Nasoata Island, in the Province of Rewa in Fiji, is a proposed Wetland of International Importance. Discussions are currently underway between the Fiji Government, SPREP, USP, IUCN and other partners about applying for its listing on the Ramsar Convention.
Nasoata Island belongs to the people of Nakorovou Village and is a predominantly mangrove island located near the outflow of the Rewa River. The island is uninhabited and is about 76 hectares in area, with the highest point reaching a mere 1.2 metres.
"Nasoata is important to us because it is our ‘ikanakana’ (meaning breadbasket) where we get our crabs and fish from," says Mr. Seru Serevi of Nakorovou Village.
“We have in our own ways been protecting the natural resources on the island, such as declaring taboo zones for certain periods and this has contributed to the pristine state of the mangroves todate,” adds Mr. Serevi.
The mangrove ecosystem of Nasoata Island, according to Professor Randy Thaman of the University of the South Pacific (USP), is one of the most distinctive and extensive in this country and this part of the South Pacific. Professor Thaman led a team in 2005 who conducted a biodiversity profile of the island. In their paper published on the on-line journal Pacific Science, it states that mangroves on Nasoata look relatively untouched, hosting some 123 species of plants. The wildlife is very rich and include culturally important crustacean such as the mana or mud lobster.
Mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses sequester and store large quantities of carbon in the plants, but mainly in the soils beneath them. According to an IUCN study, coastal habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, are 50 times more effective in sequestering carbon in their soils than the equivalent area in tropical forests. These systems are being degraded and destroyed at a rapid pace along the world’s coastlines thus releasing significant emissions of carbondioxide into the atmosphere and the ocean, contributing to climate change. The global annual loss rate is 0.7–3% for mangroves.
“It is so important for wetland ecosystems such as that found on Nasoata to be protected and maintained – both for nature itself and for the people. That is why we are supporting the proposal for its inclusion as a Ramsar Site,” said Mr. Viliame Waqalevu of IUCN Oceania Regional Office.
At present, the Upper Navua Conservation Area is Fiji's only Ramsar Site.
Mr. Vainuupo Jungblut, Ramsar Officer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) says that the underlying goal for the convention is the wise use of wetlands.
"Designation of a wetland as a Ramsar Site should not interfere with traditional practices of the communities in any way as long as they ensure activities are conducted sustainably," adds Jungblut.
To initiate the process of adding Nasoata to the Ramsar List, the first stakeholder meeting was held today between the Department of Environment, Department of Lands, USP, representatives of Nakorovou Village, the Rewa Provincial Office, the iTaukei Affairs Board, SPREP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Department of Environment says that there is a process to be followed in order for Nasoata to be declared a Wetland of International Importance, or Ramsar site, and to ensure it is successful it will require government, the landowners of Nasoata and scientific institutions to work together. Government plans for at least one site from Fiji to be added to the RAMSAR list this year.
Nasoata is an important food and income source - not only for the people of Nakorovou but to surrounding communities as well. Its location is ecologically important because it is a buffer between the Rewa river and the Nasilai coral reef system. It is also an important breeding ground for sea birds.
IUCN is also working with the people of Nakorovou to develop a co-management plan for the sustainable use of mangroves on Nasoata Island.
For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Salote Sauturaga-Rinakama, Communications Officer, IUCN Oceania Regional Office, e: firstname.lastname@example.org