Set Size for Kabatia within Tavua Fishery
The ban was put in place on June 6 of this year, following preliminary results of a six month fish length based – spawning per recruitment (LB-SPR) assessment conducted around the reef fishery of Tavua which revealed Kabatia as one of the most heavily commercially fished species within the district’s iqoliqoli.
Kitione Ratuba, speaking on behalf of Na Momo Na Tui Tavua Ratu Nacaniela Uqeuqe, thanked the fishing communities for respecting the ban that will help them improve their fish stocks and their livelihoods as well.
“Despite the small sizes being caught, Kabatia was still heavily fished as it is easily caught which is the main reason Tui Tavua called for the ban.
“In spite of the lifting of the ban today, he (Tui Tavua) is urging communities and fishers to fish responsibly and sustainably to ensure species continue to thrive for future generations,” Ratubua added.
The size limit catch of 20 cm means fishermen fishing within the Tavua fishing grounds can harvest Kabatia that are 20cm or more in length. The catch size limits will then increase sporadically until 2020.
Laitia Tamata, WWF-Pacific’s Fisheries Project Officer, said the people of Tavua have set the standard for Fiji in regards to community based fisheries management based on data.
“Setting the size limit at 20cm and increasing it as they see fit targeting 25cm by 2020 is really motivating for small Pacific island nations. Now they need the Ministry of Local Authority (Municipalities) and the Ministry of Fisheries to work together in harmonizing the fishing licenses and trading license in terms of Set Size as the way forward for the benefit of Fiji’s coastal fisheries,” he added.
The LB-SPR survey, piloted by WWF-Pacific in Fiji, is a method for assessing the health status of reef fish populations and how to manage it. It requires minimum amount of data which is collected by fisher communities, and can be implemented at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional stock assessments. At its most basic, the technique uses local data on the size and maturity of fish caught, along with existing biological information to estimate whether local fish populations have enough spawning potential to sustain themselves.
For fisheries, if fish populations can achieve at least 20 percent of their natural spawning potential, they can sustain themselves. Less than that and a fishery will decline.
The Tavua SPR six-month assessment report, showed Kabatia being harvested on the benchmark of 20 percent spawning. Placing a fishing ban and then size limit restrictions will allow this heavily fished specie time to grow to the reproducing size of 20cm and in turn restock the reefs.
The harvest ban and the resulting set size limits is through collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Fisheries, Na Turaga na Tui Tavua, the Tavua iQoliqoli Committee, the various fishing committees in Tavua, the Ba Provincial Office, the Fiji Locally Management Marine Area (FLMMA) and WWF-Pacific.