the villagers on the island and we’re very grateful to the NGO for teaching us how to look after our marine resources for a sustainable living.